Paul R. Lehman, Brigette Gaberiel’s statement on political correctness shows confusionDecember 18, 2015 at 5:23 am | Posted in African American, American history, American Indian, Constitutional rights, democracy, education, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, freedom of speech, identity, immigration, justice, Pilgrims, skin color, The U.S. Constitution, whites | 1 Comment
Tags: African Americans, American History, black, Brigette Gaberiel, Caucasians, English, ethnic americans, ethnicity, European Americans, lesser whites, Pilgrims, political correctness, Prejudice, skin color, white
The following statement provided an opportunity to make clear some common misinformation:
We must come together as a nation. We must throw political correctness in the garbage where it belongs and start speaking the truth! I am sick and tired of everybody walking around being so offended. We need to start offending people. I am sick and tired of “I am an African-American, I am an Italian-American, I am a Lebanese-American”. We are nothing but Americans!” –Brigette Gabriel, Watchmen on the Wall Conference 2015-http://rightweb.irc-online.org/profile/Gabriel_Brigitte
On the surface the statement above reads like someone is deeply concerned about the bigotry and insensitivity relative to ethnic Americans. However, on closer scrutiny we discover the opposite intent of what is said because of the apparently vague generalities. Let us be specific in our concerns. Who are the “we” in the first sentence and why are “we” not together? The next sentence does nothing to identify or to make clear the “we” questions, but states that political correctness must be thrown into the garbage. Why? In addition, the truth must start to be spoken. What truth? Before we go further in our discussion we realize that the above statements reads like bumper stickers of the past: “America, Love it, or Leave it!” Like the bumper sticker, society does not know who is making the statement and to whom. To most Americans, that bumper sticker statement would be totally Un-American, because in our democratic form of government, when we do not like something that is unreasonable, we work to change it, not run from it.
Gabriel’s reference to political correctness sounds more like a “dog whistle” than a legitimate complaint about something of significance. Most instances of political correctness seek to make more accurate and pertinent some expression or practice. An example of political correctness involves changing the label “Garbage Man” to “ Sanitation Worker” and in so doing remove the denigrating reference to garbage and the gender designation of man. Why would anyone be against that kind of correctness? For certain some of the changes or suggested changes can appear hyperbolic and unreasonable, but to discount all political correctness would be fool-hardy. How does one distinguish “the truth” in political correctness without examining the objective in making the change and then checking for its validity and accuracy? Again, the question must be asked: Whose truth?
The next sentence contains sentiments of Gabriel being “sick and tired” of other people walking around being offended. She has every right to feel whatever she is capable of feeling, but that freedom does not include making other people conform to her feelings. She has no control of the feelings of other people, but if so concerned about why they feel offended, might inquire of them. Maybe they are justified in feeling offended. Her statement reflects a degree of arrogance when she describes her dislike of other people’s expressions of offence as if they are supposed to please her.
Gabriel’s next statement sounds dictatorial and aggressive towards people who offend her and the “We” she has yet to define. What would be the objective in deliberately offending people? Americans have 1st Amendment rights that are protected by the Constitution, so if their expressions and/or behavior does no physical or mental harm to anyone, then they can continue exercising their right, whether Gabriel like it or not. The suggestion of wanting to offend someone for some unknown reasons or for using political correctness seems un-American and un-democratic.
In her next sentence, Gabriel expresses again her feelings of “sick and tired” of what she apparently considers political correctness: “I am an African-American, I am an Italian-American, I am a Lebanese-American”. This statement shows a total lack of or acceptance of American history in that Gabriel does not understand the difference between ethnic identity and cultural identity and how it has played out in America since before the Mayflower. Although the pilgrims brought their prejudices with the to America, those prejudices were not based on ethnicity, but skin color—red for Indians, black for Africans, and white for Europeans. Not until the founding fathers invented two races—one black, one white, did the need for identity become important.
The ruling Anglo-Saxon class of early Americans wanted to control society in order to protect themselves and their possessions, so they invented two races base on skin color followed with what they promoted as natural characteristics. For the white race the concept of total supremacy over all non-white people was offered as a God-given right. For Africans/African Americans the concept was one of inferiority in every respect, especially, intelligence. These two concepts were two sides of the same coin; one does not exist without the other. Everything was fine for a while because all the social, political, religious, legal and educational institutions were controlled by the Anglo-Saxons.
In the early 1920’s the ruling class realized that too many lesser whites were immigrating to America, so they slowed European immigration down in some regards, and put a stop to it relative to people of color—see Johnson-Reed bill. The lesser whites—including Irish, Italians, Slavs, Poles, Jews, Germans and others were placed under the rubric of Caucasian, a term coined just prior to 1800. This term Caucasian became identified with white and elevated the lesser whites relative to privilege, and prestige. The significance of this elevation for the lesser whites, which is important to Gabriel’s complaint, is that the European immigrants who could change their identity from its ethnic origin to white, did so. Being white was more important and valuable than being Italian-American. Unfortunately, the shift from ethnic identity to white did nothing positive for African Americans; it, in fact, produced more bigots who identified with their new social group.
All Americans have two identities, one ethnic, and one cultural. The ethnic identity is based on ancestry and geography and cannot be changed. Our cultural identity is of our own choosing. For example, if a female child is born to French parents in France, then both her identities will be French. However, if as an adult she decides to move to England, and become an English citizen, then her cultural identity changes to English. She becomes a French-English citizen or just English. The case with African Americans is different because the African captives who were enslaved in America had their identities taken away from them and replaced with terms like Negro, black, colored etc. So, the term African American is not an example of political correctness, but a re-establishment of both former and current identities.
European Americans or whites can select the time and place to use their ethnic identity; for many, they only know white or Caucasian. Control of African Americans and some lesser Americans is still in effect today because race still has social value. We would welcome the day when all Americans can truthfully say that we are all Americans and be politically correct.