Jim Jefferies, the (often highly offensive) Australian comedian, explained in one of his stand-up routines how every generation has been the most progressive and politically correct... until the next one. As I approach my 50th birthday, I am wondering which generation I fall into, and how politically correct or how offensive to other people I am.
In 'The Mule', a Clint Eastwood film, there is an episode when the 85 year old character played by Clint pulls over to help a black family with a puncture on the side of the road. While helping the family, Clint says how he is delighted to be able to "help negro people". The father explains how they don't like to be referred to as 'negro' and prefer to be called black. I wondered whether in our world now, whether Clint's character would have immediately been branded a racist (especially on social media) for his poor use of language.
At OCF we have always been very keen to support intergenerational and cross-cultural projects, as we believe that these will promote better understanding within our community and develop greater cohesion. Perhaps it is in all of our use of language that there is the greatest need for tolerance, patience and understanding.
Someone who uses language or a term that you find offensive may be doing it because they come from a different generation or culture, or have had a very different upbringing to you, and not because they hold discriminatory views. We should explain why their language can be found offensive and how we would rather they expressed themselves. We should do this before branding them as a racist, sexist, fascist, or other derogatory term, or we risk people becoming too nervous to say anything at all, and conversation will cease.
For those of us who might cause offense (usually by accident), we need to listen and learn from the offended, take their feelings into account and change our language. We should take the time to learn about and understand the history of situations that so often can help to explain why people are angry. We should all try to progress with the most progressive generation if we want our community to be the strongest it has ever been.
The young and people of colour are overwhelmingly supportive of Meghan Markle, perfectly able to recognise the racism within the campaign of tabloid harassment that helped to drive her and Harry into Californian exile. Older people, the demographic super-served by the tabloid press, are far more likely to be both hostile to Markle and blithely dismissive of her racism accusations.