We are All Homo Sapiens
We need to lighten up! The tribalization process has made us into “Political Correctness Nazis”. If you step outside your tribe, and mention another tribe not of your tribal circle, it is often labeled as racist, inappropriate, or hurtful. Each of us belong to several tribes, our race, our ethnicity, our school, or profession, our religion or non-religion, all these divide us. Mary Poppins had a scene in the movie where she and her chimney sweep boy friend have blackened faces from soot of a chimney they just traversed. Shameless racism obviously, they say. Really? Can’t it be taken at face value so to speak, just a soot blackened face? Why do the political thought police immediately jump to the “R” word?
There is a psychological phenomenon called “projection”. This is when an obsessed individual, who holds deeply disturbing thoughts and obsessions, interprets everything according to his or her own twisted, and often perverted, paranoid ideations, and projects his or her evil thoughts onto you, as if you originated them. A snake becomes a phallic symbol. A snake may just be a snake, and nothing more, or less. A black face may just be soot from flying through a chimney. But admittedly, there are times when a black face does have a racial reference. Why is that automatically interpreted to be evil? Someone actually dug up a picture of Hillary Clinton from her college days made up as a black woman for a Halloween party. Hillary is as egalitarian as could be. What punishment should be inflicted on her for this horrific sin of her youth?
The story of The Jazz Singer with Al Jolson was the classic first Talkie where a white man, who was destined to follow his father, a cantor in a synagogue, and to also take up that profession, but preferred the stage and Broadway. He painted his face black, and sang songs with rhythms and melodies that had Black American flavor and heritage. The story of The Jazz Singer, as well as Al Jolson in real life, fought racism and discrimination against all racial, as well as religious differences, amongst humans. When did that become twisted into a 180 ˚ opposite meaning? It was delivered originally in a positive view, by someone who was considered to be the most popular singer, actor, and comedian of that era. He showcased black music and culture to a mostly white audience. It most certainly promoted cultural diversity tolerance and even appreciation. I suspect some pathologic “projection” was in play here to pervert the meaning of this.
I fully realize that racial, ethnic, or cultural commentary can be meant to harm. It is however usually quite clear to any observer when it is meant derisively. If you need to think about if it is or isn’t, it likely isn’t. There are limits to what can, and cannot, be said. But what is said must be interpreted in full context, intent, and venue, and not automatically branded as evil and hurtful. For example, among friends who happen to belong to different tribes there often is banter, that if overheard by others, could be interpreted as being racist, intolerant, or evil. But it is just low-level humor, not meant at all to be taken seriously. Now joking around joins flirting as it risks being labeled a racist in the former or sexually harassing in the later.
I had an experience in my life, in the distant past that taught me that you must choose your audience carefully before you engage in tribalistic humor. My daughter, during her high school career, had a boyfriend whose parents were both lawyers. Doctors and lawyers often see things through different lenses. There are a lot of lawyer jokes that doctors like to tell. I took that opportunity to unload a bunch of those jokes on the poor boy who had to laugh at my jokes, such as this one: There was a terrible tragedy. A bus load of lawyers went over a cliff and where all killed. The tragedy was that one seat was empty. Ha, ha! My wife had to point out to me that was not appropriate. She was right!
Another point is that members of one tribe have more license to tell a derogatory joke about their own tribe. But woe to you if you “make fun of” another tribe. I happen to be of Ukrainian descent. I am allowed tell the joke of, “How can you easily spot the Bride at a Ukrainian wedding? She is the one that has all the flies on her.” On the other hand, I am not allowed to tell the one about how many Polaks it takes to change a lightbulb. You will just have to ask someone of Polish descent.
It has also become impossible to confess your sins from a past time when you were young, and stupid. You dare not tell anyone of any racial, or ethnic discriminatory thoughts or actions you harbored, because now you have matured and think differently. Don’t think that your thoughtful explanations might help some other misguided person to see the light. First it won’t, and second, despite making humble apologies, you will never be forgiven! You will be punished the rest of your life for your youthful foolishness. Just see what has happened to Liam Neeson. It is best to keep such confessions to yourself, but if you must discharge your guilt, save it for your death bed, when the political correctness Nazis, in all their indignation, can no longer hurt you. Ironically, they are like the real Nazis they claim to despise, and just as hopelessly fanatical, ignorant, and heartless. Oh! But so certain of their righteousness!
We need to lighten up, and be more tolerant of each other. Our ancestors wandered out of Africa two million years ago, and regardless of how we look, act, talk, and think, we share 99.9% of the same genes. We are all related! We are all Homo Sapiens— “Wise Man”. I wish we could start acting a little wiser!