?Politically incorrectƒ?TM is no excuse for racial insensitivity

By Haris Aqeel

I am writing to protest the sentiment that the deeply violent costumes displayed at the Politically Incorrect party were somehow innocuous just because those who wore them intended to be politically incorrect. My intention here is not to judge the party’s attendees. Instead, I am writing to direct the discussion towards considering whether “political incorrectness” exonerates us from the offense our actions can cause.

When political correctness becomes an excuse for ignoring societal problems, doing away with it can be empowering and enlightening. But political incorrectness is not always a good thing either. It does not always equal speaking truth to power. After all, CNN presenter Glenn Beck’s implication that Rep. Keith Ellison was likely to be a terrorist sympathizer just because the congressman was a Muslim was hardly heroic, despite its preface: “May we have five minutes where we’re just politically incorrect?”

If the party’s organizers intended to challenge injustice, they did not succeed. Partying while dressed as – or cheerily facing the image of a—KKK clansman leading a black man by a noose was nothing but deeply offensive, and the party’s “politically incorrect” stamp doesn’t change that. Yet even after the protests that followed the BLAC members’ complaint to the Dean of Students’ office, attendees quoted in the Mac Weekly seemed surprised that people were offended despite the party’s theme. Even now, there are students who feel it was President Rosenberg’s letter denouncing the frivolous use of such violent images, and not the frivolous use itself, that soured what was meant to be a “lighthearted” affair.

Was it this belief, that anything goes as long as it is intended to be politically incorrect, that prevented more students from telling the administration? Or was it the pervasive – and very politically correct—current that causes many Mac students to shy away from “multicultural” issues just because they are not students of color?

Whatever it was, more students should have joined with BLAC members in taking the issue to the Dean of Students’ office. Ultimately racial insensitivity fractures the community that all of us share. It is incumbent upon every one of us to protest against it, and to do so loudly. It is incumbent upon every one of us to counter it with empathy and consideration. Neither “political correctness” nor its dismissal gives any of us cause to forego that responsibility.