Political correctness and the Schoenewolf controversy

Several brief reactions to the Schoenewolf article regarding political correctness:

Dr. Schoenewolf defines PC as 1) an ideology, 2) a culture, 3) a philosophy, 4) a lifestyle and 5) an extension of Marxist thought. He then discusses civil rights, feminism and gay rights as if they all are in the same intellectual tradition. This to me seems simplistic. It also seems to make an argument that many conservatives and civil rights veterans resist: gay rights are analogous to the Civil Rights Movement. I don’t imagine this was his intention.

His analogy to families who seek therapy doesn’t work for me (you’ll have to read the article to understand this). I understand how therapists can remove their biases from work with families but I do not see how people in general can take a dispassionate view of slavery and oppression. Therapists are not responsible for how their clients turn out; however, people in a society have at least some responsibility to speak against injustice. Certainly, my religious tradition influences me to see my responsibility this way.

This sentence in the article puzzles me: “…various human rights groups began using his [Marx’s] ideology to rationalize their movements, primarily in America. First came the Civil Rights Movement, which began in the 1850s and was one of the causes of the Civil War. ” I cannot understand why the Civil Rights Movement needs to be examined as a rationalization. Slavery was a moral evil. We do not need to appeal to Marx or rationalizations to speak against evil. Many people needed and need courage to speak out. If there is rationalization, it is to quiet the internal dissonance between seeing an evil and being safe in silence. However, calling oppression what it is seems to me to be a response of compassion and service to God toward other bearers of His image. Many abolitionists approached the issue out of Christian compassion. The Golden Rule is not a Marxist invention.

Here is a passage that leaves me puzzled:

This is not to say that the Civil Rights Movement was or is wrong. Of course, racial discrimination does exist and many horrible things have happened to African-Americans; the question is not whether or not it exists, but how one interprets it and how one reacts to it. Civil rights leaders insist there is only one meaning and one way to react. The Marxist view is superimposed on the race issue: Only an absolute and simplistic view of the issue is allowed–one which divides people into good guys and bad guys–either you’re with us or you’re against us.

There is no attempt by civil rights leaders to see both sides of the conflict, to understand the complex sources of the problem, to view people on both sides as having both good and bad in them. There is no attempt to negotiate a win-win situation that would benefit all society; instead a win-lose scenario is forced on all of society, whether they like it or not. All whites are guilty of what was done to blacks, particularly all white males, and all must pay.

With all due respect, there is another way, or other ways, to look at the race issue in America. It could be pointed out, for example, that Africa at the time of slavery was still primarily a jungle, as yet uncivilized or industrialized. Life there was savage, as savage as the jungle for most people, and that it was the Africans themselves who first enslaved their own people. They sold their own people to other countries, and those brought to Europe, South America, America, and other countries, were in many ways better off than they had been in Africa. But if one even begins to say these things one is quickly shouted down as though one were a complete madman.

To his credit, Dr. Schoenewolf indicates that discrimination exists and horrible things have been done. However, I do not understand what both sides of the conflict are. It would certainly help me understand his meaning if he had pointed out what both sides are and what a “win-win” scenario would look like in this context. As far as I can see there is only one correct side to the issue of racial discrimination – it is wrong. Adding that Africans “were in many ways better off than they had been in Africa” makes this section incomprehensible to me. As it is worded, the passage trivializes a clear moral evil in an incredibly insensitive manner.

Another idea I do not understand is here: “The irony is that the Civil Rights Movement has been vehement about pointing out the hysterical lynchings that took place in the old South, but completely blind to its own hysterical tactics.” This is the most egregious example of a kind of parallelism that the author seems to want to communicate. Lynchings are not called good by Dr. Schoenewolf, but somehow they are placed in parallel to “hysterical tactics” used by the civil rights movement. However, the tactics are not spelled out and the parallel is assumed. This is offensive on many levels but I will note one. Words mean something and lynching cannot be considered a parallel to name-calling or other forms of social disapproval, no matter how hysterical they may seem. This comparison again trivilizes unspeakable inhumanity to attempt to make a lynching parallel to anything that is not a lynching.

I cannot judge inner attitudes from this piece. However, there is enough wrong with it that it really should be pulled. That would not be PC, but it would be wise.

UPDATE (9/21/06) – This post is from the NARTH blog: “The offensive article has been removed from the NARTH site. The criticisms have been duly noted.”