why it was only a matter of split seconds before someone used the term "politically correct" in the stanford rape case
Before I go on, an assurance that yes, I have indeed experienced what people call "political correctness:"
In 1984, I attended The School of Visual Arts. There were a number of women and non-white students in the class. I was, in fact, one of the few white males.
At the same time, a case dominated the media, and anyone who lived through it--and particularly anyone who lived in or close to New York City--remembers it. A white guy named Bernhard Goetz was on the subway. Four African American kids went up to him and asked him for money. Goetz opened fire on them.
Being that SVA is an art school, the politics were (and I'm sure continue to be) overwhelmingly left leaning. In fact, SVA may have been one of the few places in which a straw poll had something like 90 percent of the students voting for Walter Mondale, the Democratic candidate that Ronald Reagan slaughtered in one of the most lopsided presidential races in history. In our class, the professor discussed how Bernhard Goetz was a crazy man, and how these kids were victims.
It soon became clear that these kids were not sweethearts. Yes, they only asked him for money instead throwing him against the side of the subway car and threatening to kill him if he didn't cough it up, but still...they were four kids who surrounded him. Please..they were menacing this guy, and they were going to mug him.
When I first heard about the case, I really thought the kids he shot were white. I vividly remember picturing in my mind a group of kids similar to the ones who bullied me back in high school surrounding this mousy guy who was...well, a lot like me back then, I'm afraid. I wasn't proud of the fact that I actually found it satisfying that he shot them...and I'm afraid that mousy, hunted teenage student part of me always will.
In class, I insisted that I really, honestly, thought that the kids were white, and said (and I remember this) "it really bothers me, but I was picked on so much back in middle school and high school that I really don't care what race these kids are; if I'd have been on that subway, I might have done the same thing." I also admit to feeling a similar thrill when I read about Austin Weeks, an African American guy who shot and killed a white guy who was harassing him on the subway.
It didn't matter how sincere I was. To my classmates, I was now a bigoted monster who embraced racism.
"You'd make a good Bernhard Goetz, Derek," one of them said.
"Yeah," said another, "I could see you getting off on gunning down innocent black boys."
"Wait a minute," I said, "the papers say these kids were armed with sharpened screwdrivers."
She looked at me with disgust.
"They weren't sharpened," she said.
I thought about this, and realized that in fact if someone were going to use this as a weapon, they would make sure not sharpen it. That way, they could later say that they didn't have a weapon because they were only carrying, you know, a screwdriver. It sort of reminds me of the tactical pens that are currently all the rage, where it's possible to perforate someone's face and say that it's not a weapon....just a pen (I also admit to owning one).
Anyway, this went on for the rest of my time at SVA. Anything that I said was now null and void because I was a bigot. All criticism of anything even remotely related to African Americans was now invalid.
It wasn't long after this that I first came across the term "politically correct" and embraced it. And boy, did I relate that story about SVA to anyone who'd listen. I practically stopped people on the street to tell them of my horrible injustice suffered at the hands of African Americans.
And slowly, I came to love that term, because now I had a way to do exactly what those kids did to me. I could invalidate any criticism that anyone leveled against me as "politically correct."
It didn't matter if there was, say, something to be said for the contention that no means no. It didn't matter that the excuse "but we were drunk and she was leading me on" just doesn't cut it. If you disagreed with me, you were politically correct, and your argument was worthless.
(As an aside, by the way, a certifiably great analogy I once read that blows the whole "but she said yes right up to the last minute" excuse out of the water: if someone buys me an expensive dinner, and the I decide I'm not hungry, it's not right for them to pin me down and force the food down my throat.)
These days, when people complain about the horrible oppression that white men suffer at the hands of those of a different gender or complexion, I sigh.
Yes, it's true: there are always going to be people who try to find a way to invalidate an argument by painting the other person as somehow morally unclean, incapable of any rational argument.
Yes, there will always be people who do terrible things, and then claim that any accusation against them is invalid, because the other person is racist or sexist or anti-religion or biased in some other way.
Okay. I get it.
Yet now, we have this term "politically correct," and again and again, it's becoming the tool that people--and yes, particularly white people, and especially white males--use against anyone who says that, you know, they may be saying or doing something vile.
And this is why it was only a matter of time before a friend of Brock Turner, the Stanford University student convicted of rape, would say that horrors, that hideous, draconian sentence of six months was due to that dreaded scourge of "political correctness."
In fact, Turner's friend, Leslie Rasmussen, said even more than that. According to a Guardian Article that you can read here, Rasmussen wrote a letter to the case's judge, Aaron Persky in which, among other things, she mused: "where do we draw the line and stop worrying about being politically correct every second of the day and see that rape on campuses isn’t always because people are rapists,”
I admit that I didn't go to Stanford, but UMASS Amherst had a damn good English department, and I like to think that I learned something there, and honed that knowledge with thirty years of writing. I'm not sure of too much, but I am sure of this: generally speaking, if you do the verb, you are the noun. I play drums; therefore I am a drummer. I write; therefore I'm a writer. I play music; therefore I am a musician.
I know, I know...I'm politically correct. My argument is null and void. I mean, really...how dare I say that because Brock Turner raped someone, he's a rapist.
And yes, I know...the person who wrote that letter is female, so I should lighten up (because I'm, you know, politically correct). To this I say: it's not only white males who just don't get it. Besides, there was also the shrieking, bleating wail of Turner's father, who is enraged that his son is being so horribly persecuted for what he called "20 minutes of action."
The term "politically correct" is what allowed me, back in 1984, to delude myself into thinking that my horrible, horrible persecution at the hands of a couple of kids who had some academic power in a classroom was akin to the long, infuriating history of African Americans suffering at the hands of established systems of power in government and law enforcement.
It's why there is now an organization called "Blue Lives Matter," designed to protect poor, innocent police from the hands of those evil, oppressive black people who post video after video of one African American person after another getting dragged, beaten, and then arrested for the crime of having a darker complexion.
No doubt the people who start organizations such as this believe that every single one of these videos is taken out of context.
And yes, this whole "stop being so politically correct" mantra is what allowed me to hold onto that belief that Mike Tyson was the victim when he raped Desiree Washington. I wasn't the only one. When Pete Hamill profiled Mike Tyson in an interview conducted while Tyson was in prison, Hamill voiced the same sentiments.
As I grew older, I put away childish things. Consequently, I threw "politically correct" out of my bag of expressions to use in both writing and speaking. When I hear it now, I think to myself "oh, boy...here we go."
To the race card and the woman card, we can now add the politically correct card, the precious possession of those poor, oppressed white men. Donald Trump, who plays it constantly, now of course alleges that the judge hearing the case about his charade of a university "might be Mexican," and is therefore biased. And once again, no doubt, the shriek of "politically correct' from his supporters for calling this statement racist will soon become a deafening roar.
And yes, I know there is widespread, admirable condemnation of Trump's comments. Yet still...I honestly believe that at least some who voice those beliefs secretly believe that all this criticism is, you know, politically correct, and that they have to condemn Trump because, you know, there's such a climate of political correctness.
The fact remains: "politically correct" is now the card that so many white males play constantly, and it disgusts me.