Political Correctness: Don't Make Yourself A Victim!

Political correctness has become a straightjacket. ~ Gary Oldman


Warning:  Some people may find this post very un-PC.

I just read a post about a woman who took her 10 year old son, adopted from Ethiopia, out to lunch and got seated next to an older white couple.  Apparently it was a small restaurant with cramped seating; you know the kind, where you feel like you’re sitting in the lap of the people at the table next to you?  Anyway, at one point the mom left her son playing a game on her phone and went to the restroom.  When she returned to her table she was shocked – SHOCKED! to hear that the couple next to them had started a conversation between themselves about the Trayvon Martin case.

(Oh, and by the way, she said her son continued to play on the phone oblivious to any conversations.)

Now, she goes on to say that this happened several months ago when the case was on every tv set in America 23 out of  24 hours in a day, but she was shocked, hurt, and angry that this couple would have the audacity to discuss the case while sitting in a public restaurant next to – gasp! – an African child and his white mother!  How dare they!

The way she tells it, (and she quoted their comments) they were discussing their personal opinions on who was at fault in the case.  Her son, according to her, played the video game until his food came, ate every bite of his lunch and gave absolutely no indication that he knew or cared what the people next to him were talking about. 

She, on the other hand, fretted and steamed inside, terrified that her son might notice a five minute conversation about a current news story, horrified that he may have questions about what happened, or that he might feel uncomfortable in some way.  To her immense relief, the couple started discussing fishing a few minutes later, putting her out of her agony.

See where I’m going with this?  Since when do people have to get approval for private conversations held quietly between themselves at their own table while they eat a meal they pay for?  Or is it the fact that they may have had a different opinion about something than she did? 

Don’t get me wrong, she didn't say these people were acting inappropriately by talking too loud, using curse words and racial slurs, or staring pointedly at her or her son as they discussed the topic.  Any of that would be a reason to get upset.  They were just two people having a conversation that she overheard. 

Yet this mother new – NEW!- that these people had picked this topic to send a message to her and her son.  They were discussing this on purpose just to upset her, and possibly destroy her son’s self image, just for fun.

Political correctness has become a straight jacket!  Let’s face it, as a wife in a biracial marriage, a mother of a biracial child, and the mother of a transraicially adopted child, I learned a long time ago that I could turn every glance, look, stare, or comment into a racist incident in my mind.  I could spend my time watching people for the look that crosses their face when they see me and my sons, the whispered comment that must be about us, the tone of voice that tells me they don’t like us.   I could see it everywhere, every day if that’s what I wanted to do.

OR, I could go about my business, enjoy my day and my time with my family, and realize that most people are way to self involved to spend much time thinking about me, and if they are thinking about me or my kids its probably harmless and not intended to  hurt any of us.  If we get a look or a stare, it’s probably because my kids are the cutest things on earth, and if they have a private conversation, it is none of my business.  Because the truth is, I really don’t know what other people are thinking, any more than this mother in the restaurant knew what her neighbors were thinking, and until I get a clear message that they are being nasty, I’ll mind my own business and leave them alone.

And guess what?  Being an idiot or a bigot is not a crime; people have a right to be stupid.  That’s what I teach my kids, because all of the stupid people of the world are not going to just disappear one day.  God forbid my kids have to deal with a racist idiot some day, but if/when they do, I want to have taught them to do it with some perspective, because one fool does not have to ruin your lunch, or your day, or your year.  Racists are a poor reflection of themselves, not of you. 

The end of this adoptive moms post went like this: her son decided he was too full for ice cream (which she NEW had to be a result of the conversation he apparently didn't hear), he never said a word to her about the couple sitting next to them, acted totally normal and happy, and never heard a word they said.  She, on the other hand, was too afraid to bring the subject up with him, was upset about it for days, couldn't even speak about it to her husband for 3 days, and watched her son for weeks afterward for any sign of damage (and found none).

Tragic, right?  Well, to her, it was.  She has allowed political correctness to victimize her.  It didn't impact her son in any way, the couple sitting next to her probably had no idea anything was wrong and were just discussing a current topic.  The only one that was miserable was her.

There are lots of racial injustices in the world that this woman could get incensed about.  Lots of acts, overt and covert, of racism that are appalling.  This particular lunch with her son was not one of them.

If you think I'm naive, don't.  I would make a wounded lion look like a kitten if someone made racist comments to or around my kids.  But I find it exhausting enough trying to prepare my children for the big wide world (and yes, this includes preparing them for racism), without going out of my way looking for things that aren't there.  I guess what really sent me over the edge on this particular posts was the 11 follow up comments by readers, apologizing to her for having to go through this horrible incident, and agreeing that she should be upset.  None of them suggested that maybe she saw something that wasn't even there.

So, apparently political correctness dictates that we now look around a restaurant at the people in it and then only talk about fishing?  Sorry, but I try to teach my kids to be compassionate, kind and sensitive all the time, not just when they are sitting next to someone who looks different than they do.  If my kids learn that lesson, than any topic can be discussed in a public restaurant without giving offense to your neighbor.

I would never go out of my way to say offensive things to anyone, but I won’t be a victim of political correctness either.  www.thelifeyouhaveimagined.com


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