Sunday, November 06, 2005

portland types/political correctness

If you have ever listened to Dandy Warhols or listened to Ayo Damali talk about Portland types, it's clear that I am not alone in noticing Portland types are often a sort of..different.

I say this with alot of love, I am a portlander and I work with alot of portland "types". There are true things about myself in this list I am about to submit...I don't exclude myself from critique

Word to fellow portlanders: don your thick skin, you may feel insulted here, I assure you there was no particular people in mind when typing this.

Portland types:

  • Wear buttons that say "straight but not narrow"
  • are often *politically correct* to a degree of insanity
  • are white, painfully so
  • probably have never travelled and have very little ethnic diversity among their friends
  • buy organic milk for 6 a gallon (I just can't do it yet, not on my income--but I would)
  • are often beer and coffee snobs
  • often wish they used those stupid bike lanes
  • drive like idiots in weather
  • shop at new seasons market and pay alot
  • have a vague feeling that reading makes them intellectually superior
  • are avid bumpersticker stickers, but struggle with political action
  • appreciate good food in good restaurants (hence the proliferation of good eats here)
  • appreciate urban beauty, and natural beauty
  • tend to be trendy
  • tend to be left and feel themselves vaguely superior on account of this
  • tend to smoke buds
  • are often close to the blue collar world, or are about 1 degree removed from it by a bachelors or masters degree.
  • often struggle with nihilistic attitudes
  • often think christians lack a brain
  • appreciate a good irish pub
  • oh yeah, we have alot of pasty white skin folk drivin around in dirty white volvos with bumperstickers that say Buy Organic! probably listening to sleater kinney or dandy warhols and work at a record store (and if THAT ain't a politically incorrect statement, I just don't know what)
What is this girls problem?? Okay, to me probably the biggest flummox about about Portlander's is this issue of political correctness.

Look, I went to The Evergreen State College, which is Washington's public version of Reed college. I was quite young (17) and I took on and lived in a set of beliefs that exalted political correctness for a long time. No, I didn't graduate from TESC, but elsewhere.

And I am not criticizing those who would aspire to something higher than the racism/sexism whatever -ism as usual, however I do believe that political correctness is a little disingenuous--it's like covering a bad odor with air freshener. It lacks honesty, we must all walk a little stiffer knowing there might be someone we could offend with our words. Whether it's the transgender community or the members of NAMBLA (National Man Boy Love Association) or the immigrant population or the housewives, christians or practicers of wicca.

In political correctness, we don't actually change our opinion of people groups we don't understand--educate ourselves, seek to understand, we just don't say anything bad to their faces and we try not to say anything bad about them period, no matter what we think. And naturally we don't discriminate against them. Isn't this the very definition of disingenuous?

Let me paint a picture so you can see that I am not a mindless reactionary, but have had some experience in this area.

A group of people out for a jovial lunch, they work together.

To break a large bill, amid many conversations the Ukrainian immigrant is speaking with the empty nester who is joking with her about the money exchange so as to shortchange her, she is laughing and says "What are you trying to Jew me down?"

Sudden silence falls, but she still laughs and he exchanges with her. She doesn't really notice, and all goes on.

One of the members of the group is jewish, not orthodox, and to what degree they practice is unknown. But it is instantly acknowledged that this Ukrainian immigrant woman is racist, though she was born in the Ukrainian countryside in a culture that has no idea of what political correctness is. More than likely, she may be totally unaware that what she has said was racist. In fact, a visit to this area of the world will reveal that the population at large is mostly peasants.

And now, at work, she is treated with a sort of silent acknowledgement that she is a bad racist.

From where I am sitting, two wrongs do not make a right. Those who would consider her racist have no idea of this woman's background/education. Those who would purport to be empathetic or politically correct forget that there is a big world out there where people don't get a liberal education teaching them concepts like political correctness. Mrs. Ukrainian Immigrant hasn't even had the chance to choose to not be a racist, much less had the opportunity to go to college, do we judge her for that?

While her comment was if not at the very least ignorant, and at the worst, very racist, remember, the civil rights movement never happened anywhere but in the US...only here. The rest of the world lives in a state where racism just IS--for worse.

So, now there are two wrongs, she is wrong to make an anti semitic comment. And all her coworkers, who are also her superiors in this situation, have discredited her as a racist, which is culturally normative from where she comes. They are also guilty of *cultural insensitivity*, for having no understanding of thecultural context the "racist friend" was born educated and lived in most her life.

Doesn't it work both ways? Or do we only concern ourselves with political correctness that fits in with what we is impossible to have the level of sensitivity necessary to be 100% PC short of making it one's life's work?

I might have a slightly different perspective on this than the average Josie, as I had a friend from Sudan while I was living there (Russia) who told me stories of kids throwing rocks at her for her skin color, not to mention the open racism pretty much everywhere she went, from the store, post office and in class...

Another little one. One coworker notices another got a haircut, in fact, got their head shaved. In a moment of joking one asks "Hey hair looks good, but for a sec I thought the gypsies ran away with it" Other coworker doesn't laugh. The gypsies have just been insulted.


This is what I mean by disingenuous. One one level noble, on another, nonsensical. Power comes into play here, the gypsy comment comes from a blue collar worker, the rejection from a white collar worker. What about the blue collar guy who never learned all this stuff-- and now has been insulted by the white collar guy? So we saved the gypsies at the cost of what? Insulting the guy on the lower level of the power echelon?

I did not make up either of thes instances, and I could go on...

As a christian person, I have worked or lived in environments where my religion has been viewed as everything from "quaint" to "archaic" to "idiotic" and "mindless". Actually, I didn't feel like I was being discriminated against. That was just life, and yes, I recognized those environments as "hostile". I am not saying it is ok, but to me, the whole world is practically a hostile environment.

Sometimes people decide they don't like your nose or your hair or your shoes..if it isn't one thing, it's another and most often, people never bother to "get to know you" because that is just "too much trouble".

And frankly, when "judged" for my religion, it told me more about the person doing the judging than anything else...that they were small, limited, poorly educated, maybe immature or lacked much exposure to the world and relied on friends for their opinions.

I am not condoning predjudicial behavior radio liberally uses hate speech which will never be ok, because it is a catalyst for action. And action is where the line is crossed. Whenever it crosses from words to action focused against someone percieved as "different" and therefore "bad" there is a problem. When someone is blocked from what they pursue on a basis of their race, religion, gender, age, ethnicity, a problem arises. A social problem.

And so, I have ridiculed Portland types, but I think that what I was mostly annoyed with was this concept of political correctness. I think the notion is noble, important and contains good, but carried out, it, like so many other *ideas* become flawed by humanity and its' limitations. I might even assert that I am looking forward to it's demise.

It has take me awhile to publish this. For reasons that J. Star mentioned, I am always too afraid I will offend someone. But having combed this several times, I will stick by my opinion that political correctness is at best disingenuous.

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