Tuesday, April 05, 2005

...The Bottom Line Price

One of the negative side effects of political correctness is the equally extreme backlash it has created. It seems we’ve reached the point where if you *EVER* admit to taking offense at *ANYTHING* you run the risk of being labeled an oversensitive whiner with no sense of humor.

Not wanting to be known as easily offended, I’ve often kept my mouth shut on those occasions when people have made comments in my presence that perpetuate negative stereotypes of Jewish people. I remember back in college complaining to a group of friends in my car about what I thought was an excessive fee to park at the river.

“Stop acting so Jewish” was one friends advice.

Never mind that I was far from the first person ever to complain about the high fees to park in what amounted to a pile of rocks; if you want to talk about cheap, how about the rest of the crew in the car, none Jewish, who didn’t exactly rush into their pockets to split the cost with me?

During my career in sales I’ve lost track of how many times my peers have “politely” apologized in advance to me before making comments like, “I’m sorry, Gooch, and don’t be offended, but I have a distinct feeling Customer X is Jewish the way he/she keeps haggling with me over price”.

A little over a year ago, when “The Passion of the Christ” was first hitting theaters and causing controversy over what some people perceived to be anti-Semitic portrayals of Jews in the film, my business partners and I got into a discussion about the topic which ultimately led into a larger discussion of stereotypes, prejudice and political correctness in general. Ryan and Bob, who had both seen the film, claimed to not understand what all the hoopla was about since neither saw anything in the film that could possibly be construed as anti-Semitic. They argued that people today seem to get offended too easily and need to develop thicker skin. I responded that having not seen the movie, I didn’t have an opinion regarding the specific complaints against “TPOTC”, but that it did seem a bit rich to me for people in a majority group to determine what people in a minority group could and could not get offended over. In particular, I mentioned how I didn't think it made me a humorless crank to not find it funny when people made jokes about Jews being money-grubbing tightwads.

Later on in the discussion one of my partners asked me a very intriguing question. He asked if my anger was directed at the population at large for buying into the “Jews are cheap” stereotype or if my anger would more appropriately be directed at other Jews for so often behaving in such as way that caused people to see the stereotype as an accurate one.

I firmly believe that if you look for a specific behavior in a select group of people, chances are you’re going to find it. I have no doubt that there are several members of the Jewish faith who are tight with their money. But I would argue that you could just as easily find an equal or greater number of non-Jews who are similarly frugal, it just doesn’t register as memorably because it’s not part of a known stereotype. As a real-life example, I brought up the fact that out of the four us who co-own our company, I was the only one who caused eyes to roll when I expressed concern over how much something was going to cost, even though I didn’t do this with any greater frequency than my other partners.

Sometimes you have to defend yourself when you feel you’re being unfairly attacked. Other times, the term “When you’re dead, lie down” seems appropriate.

Note the last name of the host of this show.

I’ll be on the ground.
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