Some people find it impossible to accept
That all people are deserving of respect
Fairness and decorum they will reject
And scorn it as politically correct.
Two Decembers ago Fox News’ Megyn Kelly declared on her show that, “…by the way for all you kids watching at home Santa just is white…” That statement caused quite a stir, but as the persona of Santa/Saint Nicholas/Father Christmas/Kris Kringle has progressed through several centuries and many countries, it’s quite possible that this jolly man might have at some time been darker complexioned than the current version. There is even some historical indication that women might have taken turns during the progression of the Santa concept (although some children in the U.K. who were recently asked if Santa could be a woman had some interesting answers that proved we still have a way to go on the gender bias thing – hmmm).
But this “discussion” over the color of Santa Claus does point out the resistance of some to our multicultural society and the use of the term, “politically correct” in a derisive, mocking or scornful manner. Some claim that the term refers to what they also call “Cultural Marxism, the concept of which can be traced back to World War One. However, as a woman who came of age during the Women’s Movement of the 1970s and more recently as a former manager in a global Fortune 500 multicultural workplace and currently as a business etiquette consultant and trainer, I have a different viewpoint.
It seems that the term “political correctness” — at least in the 1970s and I believe it is the same today — was and is used by those who resent, and perhaps fear, changing practices that recognize all people as being equal under the law as well as in polite society. The term currently is being tossed around by some of our Presidential candidates. In the ’70s, when I first heard the term, some men used it in a derisive manner when they were required either by law or common decency to refer to women in respectful terms or to treat them as social or business equals. Likewise, it was used by some when complaining about having to refer to or address African Americans, Latinos and other ethnic groups — in respectful or equal terms. Until laws were passed that recognized and protected the rights and equality of certain groups, no one it seemed was spared disrespect and unequal treatment. The practice of calling individuals as well as entire groups of people by unflattering or insulting names in society at large, harassing them in the workplace and restricting their access or liberty has been widespread for ages.
Modern laws and improved business practices to a great extent have changed the way people are treated. But that doesn’t mean resentment by some doesn’t linger. Unfortunately, that resentment can sometimes break through and result in backlashes in very ugly ways. So, to my mind invoking the term “politically correct” is a way to justify discriminatory and bullying behavior, which runs afoul of the principles of business etiquette and protocol in the U.S. and many other countries. Treating people with respect, dignity, fairness, kindness and understanding perhaps is politically correct, but it is also morally correct, and a decent and intelligent way to live one’s life.
Thus, whether your Santa Claus is black or white, man or woman; you’re a Muslim woman whose religion requires you to cover your head in your workplace; you’re a gay person who wishes not to be bullied on campus or at work or fired for your sexual orientation; or you’re a Dreamer who wishes for fairness, understanding and dignity — and for everyone else who reads these words — my wish for you is a peaceful and joyous holiday season and a civil and productive New Year.
And for everyone who is celebrating Christmas, please have a very merry one indeed! Ho! Ho! Ho!
Until next time,