Brothers and sisters, don’t say evil things about each other. Whoever insults or criticizes a brother or sister insults and criticizes the Law. If you find fault with the Law, you are not a doer of the Law but a judge over it. There is only one lawgiver and judge, and he is able to save and to destroy. But you who judge your neighbor, who are you?
James 4:11-12 (CEB)
Confession: I have never understood the anger people feel about “political correctness.” Clearly I’m missing something, because I see over and over again people excited about people who cut through political correctness and “speak their minds.” The anger folks feel about the tyranny of the PC is real, even if I don’t get it.
The folks over at the source of all knowledge, Wikipedia, say that:
Political correctness (adjectivally: politically correct), commonly abbreviated to PC, is a term which, in modern usage, is used to describe language, policies, or measures which are intended not to offend or disadvantage any particular group of people in society. In the media, the term is generally used as a pejorative, implying that these policies are excessive.
I cannot, for the life of me, figure out why addressing people as they want to be addressed, that addressing individuals as individuals and refusing to lump groups of people together is a cause of pain and frustration for people.
Maybe I don’t get it because political correctness matters to me personally, because I am biracial and an immigrant’s child. But I don’t look that way. So when I tell people about my heritage, about my love of my grandmother’s chapatis and my regular itch to get some pakora and samosas for dinner, they look at me with skepticism. I had an Indian friend in college who didn’t believe that I was half Indian until he saw me eating leftover idli and chutney out of a ziplock bag.
People have, upon learning of my heritage, told me a number of times, “You’re white to me.” And, I mean, half-Indian half-white biracial is a mouthful. So “white-ish” is easier.
Learning someone’s name from an unfamiliar language, or a little bit about their customs or culture can be challenging, too. Calling all Latinos and Latinas Mexicans or all Asian people Chinese is easier.
Learning and using a person’s preferred gender pronouns can be an awkward conversation. Calling people he or she depending on what you think they “ought” to be is easier.
Jesus walked up to a Samaritan woman at a well in the middle of the day and talked to her deeply about who he was, who she was, and the joys of a life shared in God. Avoiding a meeting with an oft-divorced mixed breed outcast would have been easier.
Painting with a broad brush and categorizing people based on one or two characteristics is easy and comfortable. But it is so profoundly based in judgement and dehumanization, and stands against the very heart of the Gospel.
Treating people as individuals and calling them who and what they want to be called is not just a nice gesture. It removes us from the seat of judgement we have no right to occupy. It also helps us find unexpected, new ideas and joys and friends in unlikely places.