Atlantic blogger Ta-Nehisi Coates has a profound post on “politically correct” speech, occasioned by the racist attacks from the right on Supreme Court nominee, Judge Sonia Sotomayor. Excerpts:
This is a post about Sonia Sotomayor, and an extension of my defense of political correctness. Last week, I got away from my main point, which was that liberal political correctness is not so much an inability to see real facts, but a collective phase in the long process of learning how to talk to, and talk about, people who you don’t know. I am still stumbling through that phase (hence, “Well I’m not gay, but…”) It’s easy for people who aren’t interested in that process, to deride it. The [sic: They] get to stand on the sidelines and laugh, while ignoring the weight of history, and how it presses on us all.
. . .
This [Lindsay Graham’s remarks about Sotomayor, saying that if he made her comments he would be accused of racism] is the sort of logic that leads people to complain that there is no white history month. It’s my great nightmare that I, or my son, ever sound like that–smug, self-satisfied, unreflective, whiny and narcissistic. It’s the sort of comment that betrays a man bereft of any deep interest in this country’s history. But if you’ve never had to grapple with who you are in relation to other people, if you’ve never had to worry much about courting people who aren’t like you, if you’ve never struggled with being politically correct, it’s exactly the sort of thing you’d say.
It is, in a word, ignorance.
. . .
I’m a liberal, not so much because I doubt the free market, not so much because I believe in universal health care, not so much because of the environment, but because of political correctness. As awkward as it may be, it at least demonstrates an attempt to see the world through another lense. This is a daunting task, and failing at it is so much more honorable than not even trying. Maybe you never quite get there, but it holds out a hope for your children, that unreflective, false symmetry does not. Conservatives got away with this game for years. The luxury of being the majority in a democracy is the right to act like other people don’t exist. But the world is changing around them and Birnam Wood is on the march.”