Why I Don’t Care That You Have to Think Before You Speak



As I’ve said here,  I’m pro-political correctness, although I don’t much care for that term. I don’t think it’s “political” to treat people with basic kindness: to refer to them by names they don’t find offensive and to not perpetuate harmful and hacky stereotypes. If it wasn’t for what people call “political correctness” we’d still be calling people of color by the n-word and I think we can all agree that the fact the majority of people know this is wrong is a good thing.

So when I hear people deriding “political correctness” I want to say, “Fuck you for demeaning basic human kindness as some sort of “political” mollycoddling.”

But I’ve already said that. (Although it does feel good to say it again.)

But one of the constant “harrumphs” I hear about “political correctness” is this, “Well, now we have to think before we say anything.” I use the word “harrumph” because it sounds blustery and white and old and that’s the majority of the people I hear it from. It should come as no surprise to anyone that it’s mostly straight, white dudes harrumphing over having to think before they say anything – because they’ve never had to before. And the rest of us have to think before we say everything.

I just want to say here that I like straight, white dudes – I’m married to one. But I don’t have a problem with them needing to think before they speak for awhile. Welcome to what the rest of us have been doing for years. When you are part of a minority – a person of color, a woman, a member of the LGBTQ community, or disabled – you don’t have the luxury of just being yourself. You are the test case for everyone else like you. You are representing all of them. You have to prove that you can take it; that you will blend in like a white man and not get “uppity” “bitchy” or “queenie.” Oh, and you have to do your job, not just as good as everyone else, but in a way that you are above reproach. They are already not paying attention to you because you are other. They have already dismissed you as being there as a token, as if they haven’t been the real beneficiaries of an affirmative action that’s lasted for hundreds of years.

Oh People Harrumphing, do you think it will be difficult to do your job with this added burden of having to think first? No kidding. And the rest of us do anyway. We must be awesome.

I’ve worked on a show where white people have referred to black performers as “doing that black thing again.” And no, it wasn’t the Ed Sullivan Show, which might have been forgivable in a historical sense. Conversely, there’s a bias against the performers who don’t fit into the stereotype of what they expect from a black man or woman. People have said they don’t know what to do with them. Many talented and hard working people just keep at it and are themselves and are eventually able to find a success in that. But how many don’t? How many are denied an opportunity because they are “too black” or “not black enough?” How many of the people who do break through would be further along if they could just be themselves without carrying this extra weight of how to be black enough but not too black?

Any of us who are different are going through the same thing. And it’s not just in the workplace. Socially, too, we have to thread needles with our public performances that straight, white men just don’t have to. We are not allowed to conform to their identity: we can’t be brash or aggressive or ambitious. And yet we can’t conform to our own identities either without risk of being labeled as too emotional, too passive, too street, too angry, too effeminate, too butch. How we’re all not in an insane asylum is a mystery to me.

So no, I do not give one whit of a fuck that you have to think before you say something. Enjoy it. You just may learn something. Even if that thing is what it’s like to be the rest of us.





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