This morning, after reading a number of other reposts by others, it occurred to me that the fine art of filtering might be on the way to obsolete. Filtering got a bad rap when it got lumped under being politically correct, but when you think of it, the two aren't necessarily mutually exclusive so much as they are parallel.
To me, filtering is when you think something unkind, but do not say it. Some people have no filter, and it is left to others to try to determine how serious they are when they make their offensive pronouncements. Sometimes, those comments are meant to be ironic or simply sarcastic remarks intended to make us think. Comedians such as Bill Maher make exceptionally good use of those. Accompanied by one of his trademark looks, they elicit laughs. But some people deliver them with a straight face, so you just don't know - especially if you don't know the person very well.
At the same time, it pays to filter remarks that lump individuals into a group which one views with disdain. For example, I hear a lot of Southerners (and Northerners) refer to African-Americans as always looking for handouts from the government. Given how hard she works, and the fact that she didn't receive welfare while raising her kids, the House Goddess might like to dispute that one. She'd be very happy to supply that person with a list of her family members who have never collected a dime of government support.
On the other hand, we have corporations (and the Supremes have told us that they are 'people' in the eyes of the law) who thrive on government contracts and tax evasion techniques that the middle class can only fantasize about. Who is standing in line for that handout now?
But racism is one of those tricky circumstances that cause us to wince when people say things that are offensive and they honestly have no clue. A woman of my acquaintance happened to employ an African American housekeeper named Jean. She fired Jean in order to hire a white lady who promised she'd do a better job and for cheaper. Her name was also Jean. Even though the first Jean was no longer in her life, she persisted in referring to the two as black Jean and white Jean. Her son finally had enough and told her it was offensive and that the distinction was completely unnecessary. She really didn't understand. At the same time, when referring to the African Americans who worked at her country club, she said to me, "We treat our black workers well." If you can count minimum wage and the fact that African Americans were barred from membership until the 1980s, sure, they did.
It's a matter of filtering what we say, and being cognizant of the fact that seemingly innocuous remarks can be seen as racist. It means being sensitive to the feelings of others and being proactive with that kind of behavior. Sadly, I fear it has been lost. People roll their eyes at the mere suggestion and complain that being politically correct has been taken to extremes. Well, it has, until it's your own people who are being maligned, right?
When we bashed Bush, we were white and so was he. We didn't see cartoons being shared that had him in the sights of a rifle scope. But we're seeing that now, and increasingly on tee-shirts being worn by people who feel threatened by an educated and dignified bi-racial president. It would be one thing if they objected to his policies because they were bad policies, but mostly that's not what they really object to. We know that because of the nature of their wisecracks - or tee-shirts. Why do they fear this man who continues to lobby hard for increasing the prospects for people just like them?
The filter is gone. They don't need a filter because a bi-racial president doesn't deserve it. He's just an n-word. Believe me when I tell you I have heard that being stated out loud, in front of God and everybody, and it knows no socio-economic boundaries. And it is usually accompanied by a defiant look, as if to say, "So sue me."
So, it begins with me and I'm changing my wanton ways with reposts, no matter how true or funny I think they are. I'm working on the lost art of the filter. Or manners. Whichever word fits.