Reflection #3: The Problem with Being P.C.

I’m not a P.C. person. Never have been, never will be. Which means, of course, that I get looks of outrage because I don’t censor myself, I don’t issue trigger warnings, and I don’t apologize for what I say unless I am saying something intentionally to cause offense. If someone takes offense from something I say that I don’t mean intentionally, that’s 100% on them, not on me.

I’m of the firm belief that intent matters more than impact, even though it seems the current climate of our culture is trying to insist otherwise. Impact means more because impact is what people hear, what people take in, what they feel, and hurt feelings are anathema to today’s world. That’s why the usage of trigger warnings has gotten to the point that even university professors are putting them in their syllabus.

The name of the game seems to have become “See who can spot the microaggression first.” Microaggression, incidentally, used to refer only to race in its inception back in 1970. Today, however, it is applied to everything possible. There seems to be this rampant idea that people need to own the unintentional harm that they cause. Especially when the person assuming that a microaggresion is occurring fails to take into consideration that they may be making assumptions of their own about the identities of the person in question.

Couple with that, however, is this idea that people who belong to dominant identity groups can never be harmed unintentionally or intentionally by people of marginalized identity groups. In that vein, it’s perfectly acceptable to completely dismiss the viewpoint of a white male because he has white privilege, so of course his viewpoint is invalid. And he also has male privilege, so his viewpoint is doubly invalid. If he happens to be Christian as well, then his viewpoint is triply invalid. If he is straight, quadruply invalid. The higher number of dominant group identities you hold, the less serious you’re taken.

Which is, in a word, absurd. Like, seriously? If someone who is a white straight Christian male has an educated perspective, his perspective shouldn’t be dismissed just because he happens to belong to dominant identities groups. The fact is, p.c. culture has led us to this ridiculous belief that we must qualify our statements with all our marginalized identity groups in order to be taken seriously. The more marginalized we are, the more serious our views are taken.

Because of that, I am actually refusing, in this article, to disclose any of my identity groups. Because what I identify as should not determine the validity of my arguments or lend weight to my arguments. When it comes to academic arguments, the only thing that should have any weight at all is the credentials a person holds.

I went to a leadership workshop a while back where the big 8 social identities were discussed. There was some literature about five stages of dialogue, and rather than take the credentials as they stood, one of the participants asked (in a rather nasty tone), “Was the man a cisgender straight white man?” Like that mattered more than the actual credentials the man had earned by doing the necessary research! The workshop leader answered, “He’s none of those things,” and then moved along, but I could tell even she was taken aback by the question.

And this is the reason I refuse to be P.C. in my speech. I don’t know when we started to believe as a society that a person’s impact mattered more than their intentions, but I frankly find it ridiculous. If someone tells me that I need to stop being lazy or stop over-analyzing the world around me, I’m not going to assume that they are judging me. I don’t know their intent, and intent matters to me. If I am offended by the language someone uses, then the fact that I am offended lies with me and me alone. I am the one who decides how I take the words that someone else says to me. I am not going to internalize the potential harm of a potential microaggression – the only person harmed by that is me. The fact that others out there do allow perceived microaggressions to become internalized reasons for their hatred of people with dominant identities is ridiculous.

Now, when it comes to macroaggressions – those are an actual problem. If someone blatantly states that the reason that they don’t respect someone is because they belong to a particular identity group, that’s a real problem. If someone says “I don’t respect my teacher because he’s black,” that’s a macroaggression, racist, and a real issue that needs to be addressed. That’s not a microaggression which are generally statements that unintentionally cause harm. That’s a truly aggressive statement. On the same side of that, however, if someone says “I don’t respect my teacher because he’s an old white guy,” that’s also a macroaggresion! No matter what identity group you belong to, when you make a value statement about another individual in an identity group you don’t belong to, you are being a judgmental asshole. Full stop.

Let’s try to remember, for the love of all things sacred, that at the end of the day, each person we deal with is a human being. That’s all that should matter. Not the color of a person’s skin, not their age, not their sexual orientation, not their gender, not their physical/mental ailments, not their political affiliation….NOTHING ELSE. The thing that we have that connects ALL OF US is  the fact that we are HUMAN. So can we please stop fucking separating ourselves into groups that then subdivide further and further until nothing resembling compassion is left?

Stop fucking dismissing people because you disagree with the way they identify or because they happen to fall into a dominant group. White people are white the same way black people are black. Straight people are straight the way LGBTQIA+ people are inherently LGBTQIA+ people. These aren’t fucking choices – these are things we are born with. So stop issuing value judgments towards those whose birthed identities are literally beyond our control.

Every life is valuable. Every perspective matters. Every story counts. So, no matter who you are or where you come from, if you’ve ever discredited someone else’s perspective simply because of their skin color, gender, etc., then you are part of the fucking problem. Whether you belong to the dominant or subordinate identity groups doesn’t fucking matter. If you see potential offense in everything someone says that may potentially invalidate your identity, you are part of the problem because you are perpetuating the myth of victimhood. You are turning yourself into a victim, and self-victimizing is not a great avenue to affect any kind of change in the world. The people who have changed the course of history have done so by refusing to let the world victimize them and refusing to victimize themselves. Can you imagine someone like Martin Luther King refusing to listen to a white person because they just happened to have been born white or straight?

In his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, he says:

Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high place of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protests to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

Not to mention, the man won a Nobel Peace Prize. He didn’t believe in violence, at all. In his acceptance speech, he says, ”

…Nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral question of our time — the need for man to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to violence and oppression.

….Sooner or later all the people of the world will have to discover a way to live together in peace, and thereby transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood.

If this is to be achieved, man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.

So why the fuck are we okay with creating language that divides and divides and divides until even communities that should be standing together are separating from each other? For a man who affected some of the greatest change that our country has ever seen, we certainly are terrible at taking his lessons to heart.

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