According to a handout I've seen used in some English classes in Russia, a man can be arrested in the USA for holding the door open for a woman, and white people can be arrested for attempting to enter a blacks-only establishment.
Sometimes these kinds of stories are part of the "Americans have no common sense" genre of humor. But the specific target of these two stories was "political correctness," or "politkorrektnost'," which has supposedly reached absurd lengths in the USA.
Sometimes I wonder why some people here, including some of my students, are so ready to believe these stories. It's not that some such incidents could never have happened somewhere. After all, among all the urban-legend lawsuits cited in favor of tort "reform," surely somewhere an absurd case did happen. But you don't need to condemn civil justice or political correctness; sometimes the explanation is just stupidity.
Two factors seem to increase the likelihood that my students and their families might believe in the absurdity of political correctness USA-style, particularly in connection with race. The first is the longstanding tendency to compensate for Cold-War propaganda of the past, when Soviet mass media regularly informed its audiences of instances of American injustice and racism. (Sadly, of course, these reports were not without foundation!) To the more jaundiced members of the audience, however, all reports from TASS and Pravda were taken with a grain of salt. If the Soviet media said it, it probably wasn't true. Perhaps American minority groups were not doing as badly as the Soviet press claimed.
Secondly, the English-language instructional material I see and hear is overwhelmingly white. Images and voices of English-speaking people who aren't white are available to my students primarily from imported television shows and films, usually dubbed with Russian voices. I don't even want to talk about music videos, in which black people are typically shown festooned with jewelry and reliably delivering all the other gestures and cliches of that genre. (So are white people, but audiences usually make subconscious allowances for the behaviors of their own race or group.) In the face of these inputs, I have ninety minutes a week with most of my classes in which to present a more accurate representation of the diversity of English-speakers.
Am I right in observing that the terms "politically correct" and "politically incorrect" are now almost always used ironically or critically? Maybe the most accepted positive variant is "inclusive language," but that term seems to refer mostly to gender inclusivity. Is there a straightforward, positive umbrella term for all efforts to use language in ways that don't objectify and demean groups and categories of people? What seems to be happening now is that those who support political correctness continue to use the term half-humorously and half-apologetically, often in quotation marks, willing to endure the double irony for the sake of easy reference. Example: this "sample paper" for English students.
The best reframing I ever heard for "political correctness" came in the context of a controversy over gender-inclusive language and hymns at First Friends Meeting in Richmond, Indiana. This must have been twenty or more years ago. As we were slogging through some difficult discussions, Mary Garman of Earlham College gave a guest sermon one Sunday morning. She suggested that the language we use is not just a matter of comfort within the community; it's also a matter of hospitality. When we "widen" our language to include more people, we're welcoming those who might have felt invisible in the old language--and that's an outcome that's worth some discomfort. That's a dimension of evangelism, not a political "win" for a faction of the church.
Translator and Moscow Times columnist Michele Berdy wrote a helpful guide for Russian teachers and students of English, "Bias-Free and Inclusive English." (PDF file.)
"What is something you feel you can’t say in church or around other Christians?" Michael Hyatt (Thomas Nelson Publishers) interviews Anne Jackson, part one, part two.
"The Search for the Historical Adam"--a survey of current conversations and controversies around Genesis and science. "...Michael Cromartie, the evangelicalism expert at Washington's Ethics and Public Policy Center, sees high stakes, calling the new thinking an 'urgent' and 'potentially paradigm-shifting' development with 'huge theological implications.... How this gets settled is extremely important.... 'It seems urgent that the best people stop trading emails and get together for a real meeting in the same room,' Cromartie said. He wants leading evangelical thinkers in science and Scripture to jointly work out an accord, because otherwise this problem 'could produce a huge split right through the heart of conservative, orthodox, historic Christianity.'"
Seth Godin: "Three years ago this week, I posted this checklist, in the naive hope that it would eliminate (or perhaps merely reduce) the ridiculous CC-to-all emails about the carpool, the fake-charity forwards, the ALL CAPS yelling and the stupid PR spam."
Dave Katzman describes "Pinetop Perkins's Last Session."
"Over 28% of GRAMMY Award categories eliminated for 2012."
The Space Shuttle photographed with the International Space Station. And here's video.
"And if you ever have the blues, remember what I tell you. You'll always hear this in your heart."
lightnin' hopkins charly