At a recent meeting of city officials in Dallas County, Texas, a small racial brouhaha broke out. County commissioners were hashing out difficulties with way the central collections office handles traffic tickets. Commissioner Kenneth Mayfield found himself guilty of talking while white. He observed that the bureaucracy "has become a black hole" for lost paperwork.
Fellow Commissioner John Wiley Price took great offense, shouting, "Excuse me!" That office, the black commissioner explained, has become a "white hole."
Seizing on the outrage, Judge Thomas Jones demanded that Mayfield apologize for the "racially insensitive analogy," in the words of the Dallas Morning News' City Hall Blog.
Houston Chronicle science blogger Eric Berger notes that everyone should be "very glad that the central collections office has not become a white hole, a theoretical object that ejects matter from beyond its event horizon, rather than sucking it in. It wouldn't be fun for Dallas to find itself so near a quasar."
Maybe so, but speaking metaphorically, if it were a white hole, that might suggest central collections was actually doing its job, ejecting paperwork in a timely fashion.
Call me nostalgic, but there was a time when this sort of stupidity actually generated controversy. Remember the Washington, D.C., official who used the word "niggardly" correctly in a sentence only to lose his job? That at least generated debate.
But these days, stories like this vomit forth daily and, for the most part, we roll our eyes, chuckle a bit and shrug them off.
Obviously, there's something to be said for ignoring the childish grievance-peddling that motivates so much of this nonsense. But the simple fact is that ignoring political correctness has done remarkably little to combat it. Meanwhile, people who make a big deal about it are often cast as the disgruntled obsessive ones.
The only people allowed to take political correctness seriously are the writers for "South Park," "Family Guy," "The Simpsons" and the like. Of course, they take it seriously because it's their bread and butter to mock the absurd pieties of daily life. But nearly everywhere else, the rule of thumb is that we should either defer to this stuff or quietly ignore it.