There! You heard it from a member of a minority group.
Better yet, you heard it from a faculty member of a university English Department — one who doesn’t smoke or drink, at that.
Naturally, many of my colleagues would find my opening statement heretical. However, there are at least a few who understand the truth in it, though they would never say so out loud.
That, of course, is one of the odious results of the current political climate in American colleges and universities. The self-appointed ministers of information have created echo chambers around them. Thus, they can live with the same certainty that their ideas are those of the majority as the President can enjoy about his decision to drag this nation into a quagmire in Iraq.
Like the President and his cohorts, the monarchial mandarins of academia impugn the integrity of those who challenge their notions. That’s when they’re feeling benevolent. Otherwise, they bully dissenters into submission with the fear of not getting promoted or rehired. Profs who are up for tenure and don’t toe the party line are dismissed for bogus reasons like a "lack of collegiality."
Cajoling, badgering and intimidating people into saying what you want them to say — or into remaining silent — not only stifles dialogue, much less dissent. Enforcing political correctness, purely and simply, flies in the face of common sense, let alone fundamental psychology.
If you have children, you know that forcing them "make nice" after they fight guarantees that they will fight again. It certainly won’t promote love between siblings or peers. If anything, at least one of the kids involved will harbor resentments that will fester. Likewise, you know that forbidding your kid to say certain things guarantees that they’re saying those same things behind your back.
A similar thing happens when people aren’t allowed to say what they believe to be the truth about others, or their surroundings, even when others might find such opinions noxious. People will smile in the face of those who are "protected" by political correctness and those who enforce it. However, those who are blindered or gagged become more resentful. They come to see the would-be beneficiaries of politically correct doctrine as having undue privilege. They express their anger toward those who are "protected" (and the self-appointed protectors) in subversive acts that turn into outright hostility.
The self-appointed guardians of political correctness do the same thing, once they realize that whomever they were protecting no longer serves their purposes.
In the meantime, the PC people, while sanctioning criticism of certain groups of people, allow derision of other groups to go unchecked. In fact, they sometimes encourage it. That is why someone could get fired for saying something that can be construed, even by the most convoluted mental processes, to be anti-gay or anti-black, but gets off scot-free for bashing Catholics or mimicking a stereotyped Italian-American accent. How can anyone say that such actions reflect open-mindedness or tolerance?
How is it that people with advanced degrees, who have read and experienced the finest thought and expression ever produced, can’t glom onto this basic fact: Nobody can legislate civility and respect?
These qualities and their related behaviors can only be learned. If they aren’t learned in childhood, they aren’t likely to develop through coercion in the workplace. And the ones who can teach children such lessons are, of course, parents or other responsible adult figures.
Likewise, tolerance and acceptance of other people are learned traits. They are acquired through experience. But one is unlikely to learn them unless they’ve been inculcated with civility and respect from parents.
The purveyors of PC apparently have never gained such understanding. Thus, they will continue — wittingly or not — to generate hostility and bigotry. You can’t regulate such things away.
Justine Nicholas [send her mail] teaches English at the City University of New York.