There are two responses that have become so overused that they now have no teeth: “That’s racist” and “That’s sexist.” Folks use these phrases so much that they don’t even really mean them. It has become second nature to young people to say these words without knowing what they really mean. Let me give a real example that happened in my classroom.
I was reading aloud a beautiful lyrical poem called “Harlem” to my class of middle schoolers. The poem is written by Walter Dean Myers-a black man. The poem is written about the Harlem Renaissance and includes lines like “full-lipped and wide-hipped divas.” I was using the poem to teach the music of poetry. When I finished reading, a white student blurted “that’s racist.” Very calmly, I explained that the poem was a celebration of black culture and was in no way racist.
This is just one example of people (especially young ones) trying to sound like they’re so accepting when just the opposite is true. Have they become so politically correct that they can no longer celebrate cultural differences? I don’t think so. I think it is a systemic problem.
I think it is ignorance and stupidity that is causing this wave of so-called political correctness. If they didn’t see it on YouTube or some reality show, then it’s not important or it’s old fashioned. While it should make me angry, it only makes me sad that our students are growing up in a whitewashed world where every word or phrase that speaks of cultural or gender differences is considered racist or sexist.
People complain and say that advertising that depicts attractive people in bikinis and stylish clothing is inappropriate because it sets an unreal picture of our bodies. Folks say that we should be happy with the body that we’re born with. Yet, we celebrate a celebrity for radical changes to his body. We celebrate the unrealistic image that was all the rage. Few women can compare with that image. He’s older than I am, but he’s a much more beautiful woman than I am.
My point is not to denigrate anyone’s choice. My point is to show the dichotomy of what we say and do in one instance and in another. Before someone gets righteous and points out prejudices in others, he or she needs to close his mouth and take account of his own personal values.