If you’re a regular reader of my blog, then you know I am a huge believer in kindness. This may lead you to conclude that I am also a supporter of political correctness…but the answer to that is yes…and no…You see, while I so highly value kindness and love, I want the real kind (pun intended)—not the kind that appears because it’s not socially acceptable otherwise.
That’s why this past week’s news about the Wisconsin’s Interscholastic Athletic Association banning certain chants at sporting events makes me sad—and mad.
Can you regulate kindness? Can you enforce sportsmanship? I guess you can, but in the process we lose our own responsibility to behave that way. It’s no longer because we choose not to shout “Airball!” after a shot, but simply because we can’t. (And…really? Airball? I’m pretty sure the player who shoots an airball is aware that they just blew it—and that it’s no secret. Are we really so fragile that that kind of obvious jeer will damage our psyches? Or are we trying so hard to protect those psyches that they can no longer handle such comments?)
While I don’t like it when chants like that are flying through the air, where do we stop our personal responsibility? Can we take it as far as saying that clapping for your team is also clapping against the other team—and that that is not “promoting respect” (the goal of the new WIAA rules) so we should probably just quietly observe?
Just yesterday I was at a basketball game where there was plenty to cheer about—and, frankly, jeer, too. The officiating was horrible—and consistently against the team I was there to support. My section of fans didn’t stay quiet, that’s for sure, but they mostly chose to voice their frustrations in respectable ways. And…the few times someone’s frustration got the best of them and they said something directly to an official, you know what happened? Self-policing. With a simple look from someone nearby, the person seemed to realize it’s better not to make those types of comments…because they stopped. Responsibility. By choice. Concept.*
Now, I know this doesn’t always happen—I get that. But if we take away the freedom to make those choices, then what is left? I’ve written before about honor—asking the question, “How do you know you have honor if you never get the chance to be honorable?” and I believe that this is true of every virtue. If you don’t get the chance to choose it and use it, then…you don’t have it. It’s not yours—not yet. Not until it comes from within you and not placed upon you.
Being aware of the power of words is so very important, and for me, that is the good part of political correctness. Understanding that using derogatory terms to refer to people is hurtful and should therefore cease is a victory—but the key word is understanding. If the only reason someone chooses not to use the N word is because they know that it is socially (or politically) unacceptable but still hold it in their heart as a word they agree with, then…we have made little progress.
Political correctness doesn’t cure judgments…discrimination…prejudice…or any “ism”—it often just drives them underground for a while—as we are seeing with several recent events where those things are bubbling back up. Whether it’s Trump’s rhetoric stirring up anti-Muslim attitudes or the Black Lives Matter movement shining light on the gash of what some assumed to be the healed wound of racism, keeping it quiet doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. It means it exists…quietly.
And what could foster real healing—conversations where we can learn about different realities and grow to understand them (and one another) and work toward change—well, if we don’t talk…we don’t talk. Political correctness can actually stunt our growth toward a healthier society by squelching these kinds of critical dialogues.
But we can do this, folks. We can have conversations where our hearts are open and our mouths are shut (for at least some of the time!) so that we can really hear what is being shared. The most eye-opening, insight-giving times of my life have been in conversations where the topic was touchy but the ears and hearts were open.
While being forbidden to shout “airball” may seem innocuous, at its core it is the continuation of regulating our moral freedom and limiting our responsibility to be good people—because we want to be. Because we know it is right. Not because we simply can’t.
Let us choose to be good and kind because our hearts know it is right, and when we fail, let us work together to solve the problem. That’s how real respect grows and humanity blooms.
*Please don’t extrapolate from my point that I am saying there should be no rules or laws. I’m not an idiot. (At least not a complete one.) My focus is on behaving like decent and good human beings—not breaking the law…And I think you know that.
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