Yesterday, a coworker came up to me and said, "Hey, you're all about being politically correct, right?"
He'd noticed that the thumbs-up emoji on his phone came in a spectrum of skin tones, and he thought I'd find it cool (which I did), but I immediately bristled at being labeled politically correct. If he'd said, "Hey, you'll appreciate this," or, "Hey, this made me think of you," I wouldn't have had the same reaction.
I'd like to try to unpack why.
I've never assigned the politically correct label to myself, because for me, it's not about this idea that there are things people can say and things they can't. It's not about policing the conversation, or censoring people left and right.
It's about recognizing privilege and calling it out.
Most of the time, this means calling myself out. Sometimes this means calling other people out, which can lead to some very awkward conversations. As someone who generally likes to avoid awkwardness (all appearances to the contrary) it would be so much easier for me to keep my mouth shut. But I'm finding it increasingly difficult to do so.
I'm a straight white dude, going through life on the lowest difficulty setting. That means that I get to take a whole lot of shit for granted.
Like the fact that I can easily find emoji with the same skin color as me.
Or that I'm well-represented in media. (I don't need to go digging to find straight white dudes—characters or creators—in books, movies, TV shows, and video games.)
Or that I can be stopped by the cops without fearing for my life.
I don't mean to sound arrogant, or like I have this all figured out. I don't. Recognition is just the first step of a very long journey. I'll probably make mistakes along the way. I'm sure I'll show my ass. And I recognize that the last thing women, or people of color, or members of the LGBTQIA community need is another white knight shouting, "I'll save you!"
That's not what this is about. It's about being an ally. It's about recognizing my own institutional racism/sexism/homophobia, and hopefully, helping other people recognize theirs (particularly other straight white dudes who might be blind to their own privilege).
If I call someone out for making a racist/sexist/homophobic joke, that's not me trying to be politically correct. That's me trying to be a decent fucking human being, and taking one tiny step toward balancing the scales.