Wisdom, Leadership, and Political Correctness
Tumultuous events have certainly characterized the recent past. Through it all a common thread is remarkable: obfuscation of facts and reason in favor of political correctness (PC). As Margaret Heffernan said (August 6, 2012), the pursuit of truth requires conflict. To achieve truth, honest exchanges in the spirit of collaboration are essential, and this means that viewpoints from multiple perspectives must be permitted and considered. Great leadership combined with wisdom embraces this concept. Arrogance, pride, and unyielding agendas often defy it.
As widely reported after the terror of the now-infamous jihadist attack in San Bernardino, California, on December 2, 2015, the next-door neighbor of the attackers told reporters she had observed very unusual behavior for at least two weeks prior to the assault. She seriously thought about and wanted to report this suspicious activity to authorities, but did not “out of fear of being labeled as a racial profiler.” What is especially troubling is this fear of PC and being accused of being a hater. This time there were real physical victims—much worse than offering people with disabilities assistance if they have not asked for it (one of the University of Arizona’s examples of microaggression, a new higher education PC phenomenon).
Stephanie Suhr and Sally Johnson wrote a comprehensive article in 2003 that discussed the origins and use of political correctness, and their findings seem to support some of the history as noted by Lind; they stated that leftists were beginning to argue that schools should teach “correct” opinions versus debate. In addition, Frank Ellis states that political correctness can be traced to the period of 1895-1921, when Lenin was attempting to secure support from his peers, and then after 1917, when he used PC to control policies and actions of the Communist Party.
In the spirit of fairness to those on the left who have imposed PC as both formal and informal policy, an op-ed by Obama’s former information tsar, Cass Sunstein, in the Bloomberg View on December 30, 2015, attacks Republicans for having their own brand of PC. He cites examples of uniform right-wing opposition to gun control, the Affordable Health Care Act, climate change, affirmative action, and the minimum wage. All of the examples he cites have well-researched flaws that are highly susceptible to debate. The PC mantra of the left not only “hates” opposition but also attempts to kill it through legislation and labeling of a highly detrimental nature by media and academic elitists.
When the U.S. Supreme Court voted to legalize gay marriage, many thought this was one of the most significant and lawless rulings in U.S. history, since it was not a constitutional issue and changed the social order. Furthermore, in the written opinions of those voting in favor of same-sex marriage, the struggle of Black equality was likened to the struggle of gay equality. A person, of course, is born into a race and ethnicity with no choice whatsoever. While some argue, like the brilliant political analyst Lady Gaga, that gays are “born that way,” many psychologists, anthropologists, and sociologists contend it is a perplexing issue, because in some cases folks do indeed choose to be gay, while others may feel same-sex attraction from early childhood. What does appear certain is not all gays are born that way. Here the analogy falls down, for the reality is that Blacks are born that way.
Conventional wisdom regarding positive leadership traits says the ability to “reach across the aisle” and engage divergent points of view is essential. Then- president Obama was obviously joyous over the High Court decision and lit up the White House in rainbow colors. This act spat directly into the face of evangelical Christians and Catholics, at a minimum. It mocked not just Black Christians, but de facto the entire Black race as well, since he was celebrating a decision that was partially justified by equating Blacks to gays. He seems to have assumed Blacks would support him no matter what.
Why is use of the rainbow as the gay logo offensive to Christians and Jews? God gave the sign of the rainbow to Noah after the great flood as a symbol of His commitment never to destroy the earth again. In His creation of humanity, and even in evolutionary theory, male and female sex and procreation is the manner in which life is perpetuated. It is the ultimate example of creative excellence and God’s proudest and most sacred production. Gay sex is arguably the antithesis of this process. Adoption of the rainbow as the gay universal symbol and lighting the White House in it would have to be a major affront to God as He presents Himself in the Bible.
Did the situation exhibit impartiality and good judgment? I would have to say no, as it alienated conservatives (in both parties) with celebratory one-deed behavior. Was this lighting unifying and beneficial for the good of society? Administration actions were more likely divisive rather than inclusive, and traditional society was disrupted like no other time in U.S. history—redefining marriage. There was little display of humility. The signal was of arrogance in violating many citizens’ notions of divine inspiration.
But were these actions politically correct? Most certainly, they encouraged the breakdown of the traditional family structure and violated long-standing Christian principles. Essentially they displayed strong devotion to PC philosophy and practice and disregarded principles of wisdom and leadership.
Removal of the Confederate Flag in South Carolina
Governor Nikki Haley, to give a contrary example, showed an understanding of good strong leadership and knowing what it means to represent all of the people. Her speech, which established the process for removing the Confederate flag from public grounds in South Carolina, is remarkable evidence of what a good leader can do in the face of adversity and controversy. Her passion was ignited by the tragic murders of nine parishioners at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston. Was this decision pandering to those who put her in office? Probably not: Governor Haley was backed by the Tea Party and many others who firmly believe in states’ rights. Contrary to the popular view, the Confederate flag does not represent slavery and oppression for all states’-rights advocates. Rather, they see it as a symbol of tradition, history, and the Southern way of life. However, Governor Haley knows it is clearly also a symbol of hatred, bigotry, and slavery to enough folks that action had to be taken some 150 years after the end of the Civil War. She surely agonized over the decision, as many who historically supported her were not happy with this course of action. Her speech on June 22, 2015, was eloquent, compassionate, and brilliant in the manner she acknowledged the pain of removal for some while iterating the pain of its existence for others, reaching far across the aisles and into the hearts of many across the nation. She gave evidence of strong leadership. Furthermore, she demonstrated wisdom by her sound judgment, compassion, impartiality, and reverence to God by mentioning prayer and forgiveness. It was not about “her”—rather, it was about doing the right thing at the right moment. However, accolades from the left were conspicuously absent, because Governor Haley was not regarded as a politically correct leader, despite her gallant effort to take down the long-hated symbol that liberals have historically despised. Perhaps some felt that any positive attention would contradict the negative paradigm of traditionalists that is part of the PC dogma that classifies them as Fascists.
University of Missouri Controversy
Jonathan Butler, the Black adult male who started the infamous hunger strike at the University of Missouri, has a father who made $8 million in 2014. His allegation that the university president’s car hit him during the homecoming parade seemed well orchestrated, as a YouTube posted “reality” revealed. The car was crawling in reverse away from the protestors when Butler pushed his way to the front of the activists and lightly pushed his thighs against the car’s grill.
The student body president, Payton Head, who is Black, openly gay, and from a prominent family in Cook County, Illinois, was involved in at least two of the situations that garnered news coverage. Near the time of the homecoming parade charade, he alleged that someone drove by him on the perimeter of campus and yelled a racial slur. He asserts that he reported this to President Tim Wolfe but that Wolfe did nothing about it. There was no license plate given, no description of the driver, and no witnesses. There was nothing concrete Wolfe could do. As the protests morphed into November, Mr. Head then told a story about the KKK being on campus, and issued a warning to students via his Facebook page. Soon after, he admitted he lied, and that there was no threat from the KKK.
Accusations of a swastika sign made with feces on a bathroom wall were allegedly reported to President Wolfe and nothing supposedly was done. Again, what could he do? Any male who has ever been in a public restroom knows the variety of heinous signs and slogans on bathroom walls, and most would never consider them a matter for police intervention and news.
Finally, one other incident showed the true colors of the situation. A communication professor, Melissa Click (who also had a courtesy appointment in the journalism department), openly on camera harassed and assaulted students and other journalists who were attempting to film and interview the protestors in their “safe place.” She clearly violated their First Amendment rights, and resigned from her courtesy journalism position but not her communications faculty position. Again as a result of microaggression brainwashing, students have somehow come to believe they can declare “safe places” on public campuses that only they can occupy.
As the protests progressed, based on lies and unprovable accusations, the football players, coaches, and some faculty members joined the ranks of the activists. Practices were boycotted along with threats of boycotting the upcoming game against Brigham Young University. Perhaps the most telling example of the activists’ character was their complaint that the media were intentionally focusing on the Paris ISIS attacks in an attempt to draw attention away from “their” cause. In effect, they were mad over their sudden lack of attention in light of one of the worst attacks on human life since September 11, 2001. Possibly, their anger was also fueled by the sudden loss of publicity for an effort that was well organized and orchestrated by professional activists such as DeRay McKesson (active in protests in Ferguson, Baltimore, and Charleston, South Carolina) and Johnetta Elzie. By the way, the student body had previously shown a remarkable lack of “bigotry” in electing a gay Black male as its president, and along with UM administration, rallying behind Michael Sam, the first openly gay college football player to be drafted by the NFL?
What can the UM debacle tell us about leadership and wisdom and how those attributes are trumped by PC? To begin, the UM Board of Curators were terrified by PC and this anti-microaggression panacea. They offered little support to administrators Tim Wolfe and R. Bowen Loftin; both were convicted without trial by mob demand and as a result of real physical aggression. The curators’ actions did not display key aspects of wisdom such as impartiality, good judgment, and true concern for all, but pandered to a vocal minority out of fear—financial fear and publicity fear. Wolfe repeatedly tried to meet with Concerned Students 1950, but was shouted down, and no discussions, let alone resolutions, could take place.
The absurdity of left-wing PC agendas, and the lunacy of higher education elitism, was rampant in 2015 and continued right through the “my gender for a day” bathroom debacle that preceded the mother of all divisive presidential campaigns. America desperately needs reasoned leadership in all sectors, but particularly in government and universities. What every American must start doing is speaking about how they really feel and think, and discussing those views in open dialogue with the courage to take opposition. Going back to Margaret Heffernan, she also says, “to remain silent is cruelty.” Just ask the families and friends of the San Bernardino victims.
Article Author: Alvin E. Holliman
Alvin E. Holliman is assistant professor of management at Lyon college, Batesville, Arkansas.