Community: Real Life

Am I politically correct?


Amanda is studying Comparative Literature in London. She has a weakness for travel, cookery, jazz and fudge. She likes to relax in pretentious bars and illegal squats alike, so long as she has a nice glass of dry white wine.

Amanda is tired of gingerly stepping around 'racist' terms. She would like for everyone to speak about colour in the same way as they would talk about the weather.

When I describe my new acquaintance as 'tall, black and slightly spotty', I receive discerning looks from my friends, not because I have just pointed out that they suffer from a mild case of acne, but because I'm a racist. I describe someone by their actual skin colour, shame on me. Apparently I need to learn all the racially correct terms, and in my friend's words, 'be a bit more sensitive' about how I describe someone. Why is it insensitive to call someone black? Do they have illusions that they're actually of Native American colour? And how am I offending someone by describing how they look?

Skin pigmentation is a natural way to define the physicality of someone, I'm not inferring that it bears any significance on their character, physical strength or intellectual ability; I'm simply providing an aesthetic feature that can be used to differentiate them.

The politically correct nanny-state that we live in dictates that we speak of others in politically correct terms. People with darker skin pigmentation of African origin living in the USA have endured a number of different categories in the past decade from 'black', to 'coloured', to 'afro-American', to 'black American'. Now it seems politically correct to be 'black' again. We might take the piss out of Sean John Combs' penchant for name changing, but isn't that the pot calling the kettle black?

Racial labels only mean something to the individual and the context of where and who it's spoken between. Someone who is 'white' in Brazil could step over the US border and would most definitely be classed as 'black'. I don't understand how a black rapper can call a fellow black person a 'nigga' in an affectionate manner, yet a non-black person would be heavily criticised for using this term. Why get defensive about colour or 'race', when you have a chameleonic change of colour depending on the colour of those around you. Whether you appear white to me or not bears absolutely no importance on what I think of you, apart from potentially being jealous about how your skin tone really works with that red dress.

"Whether you appear white to me or not bears absolutely no importance on what I think of you, apart from maybe being jealous about how your skin tone works with that red dress."

The entire façade of 'political correctness' implies that there's a politically incorrect way of describing someone's colour. This would mean there's an issue to be sensitive about as it causes shame and embarrassment. Why should I be sensitive about how I describe someone if that's my personal perception of them? I can understand if I described someone as ugly, even though they might be, it would perhaps be offensive, but why would describing someone as 'Indian' be offensive if they were in fact Indian? There's no point avoiding calling me 'white' because I quite plainly am. I'm not embarrassed or under any illusions that I'm any different (although occasionally I may convince myself that I have a better tan than perhaps I do).

I find politically correct quotas and companies' 'ethnic diversity' policies deeply racist. The very existence of quotas and 'ethnic diversity' programmes in companies and schools enforce racism, as one's colour becomes a contributing factor to their employment or acceptance for a place. Surely it's more racist to employ someone of ethnic minority in order to prove that you aren't racist, as opposed to employing whoever is better at the job - irrelevant of their colour. Whether you end up with an 'all-white' company or not, race should not be part of the selection process.  

Racial categories don't work. You cannot define your 'race' within a claustrophobic tick box. 'Race' is a social construct and there are millions of different 'racial' categories, not the six or seven that usually appear on the form. My friend from Switzerland who has an Afro-American father and a German mother struggles with these forms. When would you see a box for 'black Swiss with European and American parents'?

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Updated: 11/06/2008

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