In my Creative Writing class, we peer read each others' papers. In one of the pieces I had to read, there was one word that was used several times. This word stood out, and rightfully so. It's a hefty seven syllable word, hyphenated, with two proper nouns. It's also racially charged. It stands out like a
good joke in a sentence with a simile.
No, the word we're looking isn't cryptozoological- as far as I can tell, it only has six syllables. Would you like to buy a vowel? Oh, you can solve it? That's right, it's African-American.
What's so significant about this, you might ask? It's simple. When I was reading my classmate's paper, this phrase was sporadically placed throughout the paper. It wasn't a one-time use. It happened every time a certain unnamed character was described. Clearly the author thought about using African-American every single time. And it's not her fault- it was an entertaining story. It's just that this word is so entangled with politics that I just couldn't get it out of my head.
Have we really reached the point where we can't use the word "black?"
Of course, that's just a silly rhetorical question. No one would ever be reprimanded for using the word "black." But just for fun, let's play a game. Let's say someone in the public eye... like maybe, an MSNBC talking head--- ah forget the joke, let's get to the clip. This is old news anyway, isn't it?
Mind boggling. Gov. Rick Perry used the word "black", not in the context of race or anything of the sort, but instead he was just using a figure of speech! But, as if it were a George Carlin-flavored forbidden phrase, he gets called out for using a word that is commonly used. In fact, it's generally used without reaching the news rooms. I can just imagine an (unpaid) intern running into Ed Schultz's office with a piece of paper, exclaiming "just wait till you see what I've got, boss!"
Luckily, I highly doubt too many people took this clip too seriously. In the end, watching this little 30 second piece has provided a great way for me to spend my free time. My favorite part is when they clearly cut off Perry for a second while Schultz starts talking, so it's clear that the governor is still talking. Of course, the viewer doesn't know, and probably would forget after hearing Ed mercilessly speak truth to power. Hey, I should pull a LeBron and ditch this whole right-winger thing and get a job on MSNBC. Couldn't be that hard. "This fall... this fall imma take my talents to 30 Rock."
At the end of my Creative Writing class, it was time to go over this student's piece. I raised my hand, face redder than the Sociology class next door, and politely asked if there was a "politically correct synonym for African-American" (my words, not a Nickelodeon character's). My teacher said that the word "black" was okay. Phew. Maybe there really is hope and change after all.
So, for homework: Do you use politically correct words? Do you ever intentionally avoid using them? Do you think it's just a small, easily criticized thing that someone like me uses to write about? Or is it possible that political correctness is a good symbol of other statist planks?