I was taking my daily exercise walk through the neighborhood this morning and had an interesting conversation with a passing motorist. Since it’s a residential area, I was moseying along in the street, and the motorist stopped and asked why I didn’t like the sidewalk (no snark; he was just curious). The salient part of the conversation went like this:
Me: “Just habit. Usually my wife and I walk together, and when we talk, there’s much hand-waving and elbow-flying. The sidewalk isn’t wide enough for us.”
He: “Oh, you’re Italian.”
Me: “Nah. We’re American.” (OK, some leg pulling here.)
He: “No, I meant your heritage is Italian.”
Me: “Nope. American.”
He: “I get that. I was asking about your ethnicity. All that hand stuff, and all.”
Me: “Yeah—like I said, American.”
This completely innocent conversation—the motorist really was just curiously asking about something that seemed entirely natural for him to ask about—illustrates how far we’ve slipped into the mess that is the Politically Correct. We no longer think of ourselves as Americans. We think of ourselves, instead, as part of this or that group first, and we just happen to be American, second. We’re African-Americans. We’re Asian-Americans. We’re Hispanic-Americans. We’re XYZ-Americans. We insist on these group break outs of our American-ness, as though all there is to being an American is the legal citizenship of the country to which we belong, and every difference, however minor, needs anxiously to be preserved.
But we don’t just separate ourselves on ethnicity or skin color. We segregate along other equally useless lines. We’re Catholics, first, and Americans second. Or Protestant. Or Baptist. Or Muslim. Or Jewish. Or Atheist. We’re rich, or poor, and American second; union or non-union, and American second. In a sort of reverse artificial segregation, we can’t hold back a student who isn’t progressing in his studies because keeping him back might “stigmatize” him. So he’s passed forward, anyway, in a reverse segregation.
This is nothing more than the preservation of the Jim Crow era’s segregation and separate but equal…claptrap. Today’s segregation, though, is far more insidious than that era’s openly separate water fountains, restrooms, schools for which those Jim Crow Democrats of 50 years ago fought so desperately. Today, we have “affirmative action” that seeks to give preferential treatment to government-selected groups, not on the basis of merit, but solely on the basis of belonging to the right group. We have outright quotas, where selection is based solely on belonging to the right group: the process doesn’t even pay lip service to merit.
In the end, this PC-driven segregation accomplishes nothing but the soft bigotry of low expectations about which Bush the Younger spoke some years ago. Although he was referring specifically to education, this low expectations nonsense is far broader than that. This soft bigotry justifies government welfare for those “special” groups: government believes the members of these groups cannot—ever—help themselves, an individual in one of these groups cannot—ever—make the right choices, without government handouts and “guidance” In the end, this PC-segregation serves no other purpose—intended or not—than to keep these government “favored” groups trapped in the Liberal company town, paying for their government welfare with their votes—there being no other product in the company store than dependency, and no other currency for that store’s white goods than the scrip of those votes.
We aren’t Americans who have differing beliefs—which diversity contributes to our greatness as a nation and makes our culture what people of other nations want to immigrate to join. We aren’t Americans with differing skin tones—which differences gives us a breathtaking range of beauty. Instead, we are those differences, first and foremost. That’s the argument, anyway, for Political Correctness.
On second thought, PC is far worse than Jim Crow.
Update: For an additional take on the racist nature of Affirmative Action, see this article from The Wall Street Journal by Ward Connerly, president of the American Civil Rights Coalition and author of “Lessons from My Uncle James: Beyond Skin Color to the Content of our Character” (Encounter Books, 2008).