The Crimson White

Political Correctness and the Jemele Hill Controversy

Michael Dawson

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It’s Tuesday, September 12, 2017; Apple unveils the iPhone X at $999, Hurricane Irma is twisting its wreckage across the southern region of America and an ESPN news anchor named Jemele Hill is about to become hated by half the country.

It started with a tweet — or rather, a series of tweets — armed and loaded with one purpose: to expose the racial hypocrisy of the right. Not only did she call out Donald Trump for getting too comfortable with white supremacists, but ended her Twitter rampage by calling the president of the United States a white supremacist. Her scathing remarks raced onto the Twittersphere like a smoking six-shooter aimed at the gilded white heart of the white American racism that pumped life force into the Trump administration, sent waves across the internet. As you can expect, white retribution was quick and resilient. The White House called for her resignation, Donald Trump chastised ESPN and Jemele for their “inaccurate” statements, and, perhaps worst of all, ESPN itself indulged in white political correctness, by upbraiding Hill for her comments and issuing an apology to the President. 

But Jemele Hill did more than just agitate race relations in the finest hour of Trump-age social media, she also revealed the blatant hypocrisy of white supremacy’s most adamant defenders and their favorite scapegoat: political correctness.

But let’s back things up here; a little history. The concept of political correctness itself is rather recent. The phrase gained significant traction during the mid and late 20th century, largely in part to Allan Bloom’s use of the phrase in his 1987 book The Closing of the American Mind. America was beginning to redefine its narrow definitions that existed to keep minorities, women and the LGBTQ+ within the status quo, but also to examine ramifications of said status quo — i.e, upholding institutions that have existed for centuries, solely to benefit cis-white-male privilege. The oppressed, as seen by the oppressors, were now a threat to both them and their hierarchy of power. And thus, a new phrase was coined to put down the voices of the unheard: political correctness. 

What “political correctness” really is an attempt to changing language, thoughts and actions that are steeped in discrimination — racist, sexist, homophobic and ableist social mechanics and language left unchecked by a new society that prides itself on so-called “tolerance.” Social justice that operates on the micro level, such as chastising the use of the word “retarded,” promoting racial diversity and discovering a wide spectrum of sexual identities, were now all denigrated by the status quo as crimes against freedom of speech. New labels, “social justice warriors,” “special snowflakes,” “cucks,” “PC police,” “Tumblrinas,” “feminazis” and many more are now the new weapons of choice in the ongoing battle to stifle the voices of the oppressed. Such labels don’t exist to create discussion nor to examine the origins and impetus of problematic elements, but act as an easy way out of introspection and privilege-checking. Such simplification of politics and philosophy is embedded deeply within the membrane of everyday social interactions.

 

Jemele Hill was a victim of the hypocrisy of “political correctness” when she, as a black woman, sought to expose the white supremacists’ attitudes held by the president and the people who voted him in. We must transcend the old identity of white supremacy, the burning crosses, public lynchings (though one could argue that the legal system is modern lynching), the “n*****” shouting, the sundown towns, segregation and slavery, and define a new one.

True political correctness is white supremacy; true white supremacy is a real, living institution that all white people benefit from. And until America acknowledges this fact, there won’t be any real difference between the years 1964 and 2017 — regardless of what a few laws and acts say about our progress.

Michael Dawson is a senior majoring in English. His column runs biweekly.

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