Loads of Learned Lumber

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Jonathan Chait, "Not a Very P.C. Thing to Say"

HOW FAR BEHIND the curve am I?  So far that I only last week learned about Chait's "much-discussed" piece, which appeared in January.  Katie Ryder mentioned it in her Nation review of the new collection of Renata Adler's non-fiction.

So I read it. He has a point, I suppose. Self-righteousness is always annoying. Being self-righteous about other people's self-righteousness can be a bit annoying, too.

The only thing in the piece that really surprised me, though, was that Chait thinks the first era of P.C. ended in 1992, with the election of Bill Clinton. What?

As someone who has been working on a campus continuously since 1992, I would say the kind of attention people were being asked to pay to their own speech and behavior circa 1985-1990 just became the new normal. Some nuances have been added since 1990, and will probably continue to be added, but everyone from university presidents on down got clued in over the last 25 years and simply adjusted. The old P.C. didn't go away; it just became the new prevailing etiquette, and no one was all that terribly inconvenienced.

Which goes to show that the P.C. advocates were not asking that much, I would say. Likewise it will take a while for people to get used to fine-tuned ways of referring to gender identification nuances. But they will, and in a while it will seem natural enough. So why get one's knickers in a twist, Mr. Chait?

Even the "micro-aggression" concept is actually useful, I think. I do worry about what will happen once our evangelical Christian students get ahold of it, though. They're on the receiving end of their share.

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