There were no black models on the set of Dolce & Gabbana’s Spring 2013 fashion show at Milan Fashion Week. But there were images of Aunt Jemima on the jewelry and images depicting black women living happily on slave plantations. The New York Times described the show as “imaginative.” The write up for the show said, “The imaginative elements came fast and furious — witty, ironic, funky — but always with a sense of proportion and style… The spirit of Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana is maxi — and the show was effusive in every way, from earrings that swung as giant raffia circles fancied up with pompoms, through prints of toy soldier puppets on silken sheaths.”
Meanwhile, Sen. Scott Brown held a rally where his staff and supporters mocked Elizabeth Warren’s claims of Cherokee heritage with war hoops and tomahawk chops. A chief of the Cherokee Nation has called the gestures “racist” and asked for an apology.
Whenever I post stories like this, I usually receive responses saying that I am just being “politically correct.” I notice that, if the story is about women, the objection almost always comes from a man. If the story is about racism, the objection almost always comes from a white person. To care about how one’s language might affect others can be tiresome and awkward for all of us. And if someone comes from any of the dominant groups in our culture (white, male, heterosexual, Christian, etc.), he or she can feel such issues are trifling and silly, or even that they are claims to “special rights.”
That term “politically correct” is very subjective, but I have only heard it used against those who challenge prejudice. When the dominant group forces people to live or speak a certain way we don’t call it being “politically correct.” Then we call it “patriotism” or “reverence” or “being polite.”
I feel no shame when someone calls me “politically correct,” instead I am reminded of the courage it takes to step out of the cultural trance and speak a new language that does not empower or disempower any group over the rest. To me, those willing to go through the abuse are planting the seeds of a new solidarity. Because they are seeking to speak a language that includes us all, they are sharing the new Pentecost.
Links to the two stories mentioned above are here:
Good points. I’m reminded of a character in The Help who’s decided to build separate bathrooms for her maid and then turns around to talk disparagingly about “racists”. It’s easy for those of us who don’t have to deal with all the “little” things to forget how important they are. Racism doesn’t stop at the obvious physically damaging things.
Being PC is about being polite. It’s about paying attention to how what we say and do affects others even if it doesn’t make immediate sense to us that it should affect them negatively.