In the past few decades it’s become increasingly important to be politically correct. It seems to be crucial for organizations and those of us in the public eye, but even as individuals it can to be a problem if we use the wrong term in some circles. Just how politically correct should we be?
I’ve talked about my dear friend, Melissa, on other occasions. Her ethnic background is Bahamian and Irish. An older white man once approached her in line at a store and told her she was “very beautiful for a black girl.” Melissa was speechless. I don’t recall that she answered him at all, but by the time she got to the car she was livid. It was a situation that has all sorts of innuendos, as well as some real gems of realizations. Melissa was faced with a backhanded compliment from one point of view, but in thinking about it in another way she was able to open up a whole new concept to this man. The exchange was tragic, impactful, irritating and amazing all at once. Life can be that way.
I chose to share this with you because our prejudice and biases can so easily slip into our lives and daily conversation. I don’t particularly care to be referred to as “that gay guy who wears the bright shirts on Sunday,” but there you have it. I went out to lunch with my friend, Simon, the other day wearing a bright turquoise shirt and black jeans. Simon, who incidentally is straight, had on black slacks and the brightest hot pink shirt I think I’ve ever seen. Either one of us could have been accused of being battery-operated. The only thing our shirts didn’t do was blink on and off. Would he have been described as that “straight guy who wears bright shirts?” I think not, but you get the point. So if he wears color he’s daring and out there? But if I do it is it just because I’m gay? (I guess not since I have plenty of gay male friends who favor earth tones, and that doesn’t make them straight!)
Ernest Holmes taught us to acknowledge the situation without sugar-coating it. He then went on to show us how to see the Truth that the situation, meaning an undesirable situation or attitude, need not continue. If we are constantly calling attention to our differences through politically correct speech that amplifies our dissimilarities then aren’t we still looking at the differences?
So how do we change our perceptions of ourselves and others? One way was suggested by Morgan Freeman. If you follow our Center on Facebook you’ll remember his quote and picture that I posted last week. He said, “How do we stop racism? Stop talking about it. I’m going to stop calling you a white man, and I’m going to ask you to stop calling me a black man.” (http://www.facebook.com/cslcv/)
I think we have to temper this with the understanding that we still need out gay people who aren’t afraid to say they’re gay (even if they may mean being arrested at the Sochi Games in 2014), as well as successful black men providing alternatives to negative stereotypes. And, there are plenty of other groups who want to be perceived more for who they are than what people expect them to be. Again, it comes with balance and really acknowledging the situation. It makes sense to ask ourselves, What will increase our experience of love, of peace, of tolerance and of acceptance? Just how attached are we to our labels that make us special and different while screaming for equality?
Forgive me for throwing an awful lot at you this week. It’s one of those blogs that I hope will make you think about the complexity of the society we’ve created. I’m a minister, counselor and teacher. I suppose if you need to know if I’m having a relationship with a male, a female, both or neither, then I’m sure that will come up. Otherwise, is it really relevant? It may be to some people, but more and more it makes no difference to me one way or the other. I used to say I’m not a gay minister; I’m a minister who’s gay. I needed you to understand how they are two different things. I don’t feel that way anymore.
I think I’ll just start being “just me” more and more and more without adjectives. If you want to know something about me just ask. I’ll probably tell you, or let you know I don’t think it’s any of your business. Be prepared for either and you will be neither offended nor disappointed. Along with my newly found identity, how about if I stop referring to you as my Asian friend, or my younger lover, or my retired minister, or my aging mother, or my what-the-heck-else. How about if I see you as the amazing, unique, dynamic and precious Light that you are? You can do the same for me, if you want!