Politically Correct Double Standard
August 1, 2014
Reflecting further on how difficult it must be to relax and make offhand jokes if your world is a minefield of ever-changing PC taboos, I’m reminded of one of Jonah Goldberg’s newsletters. He remarks that an offhand remark someone made about Indians was “utterly harmless” (true) but would risk the opprobrium of the humorless enforcers if made in their company. He also makes an interesting point about the double standard involved in accusations of “micro-aggression”:
A “micro-aggression” is when you unintentionally say something (allegedly) insulting or insensitive that only an incredibly sensitive and politically programmed person would immediately take as a sign of oppression. Wikipedia tells me that “microinvalidations” are “communications that subtly exclude negate or nullify the thoughts, feelings or experiential reality of a person and their social identities.” It offers an example of such a microtravesty: “White people ask Latinos where they are from.”
. . .
So here’s the double standard. According to the doctrine of microaggression, if I innocently ask a Latino, “Where are you from?” I am committing some grave, bigoted, thought crime that the Latino has every right to be furious about. But when some lefty screams at me that I am a white supremacist racist blankety blank based on nothing other than some conjured offense drawn from Marcusian hogwash and hooey, I am not only supposed to stand there, take it, and feel guilty about it — I’m also supposed to repent of my evil ways. Asking a Latino “Where are you from?” might be a faux pas — or it might be a friendly way to start a conversation! But as far as aggressions go, it seems awfully micro, even nano, compared with being called a racist because you asked the question.
Funny story: Recently, the Dalai Lama visited AEI (Big hitter, the Lama). I was out of town for it, but Ramesh Ponnuru attended his talk. At one point, His Holiness turned to Ramesh and said something like “You’re from India, you know what I mean” (not exact quote). Ramesh replied, “Actually, I’m from Kansas.” Then Arthur Brooks apparently quipped something like, “Don’t worry your holiness, everyone in Kansas looks like Ramesh.”
Now, I think that’s all hilarious and utterly harmless. But apparently, what Ramesh should have done is stand up, point his bony finger of condemnation at the Dalai Lama, and scream in his best Cotton Mather voice “Microaggressor! Burn him!”