Many of the same black people, who marched lockstep to the polls to cast a vote for the first black President and unapologetically admitted that race was the prevailing reason for both their enthusiasm and selection, are now saying that it was beyond the pale for Essence Magazine to discriminate in its hiring.
Not since Tea Partiers protested government involvement in health care by asserting that it would bankrupt Medicare has a group of people displayed such contradictory thinking. It is old news that Essence Magazine ignited a firestorm last week when it hired a white fashion editor. What is not old news, however, is the ferocity with which black Essence critics were attacked and marginalized.
After the initial uproar, Essence Editor in Chief Angela Burt Murray responded to the controversy by saying: “I understand that this issue has struck an emotional chord with our audience… We remain committed to celebrating the unique beauty and style of African-American women in Essence magazine and online at Essence.com.” Even CNN commentator Roland Martin, after a bit of bloviating, asserted that as a supporter of diversity, he does not oppose the hire.
The real cause of cognitive dissonance here is the political correctness which has returned to devour the very little angel faced darlings it was designed to protect. Political correctness was initiated in an effort to soften language and expressions which could be interpreted as offensive to disadvantaged communities. So instead of ‘black’ or ‘colored’, those of African descent were assigned the glossier, new and improved, Negro 2.0 category of African-American, and so on. A new school of words were employed to shave the jagged edges of the language which had been blamed for causing much of the emotional angst observed in the black community.
Political correctness became the billboard on which white America announced their collective regret for the misdeeds of their ancestors. But although words have power, they are only as powerful as the truth which they broadcast. And politically correct words are frauds, mere counterfeits masquerading as true voice.
Thus, the problem with political correctness is one of branding. Political correctness adds glossy packaging, but doesn’t add flavor, or in this case – truth. It produced, for us, images of ourselves as fair minded, caring individuals, but those images couldn’t have been further from the truth. And in our race toward weightlessness, in our haste to rid ourselves of our race baggage, we discarded the heaviness of truth by the wayside.
The truth at this moment is that blacks, once the beneficiaries of political correctness, are now the casualties of its overly simplistic approach at doublespeak. We’ve been forced into a corner where we’re no longer allowed to be pro-black because, according to the short-sighted notions of political correctness, to be pro-black is to be anti-white.
The historical truth which political correctness ignores is that to be pro-black is akin to being protectionist, not racist. It would not have been racist for Essence to hire only black fashion editors if we consider the publication’s history. The magazine was founded because black women had been locked out of mainstream publications. And in the fashion industry, not much has changed. Tell me, how many black fashion editors do you see at mostly white magazines? Don’t worry, I’ll wait.
The point of the matter is that we as African-Americans shouldn’t sacrifice our history in favor of some nebulous utopia of diversity. Our history includes slavery, segregation, and racism and if we’re only cautiously optimistic with regard to welcoming white America into our most hallowed institutions, then so be it. That is our right. And it is also our right not to be attacked by those African-Americans who are more interested in joining hands and singing kumbaya than they are in seeking genuine racial parity.
Those of us who stood in line to vote for President Obama, even after having perused his admittedly thin resume, did so because we believed that he had potential and that we as African-Americans deserved our fair shot at leading this great nation. That was not racism. It was self interest. It would benefit those of us in the African-American community to learn the difference.