Working in advertising for more than 30 years, I have witnessed the evolution of the correct way of discussing ethnicity. Advertisers have been aware of the ethnic diversity that demographics dictate, and how to utilize, without offense, the specifics needed to market products.
But have we taken Political Correctness too far?
Before the PC movement started, the descriptions we used to define the talent we were looking for were generic—Black, White, Oriental, etc. Then the PC movement hit, and we could no longer use Black, we needed to use African American. All persons of Latin descent were called Hispanic, and anyone from an Oriental heritage was labeled Asian.
As time progressed, these definitions changed as well. Not all persons who are Black are from African and those not, took offense, so now it has reverted to Black since Black is now PC.
Not all Latinos are Hispanic since Latinos usually refer to those from Latin America and speak Spanish. Still, some Latinos are from countries that don’t speak Spanish, so they are called Hispanics. To alleviate the confusion, we now label them Latinx.
Indeed, not all Orientals are from the same heritage, so they have been labeled Asian. They cannot be defined; culturally specific, i.e., Japanese, Korean, Chinese, etc. for the risk of being non PC, yet Asian is in itself not culturally correct. Those ethnicities are actually from the Orient.
White, which is Caucasian in my world of casting, has also changed. The parameters of Caucasians have expanded. There was a time when those of Jewish descent were not considered Caucasian at all, and now they are.
Those with olive skin fell between the cracks, so now we have another new term, called Ethnically Ambiguous. Because of my mixed heritage, this is where I fit. I use to check the Other box on all forms regarding race; now I have a box to fit into.
We’ve all adjusted to the ever-changing nomenclature that the PC world has imposed. In the casting world, we understand the nuances of labels when writing our descriptions of the characters we are seeking.
Now, amidst history-making events, addressing serious social issues of racism and equality, I see a petition to get Traders Joes, a national neighborhood grocery store with amazing food and drink from around the globe and around the corner, as they describe themselves, to stop using ethnic stereotypes in their labels and packaging. Ethnic labeling includes Trader José’s to indicate a Latin styled food or Trader Ming’s for something Asian’esque has now offended someone.
One comment I read was Trader José’s was ok, it was cute, but Trader Ming’s was racist. What the heck?
While using ethnic stereotypes is unacceptable, the micro focusing on these subjects minimizes the more significant issues at hand. These rants are a distraction from the broader concerns of racism, sexism, ageism, and social injustice that is confronting our country.
What’s next? Shall we all say it is illegal to name a child, a pet, a city, a street, well anything that needs naming, other than an American name? What is an American name? Did America start when Columbus came over? Was it when New England was established? What about the Native people, the indigenous ones that were here before it was called America?
So what is it? Do we use only Native American names, English, or Spanish? Oh, let’s not forget about the French.
America is comprised of ethnic diversity. It’s what makes this a great country. The founders laid the framework that everyone is equal under the law, which has allowed our diversity to flourish.
Come on, America, we’re better than this. We love diversity: in our cuisine, our fashion, our decor, our pets, and our automobiles.
We need to grow up and stop the microaggressions that center on the minutia and trivialization. Instead, we need to focus on important problems.
We have bigger fish to fry right now, with our democracy at a crossroads. Let’s focus our attention on issues that will genuinely make differences. How about revamping our judicial system? The foundation of our free world needs help, unemployment, healthcare, corruption, shall I go on? Let us not forget we are in a devastating economic shutdown and a global pandemic with mental illness on the rise.
While Political Correctness started with equanimity in mind, it has reached a limit. Unless we want to become a homogenized society of sameness, we need to lighten up, no pun intended.
Wanting to encompass everyone’s irritations, is a no-win situation. When did we start taking every nuance spoken as an insult? To quote the esteemed Don Miguel Ruiz, in his book, The Four Agreements, Don’t take anything personally. The place to start is within by addressing those overly sensitive triggers.
Can we let go of our need to be reactive and instead find appreciation in the distinctions cultural variety brings to us and enjoy the flavors of those differences?
Embracing ethnic diversity does not diminish the overt racism and inequality that our population and government has condoned. But instead, it allows us to find the richness in variety. When we open our eyes to diversity, it expands our possibilities.
Let’s celebrate the multitude of these distinctions in names, sounds, tastes, and points of view from around the world.
We are one. One people. One species. One race. Created with a diverse pallet of colors and textures, let’s unite in these differences and stop being distracted by affronts harbored behind yet another label of Political Correctness. Alternatively, by focusing on human rights, we can take action in bringing real correctness to the politics of this country.
Get in good trouble, necessary trouble ~ John Lewis