On January 7, 2019, a Michigan family, returning from a Florida vacation, was struck by a drunk driver, driving in the wrong direction on I-75 in Kentucky. The parents and their three children were killed in a fiery head-on collision.
I first became aware of this tragedy while watching the NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt. What caught my attention was at the end of the story Holt identified the victims as a Muslim family from Michigan. I had to ask, why was their religion important or germane to the story? He would have never said five Catholics or five Methodists died in the wreck. Why mention that these people were Muslim and what does it say?
Maybe I caught this because I caught myself doing the same in a recent article. I was telling a story and in it, I said, “an old black man told me…” The man’s race had zero pertinence to the story so why did I mention it? I had clicked the publish icon so the story went live on my blog. It wasn’t until a few minutes later while doing a post proofread that I saw it and changed it to read simply, “a man.”
In the past, I’ve identified people by their race because it was important to the story. For example, I once wrote about an elderly black man I met on a fishing pier in Florida. His race was important because he was telling me about growing up black and impoverished in Jim Crow South Carolina. On another occasion, I identified a group of people as being Vietnamese. It was germane because they were telling me stories about making it to the US as boat people following the collapse of South Vietnam in 1975. But if one of them died of old age, what does their nationality have to do with anything?
I don’t see being sensitive to these things as being politically correct. I think it is just trying to be more inclusive and less divisive. But then again, maybe this is why conservatives call people like me, “snowflakes.”
But in an effort to prove I’m not overly PC, I call people who lack empathy for others, assholes!