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The Political In/Correctness Continuum

On Thanksgiving weekend my reaction to reading this piece by Gene Weingarten led me to e-mail him at the address listed at the end of the article. The following thread is the result of our exchanges so far. Attempts to verify that G.W. actually wrote the response sent from his e-mail address received no reply.

[This is my mindset whenever people complain about political correctness in the 21st century.]
Political correctness in not new in the U.S. or around the world. It's had many names and iterations: Jim Crow, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and Indian Schools, the internment of American citizens of Japanese descent, the Salem witch trials, "no Italians/Irish/Greeks/Jews..." signs and policies, the Holocaust, the persecution of Alan Turing and other QUILTBAG people, the Rwandan genocide,,,

Until we decide to honor the truth that every human being's intrinsic value is equal to that of every other human regardless of superficial traits and external circumstances, we'll just keep killing each other in words and deeds.

I'm working toward the day when the U.S. Declaration of Independence is modified to say, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all humans are created equal. That they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights..." I'm working toward the time when the words man and men are replaced with human and humans in every document pertaining to the rights, protections and privileges of citizenship and as members of the human race.

From: Cardyn Brooks
Sent: Monday, November 28, 2016 11:16:59 AM
To: Weingarten, Gene
Subject: about Cultural Confucian

About “Cultural Confucian” from the Sunday, November 27, 2016 The Washington Post Magazine

Obliviousness of Privilege Syndrome Strikes Again

You’re 65 years old now, which means you were 12 in 1963. That’s after the landmark Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, but before the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act of the 1960s. Were any of your schoolmates Americans of Chinese descent? Once your winning poster was distributed city-wide I wonder how many Chinese (or Japanese or Korean) American school children had to tolerate Anglo (and no, I don’t usually use white for skin color because in pigmentation white is the absence of color, and also, for me, labeling people as white supports racial superiority propaganda) classmates saying your slogan to them at intersections and crosswalks.
Many self-proclaimed liberals and unapologetically racist, sexist, homophobic, ageist, and other exclusionists voice the same complaint: Political correctness is so annoying and inconvenient.
Welcome to the club.
Emmett Till, Sean Bell, Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis, Sandra Bland, Philando Castile, Jazz Alford and a long list of other black and brown and/or QUILTBAG people or members of populations whose intrinsic value as humans and citizens are routinely marginalized, discounted, dismissed and rejected are dead because they crossed paths with people who judged them, convicted them and executed them for being what they considered politically incorrect.
The 45th PEOTUS didn’t “hit paydirt” by attacking political incorrectness; he threw the well-churned mud of the effective divide-and-conquer strategies learned from Bacon’s Rebellion in the 17th century. When the Anglo indentured servants and enslaved Africans recognized their shared grievances against the privileged elites, the ruling class made inclusion in being white a distinguishing element of privilege, inherent superiority and innate worthiness of respect, recognition, access to resources, opportunities, citizenship, higher labor compensation and everything good in life.
It’s interesting that Eric Shansby’s illustration implies an unsafe environment (where “safe space” on the door seems to be ironic) shows three men and one woman, three of whom are Anglo with one ethnically fluid looking young man. Of course, the authority figure seated behind the desk with his finger on the reject button is an older Anglo man. Because even in the 21st century images of power are still disproportionately embodied by older Anglo men. 
When that changes maybe I’ll buy into your lament about political correctness.  

Cardyn Brooks
Baltimore, Maryland

On Thu, Dec 1, 2016 at 8:56 PM, Weingarten, Gene wrote:

Well.  Wow.  

Please explain how a poster of Confucius, held up as a paragon of wisdom, marginalizd Asians in 1962?  The pidgin English?  Sure.   I am well aware it would be declared cultural appropriation today.   In the context of the times, it was fine, unchallenged, unremarkable. 
That white guy at the desk was a caricature of me. 

