Recently, a dear friend—an educator whom I respect and admire—chastised me for using the term “disabled individuals.”
“The correct terminology is ‘challenged,’ so get it right,” she barked in a tone so imperious and authoritarian, she sounded like a complete stranger.
Challenged???? Challenged!!!!! Are you freakin’ kidding me? I thought, too stunned by her reprimand to get the words out. It was inconceivable to me that any friend of mine would buy into this PC bullshit. Thankfully, this exchange occurred just as my friend was getting into a cab for the airport—otherwise I would have gone completely berserk, right there on 44th Street.
Fueled by an abiding distaste for anything smacking of political correctness, I raced back to the office to contact a real authority on the subject. Simi Linton is an author and activist whose work draws on her own experience as a disabled person. Her writing often “challenges” pervasive stereotypes and myths about disability. Simi is also a friend, and I knew I could trust her take on this issue.
“‘Challenged’ is a silly term and basically meaningless!” she confirmed. “It is a misguided attempt at being polite about disability. It reeks of paternalism. I describe myself as ‘a disabled woman’—it is clear, direct, and bold.”
In my opinion, the whole PC mindset reeks big time. Rather than empower society by encouraging authentic human interaction, this manipulative, condescending, heinous form of rhetoric serves only to diminish and marginalize, and promote ignorance.
Speaking of ignorance, one of the more obvious, pathetic and misguided attempts at politeness I have ever experienced is the blatantly bogus use of the term “New Yorkers.” In certain parts of the country, when accompanied by that ridiculous hand gesture in which index and middle fingers are conjoined to form air-quotes, “New Yorker” is the code word for Jew. Over time, I have noticed that this euphemism has grown to encompass references to gays, lesbians, the transgendered and other non-conformist members of the citizenry. But rather than take offense to such a moronic display of bigotry, I choose to rejoice in being called a New Yorker.
Political Correctness, Wikipedia explains, “denotes language, ideas, policies, and behavior seen as seeking to minimize social and institutional offense in occupational, gender, racial, cultural, sexual orientation, certain other religions, beliefs or ideologies, disability, and age-related contexts, and, as purported by the term, doing so to an excessive extent.”
Really People? How about we stop minimizing offense and start maximizing opportunities to understand and embrace the differences in people!!!!
The single best example of how transformational authentic, human interaction can be exists in the form of a television segment on BBC-America’s, The Graham Norton Show. In what has to be one of the most memorable, guileless and absolutely hysterical conversations I have ever witnessed, British character actress Miriam Margolyes starts off by telling Will.i.am how lovely it is to meet him, because he’s black. That’s all I’m going to tell you, because there is no way I could ever do this remarkable exchange justice. What I will say is that by the end of the show, the affection that blossoms between these two former strangers is palpable. Please watch the whole segment. It is a fantastic lesson in patience, understanding and kindness. Plus, it’s so freakin’ funny, you’ll laugh your ass off.
We could sure use more PC-free moments like this one!!!