It used to be that you could be certain of a person’s particular prejudice as soon as they interjected the phrase “some of my best friends are” into the conversation. A typical example would be “Well, some of my best friends are Martians, but I wouldn’t want my daughter to marry one”. In a way, it was comforting to know exactly where a person stood on the subject, even if they themselves were convinced otherwise.
Now, mind you, I don’t consider even this type of prejudice as socially acceptable, but I do understand that it is reflective of human nature. After all, we all have certain types and levels of prejudices that have been ingrained in us due to our education, upbringing, and life experiences. Some of us accept our prejudices as truth, some of us do a partial denial, and some of us truly try to reduce or minimize the effects of our prejudices. Now it may be heresy to say this, but I bet even the Pope feels that Protestants need just a touch more redemption than Catholics.
Here in the 90’s, the phrase “some of my best friends are” has been replaced with something even more insidious. Today, the phrase that really sets me off is “politically correct”. As I see it, the problem with this concept is two-fold. First, someone has taken it upon themselves to determine what and who will be ‘politically correct’. I dislike this approach on general principles because I don’t like being told what to think or do. Even worse, the use of anything other than the current set of ‘politically correct’ expressions can immediately brand the speaker as insensitive or even racist. For instance, if I say Negroes, or Blacks when I should be saying African Americans, I am in danger of having whatever point I am trying to make lost in the uproar of my choice of verbiage.
The second, and probably more important problem with ‘political correctness’, is that it can so easily be used to mask a person’s true feelings and beliefs. To reuse my previous example, I can hide my true contempt for Negroes/Blacks/African Americans as long I use the proper terminology. In a way, it is kind of like being in high school again, and figuring that using the right expressions will disguise the fact that you are a dweeb (or is that ‘socially challenged’?).
I realize that this is a fight I can’t possibly win, since ‘political correctness’ has been so integrated into the mainstream of society. Politicians, of course, love it, but constantly live with the fear that the proper expression may change before they have time to reword their speeches. As for me, I have had to come to a begrudging acceptance of some aspects of ‘political correctness’. One reason is that I derive just a bit of pleasure from admonishing people who insist that I am White or Caucasian. After all, it is quite obvious that I am European-American. Besides, some of my best friends are ‘politically correct’.