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The ideal “political correctness” has taken a beating lately. Some see the ideal as respectful accommodation to racial and cultural diversity and to individual differences in opinion and belief. But others regard the ideal as a conspiratorial attempt to gag free speech, limit free association, and deny “truth”.
In a previous post, I wrote about something I called “The Purity Movement”. That post went up 6 years ago, but it seems just as relevant today in listening to arguments from those who would decry “political correctness”. Their point of view is that biology and the teachings of religion dictate one race, one ethnicity, and one religion are and always will be superior to the rest. To deny that so called “truth” is an affront to both God and nature. No amount of peer pressure is apparently going to change their thinking on that matter. But even so, some are giving it a try.
The new term micro-assault has been invented to assist in that effort. And it’s an interesting term. Consider the image on the left above. It depicts a poster in the window of a clothes store. No big deal, right? Except that poster and store are in an almost entirely black or African-American neighborhood. And the image on the right, taken directly opposite the poster, is of a mocking/clowning reaction to both the poster and this photographer. To those two mocking young women, both poster and photographer represented an assault on their dignity. “Oh yes, mister. Aren’t we glamorous, just like in that poster?”
Not my thinking at the time or now, but little difference that made then or now to the thinking of those two women. It is, of course, perfectly legal free speech for that store to display that poster in that neighborhood. But it did offend at least those two residents of this neighborhood. And it did make me wonder about the store owner’s intent. It was also perfectly legal free speech for those young women to respond with ridicule, though I doubt the store owner noticed. Only I did. And I now more clearly understand the sensitivities of those two ladies.
Micro-assaults are affronts to the dignity of others, regarding their right to freely pursue their lives as they see fit. The measure is whether or not what one does adversely affects others. Intended or not, micro-assaults are learning experiences, opportunity to rebut and/or readjust our awarenesses and behaviors. They also, perhaps annoyingly, function to allow assertion of one’s personal point of view in defiance of current cultural convention. Declining to stand for the Star Spangled Banner would be one current example in the news. Micro-assaults, along with their rebuttals, may be how the wider market place of ideas is meant to work, readjusting cultural norms on down the line with each new iteration. They undoubtedly inflict brief moments of discomfort and uncertainty, but they do not in themselves cause bloodshed. And, that is a good thing.
I suggest we pay attention to these little skirmishes. The results may prove interesting.
Sunday, September 1st, 2013