My home is not in any danger for an invasion of unwarranted political correctness. I have not made any purposeful attempts to monitor speech or free expression, nor have I made it a desire to suppress original thought. Gorgeous does continue to keep a watchful eye on the gratuitous use of profanity and four-letter-words, however.
Instead, what’s surfaced is something even more sinister and threatening: an unintended racist theme. Right under my very liberal nose, my like-minded wife has instituted a laundry protocol that from all appearances harks back to the Jim Crow era of the south. Perhaps you can imagine the discomfort I felt when I first saw the hand-written sign she placed on our newly purchased clothes hamper, instructing me to toss and separate soiled laundry by its color. Her wording makes me feel as if I’ve entered a time warp with Plessy v. Ferguson in force and separate-but-equal still judiciously followed as the law of the land.
Forget the Ajax knight on a horse with his phallic dirt-cleaning sword. I instead need Thurgood Marshall here to remedy this situation, stat.
None of this would have come to pass if your humble blogger could differentiate one hamper from another. I’ve only ever had one laundry hamper in any home in which I’ve lived, and my ability to understand right from left was seemingly… <forgive me, but I’m excited about the following usage>… hampered. Fearing that I would never be able to get it, my lovely wife decided to take matters into her own hands with a homemade sign to correct my mental blockage. I suspect this might be a harbinger of more such signage in the coming years. I just wish that she could have come up with slightly different wording.
Sensitivities are often quite tricky. I can still recall the time when I was a young boy back in the 1960’s and my dad took me to a downtown diner. Our waitress was black. When she asked him how he wanted his coffee he cautiously responded, “without cream.” He didn’t want to say black! I gave him grief about that for years, which quite frankly said more about me than my father’s awkward but still noble attempt not to make a social faux pas. The civil rights struggle was in full bloom at that point, and for a brief moment he was unsure how to respond. Like most of us, he figured it out in time.
Still, we are all subject to foibles of our own making. My own great rhetorical miscue about race came while I was in college. I was given a job at our dorm’s dining commons, greeting people as they entered. My assignment was to take each student’s ID, look at the picture and name, and quickly check it against a manual log to verify someone’s identity. The work required me to be both fast and accurate so that long lines wouldn’t develop. It was mindless, boring, and incredibly monotonous work. We all jokingly referred to the lines of people continually coming in as sheep. One day when things got particularly busy, I responded defensively to an African-American student who complained about how long it was taking to get through the door. I actually said, “You all look alike and it makes for a slow process.”
You all. Look alike.
Two beats… three beats… four beats went by as we both looked at one another and I realized the full import of my words. I wouldn’t say that metaphorical backflips necessarily described my apologetic retraction, but it’s fair to say that my sorry-ass attempt to explain myself was at least worthy of a Razzie.
One of the best comebacks from a victim of insensitive or unwarranted comments was a former co-worker of mine who was of Indian heritage. He was a first generation American whose parents immigrated to the U.S. during the early1970’s and then started a family after settling in Washington, DC. In every single way this guy was American as apple pie. In addition to our love of the same sports teams, the two of us spent each day at work verbally exchanging famous Saturday Night Live skits over our shared cubical wall to pass the time. He was a kindred spirit.
Our boss had a brother-in-law who was Indian, and she was determined at every opportunity to somehow bring this fact up to my co-worker no matter how inappropriate the circumstance. During a formal performance appraisal, she again purposely got on another off-topic tangent about his ethnic background and began telling him of an Indian relative of her brother-in-law’s who had recently been to her home. Sick of hearing her gratuitous mentioning of Indian culture he deadpanned, “Oh, really? That’s amazing. Tell me, was she dot or feather? I always get them mixed up.” She turned several shades of red and never brought up his ethnic background ever again.
Was he wrong? Did he overreact in an equally inappropriate manner? Probably, but I do recall how absolutely sick he was of her constantly singling-out his culture. We laughed about that one for years.
Okay, so truth to tell I’m really not so worried about appearing racist because of the sign on our hamper. I’m a blogger who struggles weekly to find something to write about, and for the most part anything even remotely ironic or immature always captures my imagination. For instance, I noticed the below while out walking recently and couldn’t resist snapping a picture. With apologies to all hoes, of course.
However, there is nonetheless a fine line between being funny and offending someone. As I’ve written before in this space, I’ve only ever seen the concept of political correctness as one in which we try to consider the feelings and sensitivities of others. If being polite, which to me is another way of looking at the whole issue of watching one’s language is being politically correct, then fine — I am PC. I can be as nonchalant about this concept as Donald Trump apparently is, and I also don’t have to offend anyone in the process.
Just stay out of my bedroom closet, please. God knows what other signs will be going up in there in the future.