Many people who, like me’ have an aversion towards any kind of discrimination, many times focus too much energy on political correctness especially on using the right words. Today we refer to homosexuals as ‘gays’ or ‘lesbians’ rather than the derogatory word ‘faggots’. We don’t refer to black people as ‘niggers’ or the disabled as ‘handicapped’. So far this is a positive thing – basic decency and respect.

The problem I see is that sometimes certain people go too far, albeit with good intentions. We sometimes focus so much on the right words and symbols that they end up being barriers towards minorities.

From personal experience, I sometimes find it difficult to find the right words when referring to disabled people. Or should it be people “with a disability”, “with special needs” or “with mixed abilities”? Does it really matter? I respect disabled people as much as I respect every other person I know. I don’t consider them as inferior or a burden in any way, and believe society should enable them to live a fulfilling life, including building a career. (What really gets my blood boiling for example is accompanying a person on a wheelchair to a bank or government building and finding the place inaccessible – with my complaints falling on deaf ears).

A friend of mine told me she doesn’t like to refer to black people as black. Once again, she has noble intentions, and she honestly doesn’t make any distinction between people on basis of skin color. But, if I may ask, what’s the problem with calling a black person black if he is. (In the same way I’m white, or pink whatever).

Once, attending a talk delivered by a Police Officer I was amazed how he went at lengths to use the right words when referring to a black person till he came out with the bombastic “persuna ta’ karniggjon skura” Ironically, he didn’t find it hard to state he is likely to select persuni ta karniggjon skura more often for body searches.

Respect and decency are one thing but I believe that obsessing too much on using the right words only creates unnecessary barriers. After all, a rose is a rose by any other name.

Advertisements