Ethnic and racial connotations
When does being politically correct go too far?
Published: Thursday, September 9, 2010
Updated: Thursday, September 9, 2010 17:09
In a society that is growing increasingly politically correct, it is nearly impossible to provide an ethnic, cultural or religiously based label on anyone without having the PC police jump all over you.
While it is very important to be considerate of people's feelings when tossing around specific labels, a problem arises when those labels start to become synonymous and deemed derogatory.
For example, I have several Mexican friends with whom I used to work when I waited tables at a Mexican restaurant. These people became some of my closest friends and helped me to learn their language and understand their very warm and open culture.
Now whenever the issue of immigration comes up and I refer to these friends, I am corrected when I describe them as "Mexican" and am told to say "Hispanic."
The problem here is that I am, in fact, talking about Mexican people and there is nothing wrong with being Mexican.
It would be different if I were referring to a Cuban or Puerto Rican and generalizing that all Hispanics in the United States are Mexican.
By making words like "Mexican," "Muslim" or "black" taboo, we are making them insulting which is counterproductive to the original purpose of being politically correct.
When I refer to my friend's faith, I should not have to say, "David who follows Judaism…." There is nothing wrong with being Jewish and it should not be treated as though there is.
To make no mistake, when I refer to a group of people, like the Hispanic population of the entire United States, I will say "Hispanic" or "Latino," but I should not have to explain myself when I am speaking directly about a specific group or person.
Furthermore, those names should not be treated with such negative connotations.
This semester, I have made a new Muslim friend. He is a very open, friendly person who will happily explain elements of his faith with me at length. I am ashamed to think of the number of people who would not give him a chance because of his faith.
By allowing our own prejudices to blind us to see a people (or person) for who they are, all we will see is what they are.
Likewise, it is tragic to consider how many people associate Islam, which means "peace", with violence based on the actions of a sect of radical extremists—not unlike the Christian group burning Qurans in Florida.
That would be the same as saying that all white, middle-aged protestant males are white supremacists or are serial rapists since a large percent of white supremacists and/or serial rapists fit that description.
You cannot take the exception and apply it to the rule.
Keep in mind that ethnic or religious labels are simply a way of ethnically identifying a person and that, with the exception of those that are meant to be derogatory, there is nothing negative about referring to a particular faith or nationality by its name.
I wish that we were logical enough to create a society where ethnicity or religious affiliations were simply a non-issue.
We are not coming any closer to that day by demonizing ethnic identifiers by making it wrong to use them.
It is a funny thing, but forbidding something only serves to empower it.
If you believe that it is racist to call a person who was born in or moved here from Mexico a "Mexican," or a Muslim person a "Muslim," or that ethnic identifiers are dirty words because you consider the term offensive, then it is you who is culturally close-minded—not I.