Political Correctness – What a Fallacy

Someone else blogged about clothing and appearance forming our judgments of our fellow humans.  The color of your skin and texture of your hair is far more basic than
your clothing.  Unlike your clothing, you can’t change your race.  Just
ask Michael Jackson.    I was talking to someone I know who’s into marketing about the “segmentation” that goes in his field.  Segmentation is a polite word for profiling.  That means you take data about someone and start making assumptions.  The example he offered up is another friend of his. 

“So,” he asks me, “We have a person who eats organic yogurt and granola for breakfast.  What do you think they are?”  My immediate answer, “A hippie.”  Then he asks me, “What kind of car do they drive?”  “A Prius,” I reply smartly.  “And what party do they vote for,” he goes on.  “Democrat of course,” I say.  “And you’re so wrong,” he grins, “The man I’m talking about is card carrying Republican who drives an SUV.  He just likes to eat healthy.  You really can’t make assumptions like that about people.” 

So I’m blogging about political correctness or in short, racial profiling.  This is my rant about what a fallacy it is.  You’ve still just attached a label to someone.  You’ve just
conveniently cubby-holed them.  Now that they have their label, you’re
free to start making assumptions, attaching stereotypes, and
discriminating.  All because you have that one peice of data.  The trick is that now you’ve made it sound better so
that the person being labled accepts the label.  In many cases they
pick it up and wave it like a banner.

Since LULAC has been particularly vociferous of late, we’ll take them as an example.  The fact that they’ve been in the press lately means they just happen to occur to me as a handy case in point.  It doesn’t really matter if you call someone a beaner or a hispanic or a latino. Let’s take stereotypes about hispanics.  They steal.  They’re lazy.  They have big families.  They drive slow.  They’re not here legally.  It doesn’t really matter what the stereotype is.  It’s attached to the label.  Once you get the label, you get the baggage. 

The only difference is you said something that sounds more polite than “beaner” so the hispanics among us don’t protest it.  If you said “beaner” to a hispanic, the person in question would probably call you down on it.  They would reject the label of “beaner” and it’s attached stereotypes.  They would also probably be quite offended by being labled in such a manner.  However, because you said “hispanic” or “latino”, they accept that, even though its got exactly the same baggage as the less polite label.

My point with all this is that it’s the labels themselves that are divisive.  Instead of coming together as a community and being “Americans”, we’re this or that or the other thing.  IMHO, the only place where race belongs in a physical description.  “Car 42, this is dispatch.  The suspect is 6 foot tall white male wearing jeans, a black tshirt, white sneakers….”  Other than that, we should try to get away from labeling each other at all.  Educators stopped lableing kids because they found that this lowered the teacher’s expectations.  The “learning disabled” label meant that the kids got graded differently, treated differently in class, and many were just flat out written off as a “lost cause.” 

We stopped labeling the mentally ill for very similar reasons.  In many cases, the label became a self-fuflling prophecy.  Once the label was attached, people began to alter their perceptions of the labeled person’s actions.  They changed the way people interacted with the labeld person, often causing them to alter their behavior so that they would begin to mesh with the label and it’s attendant expectations. 

We’ve found over and over again that labeling is inaccurate and counter productive.  I just don’t understand why we keep lableling.  We know that it doesn’t work. 


9 thoughts on “Political Correctness – What a Fallacy

  1. holy moly thanks so much for taking the time to help me out with my computer problems! That’s so very nice of you!I’ll have to try and fix the baby up, I’ll be sure to tell you how it goes!Regarding your post: I think no matter how much people try not to profile and/or judge–it’s going to happen. It’s inevitable. A person’s race is one of the first things a person lists when giving a physical description. People unconsciously store information about so and so people, parents sadly teach their children biases and stereotypes. It will always exist. Also I
    think this constant identification of one’s race makes for a greater divide and
    disunity. People have pride in their racial roots..and that’s good, but I think bringing it up all the time is like bringing the profile upon yourself. Like I have a friend who’s always saying things like , “yeah I guess it’s an asian thing.” when she does something stereotypically Asian. It’s annoying.

  2. @HardcoreAdam –   You missed the punk look when it came around the first time….you probably weren’t even born yet *sheesh* that makes me sound old, but I’m deadly serious about it.  You should have seen me back in the day…all black leather and heavy eyeliner…

  3. I totally agree! There are so many stereotypes that we don’t even think about. We think a low-income family is necessarily involved in theft and/or drugs, etc, etc. Even the “dumb blond” stereotype is thrown around sometimes. The fact that I’m listening to opera right now does not mean at thing, except that I happen to like this opera. Of course, the media doesn’t help these things either. Ever notice how the blond guy is always a popular jerk? How the fat girl is a little clueless? How the glasses-wearer is a nerd? Okay, this has turned into a mini-rant of my own. Anyway, thanks for stopping by, and right on!

  4. This is a good post. I would like to say, however, that I do not think that describing someone as Latino is derogatory or really labeling at all. They just are. Their heritage is part of who they are and something they should be proud of rather than ignore. I completely agree that a person’s race has no bearing in the classroom. I also agree that a label of any kind should never be applied to someone unless that individual has earned it (this goes for good labels and bad). I believe I know why we make snap judgments and label people. It is an integral part of how we make sense of the world. When we meet a new person and we see that they have coke-bottle glasses, we assume they are a nerd. This isn’t necessarily negative, but it gives us a basis with which we may begin interaction with this new person. We apply snap judgments to much more than just people. Labels can be very important and helpful. The problem is when we get carried away with them, or when we don’t allow for the possibility that our hastily slapped on title is not a good descriptor for this person at all. You provided a good example of this “fitting others into your perception.”In short, I wouldn’t say “stop labeling.” I would advise “don’t get carried away with it.”

Comments are closed.