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Political Correctness

Kara King | Thursday, February 7, 2008

“I’m a little Indian. I do big war dance for you.”

Apparently, that’s how I used to entertain my mother at the age of four.

I recently discovered this best-forgotten factoid after unearthing some highly embarrassing home movies over Christmas.

Using our coffee table as a makeshift stage, I belted out my newly-learned phrase, complete with what I can only imagine was supposed to be the aforementioned “big war dance.” Watching it, I was embarrassed. Needless to say, such a spectacle would never be taught to today’s pre-kindergarten youth.

Indeed, such a song today would be met with endless criticisms and ultimately changed to something more politically correct, something more socially acceptable, something along the lines of, “I’m an average-sized Native American, and, if asked nicely, I will perform one of the traditional dances of my people in an effort to keep our culture alive.”

Maybe it’s just me, but I think we have gone a little overboard with this whole political correctness thing. I understand not wanting to hurt people’s feelings, but we’ve taken it to a whole new extreme. Anything that can potentially be deemed minutely offensive to anyone is almost immediately censored.

We are a country that is supposedly built around the freedoms of the individual and freedom of speech is a constitutional right on which we pride ourselves, Yet we seem to be restricting our ability to speak our mind as the population continues to need everything sugar coated. And the funniest part is the majority of those defining the direction this quest for political correctness takes are white, upper-middle class politicians, unlikely to be offended but afraid to be cast in a bad light.

I understand that our right freedom of speech is limited. People, especially those in a position of power, are responsible for what they say, and I fully believed Don Imus deserved the repercussions of his ill-founded comments about the Rutgers basketball team. But how can we claim to offer freedom of expression when everyone – from PTA moms to public figures to students – is afraid of similar falling outs, albeit on a lesser scale, if their comments are misconstrued?

Political correctness has had that effect, whether or not we acknowledge it. Celebrities such as Imus, and, more recently Kelly Tilghman, have become the poster children for what can happen if we don’t politically correct-icize our comments. I’m not saying we should teach our children to mimic Native American tribal dances, but I don’t think I should feel so embarrassed about it years later. We have to find the happy medium where we can express our beliefs without fear of offending those who overhear. Or at least find a way to appreciate my four-year-old antics, without reading into the political incorrectness of it all.