Staten Island Web logo

politically correct Robert Sheridan FawCawnahs The issue of discrimination is complex for a lot of reasons, mostly built-in.

The fact is that as a matter of evolution, our brains have developed so we can discriminate to survive. I'm using "discriminate" in a somewhat different sense than politically. We need to be able to recognize the tiger in the grass. We can discriminate the tiger from the grass. If we cannot, we don't survive and our genes don't get passed along. Cleverness and intelligence in making useful (read "survival") distinctions favors the evolution of the ability to discriminate.

For political reasons, and to get along in society, it becomes useful to avoid making some distinctions. The U.S. Army, for example, professes no longer to discriminate racially. But the people in the Army retain the ability to discriminate, as do we all. The issue is whether we will or will not. That becomes a policy decision for each of us, regulated by law and custom. Sometimes these favor discriminating, such as Jim Crow, and sometimes they don't, such as the Civil Rights laws. The sense is changing from the ability to make distinctions to the moral/political issue of whether it's a good idea.

Before there were laws, custom ruled. The basic distinction was us vs. them. Language and appearance become the telltale signs on which you go to war. When "they" become "us," we make other distinctions, such as smaller variations in skin tone, pronunciation, etc.

It's one thing to have the right to express oneself politically, another whether you ought to shove it in someone's face. Custom urges us not to cause trouble unnecessarily if we want to live in society, peacefully.

T-shirts in school can cause trouble. If you want to cause trouble, wear the t-shirt because you're going to rub someone the wrong way and trouble you'll get.

Where custom doesn't control people want rules. School rules, state law rules. They often conflict with over-arching Constitutional free speech guarantees. That makes it tough to tell people to knock it off, they're causing more trouble than they're worth. In the Army I don't believe you can wear troublesome t-shirts on post; I could be wrong, as the normal Constitutional guarantees don't apply across the board in the Army, for the sake of good order and discipline. Ditto schools, but a little more complicated, because not the Army.

Is controlling the message censorship? Of course. We censor our kids all the time, letting them know we don't want to hear such talk, or don't bring that stuff home.

In the adult world, we guaranty the right to think and talk about damn near anything. The marketplace of ideas, it's been called. Sounds good to me. I just don't want it shoved in my face when I'm not in position to ignore what I don't want to see, like in school. Otherwise I can deal with it. I also don't like to see people "called down on their name," meaning the use of racial and ethnic slurs. We do have laws against this. Civil rights laws. Hostile work environment type laws. It a protection we need, otherwise we wouldn't have it. The tougher hided among us may be able to withstand the slurs, but we don't want our kids or not-so-tough fellow citizens subjected to it.

So we have this "tension" between what's allowed and what should be allowed, or prohibited. The expressions that fall in the disputed area cause the court cases.

You'll often see comments such as "This case (often involving a student) shouldn't be in court, Why make a federal case over such a thing, etc." That goes back to the function of courts. Courts are places to air disputes and get a decision, peacefully, w/o shooting it out with live rounds. We w a n t those disputes aired in court for that reason.

Expression is federally guaranteed in the basic founding document, echoed in all fifty state constitutions. That's how important it really is. The fact we get worked up about issues of expression here illustrate how important we think it is.

When we get into p*ssing contests it helps to look at the larger context to see where our issue fits in.


Staten Island WebŪ Forums Index.