This isn't the first time the use of an innocent word or phrase resulted in an unjust firing. In 1999, former Washington, D.C., mayor Anthony Williams fired a white assistant who used the word "niggardly'' when referring to the city's budget. The aide, budget director David Howard, was using the word properly and in the correct context; nonetheless, he was forced to resign (though he was ultimately re-hired) when community activists suggested -- incorrectly -- that the word was racially charged.
Part of what makes the ESPN incident so ridiculous is that for most young people -- including, no doubt, the headline writer -- race just isn't the divisive, all-consuming preoccupation that political correctness assumes. Even Lin said of the incident, "I don't even think that was intentional ..."
We have become a much more tolerant society than in the past. Few Americans today do not have friends of different races. Americans increasingly work and live alongside those from other ethnic and racial backgrounds. And American families now frequently include members from different heritages.
In 2010, one in 15 new marriages included interracial couples, according to a recently released study by the Pew Foundation. Among these, Asians have the highest rates of inter-marriage -- nearly 30 percent. And young people are particularly likely to approve of inter-marriage by a ratio of 2 to 1, in the Pew poll.
Maybe it's time we lighten up -- and no, that's not a comment on race. There is still discrimination and prejudice out there, but the kind of race preoccupation that brought about this brouhaha makes race relations worse, and this brand of political correctness can ruin lives.
Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .
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