Before you start lecturing me condescendingly on the murder of black people, the marginalization of cultures, the horrors of slavery!, well perhaps you should find out a little about my history.  I suspect I was marching on the front lines of human rights and civil rights and gay rights long before you were in diapers.   I don't want to make any assumptions about you, but I am guessing you are not very old.  You are certainly not yet very wise.  And yes, the fragile-flower fainting-couch collegiate attitude is something that is embarrassing to all of us who have actually lived through much more serious cultural problems, and joined the fray.   All of us. 

Read what you wrote again.  Police it for absurd, infantile condescension, and write to me again.  I'll answer it.

From: Cardyn Brooks 
Date: Fri, Dec 2, 2016 at 5:22 PM
Subject: Re: about Cultural Confucian
To: "Weingarten, Gene"

Thanks for responding. 

I did realize that the man seated at the desk represented you. Based on the content of your piece, it seemed like an illustration that focused on the young people judging you instead of your judging them would have been more consistent. 

Also, please note that in my e-mail to you there are no personal attacks or name-calling. (The "self-proclaimed liberals and unapologetically racist..." phrase was a generalization connected to a shared complaint.) On one side of my family I'm only the third generation removed from enslavement (my great-grandparents were first physically enslaved, then economically enslaved as sharecroppers) as well as the third generation of earning a college degree. What I wrote is my opinion. The core of my remarks is about point of view when it comes to complaints about the constraints and ridiculousness of political correctness, as if political correctness is something new. What's new is how many more people who aren't non-Anglo, non-hetero or whatever other traits are considered mainstream are getting tripped up by it.  

My references were not intended as condescension, but as context for my thoughts whenever people complain about political correctness. Your reply to me contains every offense of which you accuse me. I didn't question your intelligence or your motives or social justice background. My references to your age weren't intended to be ageist, just to set context for my speculations about how Asian students may have been impacted by your winning poster. The vehemence of your response suggests that my comments struck a nerve. 

What upset me enough to write was the "Donald Trump's remarks were vile but..." Your vehement response to my e-mail echoes mine to that phrase. For me, "Donald Trump's remarks were vile." is the full sentence without any type of acceptable justification. That's my opinion, which exists separate from any personal judgments about you. I don't know you, and you don't know me. 

There are times when my inherent privileges as a healthy, hetero, middle-class Christian woman make me oblivious, too. "Obliviousness of Privilege Syndrome Strikes Again" was meant to be as provocative as the content of your piece.  


On Sat, Dec 3, 2016 at 4:46 PM, Cardyn Brooks wrote:


Just trying to confirm that Gene Weingarten actually composed the response to my initial e-mail about his article from last Sunday's 11/27/2016 WP Magazine. 

Apologies if I've contacted the wrong department. 


From: Cardyn Brooks 
Date: Mon, Dec 5, 2016 at 6:54 PM
Subject: Re: about Cultural Confucian
To: an editor @washpost

The reason for my wanting to confirm that G.W. actually composed the response to my comments about "Cultural Confucian" is because I'd like to post the entire exchange (minus e-mail addresses) on my to contribute to a deeper public conversation about the origins of political correctness in the U.S. Since his response is loaded with unfounded accusations and personal insults presented with an overall tone of a hysterical temper tantrum that's unexpected from a man of his level of achievement, I don't want to attribute this content to him if his assistant or a Washington Post staffer really sent it. 

The personal jabs are irrelevant to me. G.W. is entitled to his opinions and his First Amendment rights to express them. It's the contrasts between the substance and tone of my e-mail compared to G.W.'s that interest me. It's the fact that challenging the "back in my day political correctness didn't exist and life was grand" assertions generated such fury that he was able only to make one salient point related to my remarks about his being represented by the man behind the desk in the illustration. 

I plan to post the entire exchange this Fri.12/9 or Sat.12/10. If there's no verification from The Washington Post by COB this Thur. 12/8, I'll lead into the blog post with a caveat that although the response was received from G.W.'s e-mail address as listed at the end of his article, attempts to double check the identity of the author of the e-mail were unsuccessful.  



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