We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.
—Martin Luther King, Jr.
Those words are from a letter written in a Birmingham jail on April 16, 1963. The ‘hateful words’ and ‘silence’ continue. But not, as you might suppose, directed only against African Americans. Although both real and merely perceived prejudice persist half-a-century after that letter was written, there has been a significant reduction of hateful words, especially in public, and the silence has long been broken-occasionally unjustifiably, as an excuse for rioting and looting in protest of a sham injustice.
By and large, however, most protests over the years have greatly contributed to the continuing quest for Martin Luther King’s dream. Best of all, I am very glad for the genuine racial harmony I experience every day, where cameras don’t roll.
However, there is a rapid growth of a new kind of prejudice incited by malignant politics. This prejudice is directed against Old White Men. It maliciously violates Mr. King’s plea that men should be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their minds. Ironically, this malignancy took root as an offshoot of the Women’s Liberation Movement wherein gender prejudice, not color, was at issue. As is always the case in even the best of movements, the ‘underdog’ does not stop at equality but continues the fight until a reversal of roles is achieved. So did it come to pass, that many women were not quite satisfied with equality. (see my article, Queen of the Hill, April 3, 2011)
The Civil Rights and Women’s Liberation movements were long overdue and quite benign despite the violence often associated with the former movement. Both movements have immeasurably enhanced the quality of our culture. But unscrupulous politicians with an insatiable hunger for power, have created new sources of prejudice. These include but are not limited to catchy political slogans like, The War on Women, a war ostensibly waged by Old White Men. (Observe that political parties, which are otherwise politically correct, deliberately label their adversaries as old white men-the word ‘old’ meant to be a pejorative term.) Where are the protesters against the implied political impotence of old white men? Why only white? And why only men? That blatantly prejudicial label harvests no protests from former champions for African American equality or the liberation of women.
Old white men are now labeled as just another voting bloc along with, ‘men,’ ‘women,’ ‘liberals,’ ‘conservatives,’ ‘wealthy,’ ‘poor,’ ‘young,’ ‘Hispanics,’ and so on! Conversely, many of those who once prided themselves as leaders of political equality are now denigrating a specific segment of legislators and voters. Who, then, are they that are ‘out of touch’? And, are they so emboldened by the lack of protests from senior citizens or so incensed by their desire for political power that they denigrate a specific segment of legislators and voters?
Can you imagine the severity of protests from political leaders, organizations, and average citizens if a voting group were referred to as Old Black Men or Old White Women! I have no problem with being and identifying myself as an old white man, but I do have a problem with ad hominem labeling. As I recall, white people of both genders and various ages marched for civil rights along with their African American brothers and sisters. And, with reservations for some consequences of the women’s liberation movement,* I am very happy for the continuing shrinkage of the gender gap.
Putting aside several politically absurd words and expressions, we have altered or stricken many offending words from public discourse. Significantly, that practice is now embedded in the public consciousness. It is also closely monitored and guarded. For example, publicly speaking the full ‘n word’ often results in being fired or in an abrupt end to a career.
Political leaders, movie stars, and other celebrities who had been understandably vociferous about black, white, male, and female inequality, now advance the myth that senior politicians are ‘out of touch’ because of their age, color, and gender. Formerly advocates for political equity among groups, they are now unfairly denigrating a specific group. Not exactly the American Way, this anomaly smacks of heavy prejudice. In addition, they replace valid arguments with other platitudes like ‘out of touch.’ Partisan passion knows no limits.
And, what is the response to the words ‘out of touch’ and ‘old white men’ from that voting group itself?
*You may want to leaf through my solution to a major gender-word problem that is not directly related to excessive political correctness. Rather, it is an everyday matter of grammar that you may find very useful if you have not already done so. [See my article, He or She/Him or Her/His or Hers, April 11, 2011]