Political correctness numbing

Over the last several weeks, two controversies have exposed the ugly, hidden reality in much of American society. Michael Richards’ comedy club rant exposed racism against blacks and the film satire “Borat” exposed anti-Semitism. While it is easy to castigate Richards’ judgment or the fools in Borat, it is not so easy to recognize that the heart of the nation is still haunted by its racial past.

Political correctness has done an excellent job in covering up many of America’s secret sins. Political correctness, as in anything else, has its positives and negatives. Political correctness has prevented ignorant language from creating more racial division. I fear, however, it has also led to something similar to what fashion magazines do to their models: It has turned people into mechanical productions devoid of reality.

The fact that Richards’ rant was bad is obvious, but what we should get out of it is not. The opportunity now exists for each of us to examine ourselves and see if any of the attitudes expressed by Richards are in our hearts as well. As I said about Ted Haggard in a previous article, it is easy to feel morally superior to someone when there is no mirror to reflect your own soul. The fact is, no one really knows how he or she would have responded had he or she been in Richards’ shoes. I do not believe Richards himself knew he could respond in such a manner.

In the same vein, the students who revealed their hidden prejudices to Sacha Baron Cohen (Borat) are now suing him because of their own stupidity. They are basically making the case that the attitudes revealed in the movie are not really theirs and that those attitudes will prevent them from getting good jobs. Whether it was the alcohol or the thrill of being on film that caused the students to express themselves the way they did, I don’t know.

But what if the attitudes they hold are no different than millions of their peers across the country? Is the American workforce, or the government even, filled with closet bigots who conceal their real attitudes in order to get good jobs or to be elected? If so, do those same people really have the moral authority to attack Michael Richards or the students in “Borat”?

Until the nation, person by person, becomes serious enough to examine its own heart and come to terms with the ugliness that is there, racism will continue unabated. It does no good to continue to have conferences, interracial awareness groups or the like if there is no change in those who shows up. Many of these well-intentioned gatherings simply “preach to the choir” and real societal change rarely takes place. The only way the aforementioned gatherings can have any significant impact is if individuals confess or admit – whether to themselves or someone else – their own shortcomings and recognize their need for help.

It may all sound a bit too religious for some, but the old saying, “Confession is good for the soul,” is actually true – especially on a volatile topic such as race. When, and only when, we confess, individually and as a society, our own shortcomings can any real change take place. Let Michael Richards and Borat be our teachers in a time when political correctness has made our souls sedated.

Erick Raven is a first year graduate student in the school of education from Grand Prairie. His column appeared every Friday.