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What the NRA Really Means by the Dangers of 'Political Correctness'

By Dustin Rowles | Think Pieces | June 14, 2016 |


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When I and two, white gay men from Arkansas launched this site 12 years ago this month, we were a much different site with a much different voice. We were scathing and we were bitchy and we did not give a shit about political correctness. I think that we felt because we were liberal, and there were two gay people on staff (and another with a dead gay dad), we had the moral high ground, and we could say anything we wanted, because we were inoculated against racism, sexism, transphobia and classism, because we were Democrats.

We wrote a lot of things I’m still very proud of, but we also wrote some things that I wish we had not. I’m sure it’s all still in the archives if anyone wanted to look it up. I know we used to call women like Paris Hilton “starletards.” I know we used to call Katherine Heigl “skank cancer.” But then we got a comments section, and you know what? There are a lot of people who don’t think it’s funny to append “tard” to other words, and there are a lot of women who don’t think it’s OK to use gender-based insults against Katherine Heigl or any other woman. A lot of our commentary at that time was driven by colorful insults, and some of those insults were not OK.

We got yelled by a few well-meaning people, and some of those well-meaning people got shouted down by other commenters for being too politically correct. But instead of nodding our heads along with the anti-PC brigade and going about our business, we listened and we evolved. Those well-meaning voices multiplied. We started listening and tapping into those other voices. We started calling Katherine Heigl “Rainbow Killer,” instead. We brought in our first female writer (she was a closet conservative, but I adored her, and I still do), but after we lost our two gay writers, I was mostly covering those issues myself (and carrying on a decade-long flirtation with Ryan Reynolds), as well as issues of race and gender. I really wasn’t the right person to do that, and the amazing thing is, when we brought in other people to represent their own interests and speak from their own experiences, we were a lot smarter.

We hired TK, who could write about race, and we hired Joanna and Courtney, who could cover feminist issues (and then we brought in more women, and more, until we lost half of our original male readers and former readers started calling us a “feminist hug box.”) And now we have Riley, who can cover transgender issues, and now I don’t have to speak for other groups — in fact, I shouldn’t — because they can speak for themselves. We will continue to diversify, and add more and more voices, because websites — like the entire country — are better when people with different backgrounds and experiences can advocate for their own interests.

It’s been a huge learning experience for me. Instead of rejecting those offended voices, we embraced them. When told to check our white privilege, we didn’t say fuck off. We listened, and you know what, it turns out we can still shit all over a movie without offending entire groups of people! We can check our white privilege, and you know what else? It doesn’t hurt! We didn’t melt away! It didn’t make us less effective at our jobs; it made us better (or at least, I like to think it did, even if some of our 2004 readers might disagree).

It really clicked for me last year when my wife explained that, when people like Jerry Seinfeld rail against political correctness, what they are really saying is that they don’t want to hear the empowered voices of non-white, non-male, non-straight people. They don’t want to hear about the feelings of others. They don’t want to be told by a gay or black or Asian person that a joke is offensive to them, because it affects their ability to make other white dudes laugh at the expense of women and minorities.

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In that context, I better understood what Donald Trump was saying in that quote above. He’s saying, “The big problem in this country is the empowered voices of women, gays, lesbians, black people, Muslims, and other minorities.” The problem with this country, he is saying, is that voices of white men are being drowned out.

Donald Trump can go to hell, and so can the NRA, who has also found a way to blame not our gun culture for the death of 50 people in an Orlando nightclub, but “political correctness.”

The terrorist in Orlando had been investigated multiple times by the FBI. He had a government-approved security guard license with a contractor for the Department of Homeland Security. Yet his former co-workers reported violent and racist comments. Unfortunately, the Obama administration’s political correctness prevented anything from being done about it …

I think what the NRA is implying here is that the Obama administration should have ignored the Constitution and apprehended the Orlando shooter on the basis of his violent and racist comments because he was Muslim. However, the millions of people who utter racist, violent comments every day — including Donald Trump, himself — should still be afforded their First Amendment rights to say hateful, bigoted things, because they are white Christians.

What he’s really saying is that this country needs to stop paying attention to those other voices, which are getting stronger and more powerful every day. What he’s saying is that we should stop respecting the rights of Muslims because a tiny, tiny fraction of them are radical. What he’s saying is that white men should still be able to speak for everyone. Maybe he’s clinging to those guns to give him the illusion of power because he’s afraid that he, and other men like him, will no longer control the system. The voices behind “political correctness” are getting louder and more powerful. He’s afraid that one day, ignoring and oppressing those other voices on the basis of “political correctness” is going to bite him in the ass. As more people with more diverse backgrounds continue to advocate for themselves, that’s exactly what will happen.


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