Friday, November 21, 2008

How Far We've Come

It was the summer of 1968 and the country was on fire, literally. We were having race riots, anti-war riots, draft riots, ban-the-bomb riots and massive unrest for any reason that pops up on a given morning.

One reaction to the race riots was the development of an entire industry within the military called "Race Relations". Every installation got a race relations office and a small staff of suitably disgruntled minority NCO's to conduct a "program." I might have been one of the first to notice that while discrimination based on ethnicity was prohibited both by civil law and military regulations, I never encountered a single caucasian military member staffing any of the offices.

They did two things. They solicited complaints of discrimination. The verb here is important. They didn't accept or record or simply file gripes. They went searching for them. And, they taught mandatory classes on race relations. Everybody had to receive a training course.

We learned that you can't correct a military subordinate for not being clean-shaven if they get a doctor to certify they have pseudofoliculitis; a racially based skin rash caused by the act of shaving. You also can't mention that their hair cut is out of limits, if it is an ethnic style. You can't expect them to stop doing a fifty-five step "dap" greeting of their peers to render a salute. And, we learned a whole lexicon of new words that could be used to offend someone racially.

If you were prejudiced to begin with, it gave you new ammunition for being offensive. If you weren't it made you think that maybe you should be.

Take a look at this corporate experience forty years later and see how far we've come:

Training Day

Probably the most revealing phrase in that well written piece is:

It is not the intent of the alleged harasser, but the impact on the recipient.

You don't have to be prejudiced or mean or insulting or harassing or intimidating to be guilty. It is what the recipient thinks you said even if you didn't say it!

Doesn't that smack of "1984"?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"1984" is a good comparison. The insidious thing about PC is that it's a tool for the "political classes" at work, in government and in the universities to promote themselves and justify their existence.

I've just published a novel in which this hypocrisy of political correctness is a major theme: