BOSTON (CBS) – In some ways, the modern-day sensitivity toward uncivil behavior – call it political correctness if you like – has been good for us.
Listen to Jon’s commentary:
While there are still too many who think it’s OK to toss around racial or ethnic slurs, the fact is that compared with a generation ago, much of that ugly stupidity is no longer considered acceptable by civilized society.
That didn’t happen because those of us who find those slurs repulsive and unacceptable asked those who used them to cut it out, pretty please.
It happened because it became widely accepted, as a matter of custom and, in some cases, law, that there was zero tolerance for racial or ethnic hate speech, and that indulging in it would carry a cost that few were willing to pay.
But political correctness as a way of life has its limits, mainly when it is used as an indiscriminate weapon by people caught up in a grievance culture gone overboard.
The most recent example of this was the firing of a 28-year old copy editor at ESPN.com for writing a headline on a story about Asian-American basketball phenom Jeremy Lin that included a word with two meanings – one, that a flaw had surfaced in his recent exemplary play, the second, a derogatory slur.
The young editor has apologized and insists he just didn’t understand the offensive meaning; Lin has graciously accepted his apology.
But that’s not enough for California Congresswoman Judy Chu, who insists the slur was intentional, while offering no proof.
Having helped create an atmosphere in which ESPN felt it had to fire the kid, I wonder whether the congresswoman will rest until Dallas Mavericks star Dirk Nowitzki is drummed out of the league.
After all, he praised Lin’s game the other day by calling it “crafty.”
You see where this is headed – tolerance squeezed out in the name of fighting intolerance, and a dilution of the meaning of real hate speech by tossing that label around carelessly.
In a country this diverse, that is a formula for PC disaster.
You can listen to Keller At Large on WBZ News Radio every weekday at 7:55 a.m. and 12:25 p.m. You can also watch Jon on WBZ-TV News.