Jack Yan
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The Persuader

My personal blog, started in 2006.



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19.03.2011

A bad choice of word, but what does the gay community actually think?

While I was out, I had noticed on Twitter a news item about an octogenarian, working for American Airlines, who was sacked for his use of the word faggot.
   I despise words like that, just as much as chink or nigger, but the question arises: should he have been sacked, losing some of his benefits after 54 years’ service?
   He wasn’t a homophobe. The story, which may have surfaced in the Murdoch Press (where else?), was that Freddy Schmitt backed the right of gay soldiers to serve openly. He said, ‘Back then, a faggot coulda saved my life.’
   Bad choice of word? Absolutely.
   But the man is 82, and probably grew up at a time when such words were not deemed unacceptable. Maybe we can say he should have kept up with the times, but sometimes, new learning slips your mind and you fall back on the old.
   I have a father who grew up at a time when Negro and Negress were acceptable words, and, while he rarely uses them (the last time I heard him use Negress was 2004), the guy is 75.
   I’m not sure if this is playing the age card: it’s simply understanding that we’re not that good at retaining knowledge we gain later in life. In Dad’s case, even more so, when you’re talking about a language he only started learning at 14.
   After a while, you just don’t feel like keeping up with the vernacular, foreign or not.
   I asked my American friends of African ethnicity what they thought was acceptable, and they didn’t have a problem with people of Dad’s generation using these two words, as long as he kept away from the n word itself. (Which he does, as it was probably derogatory for a long time.)
   The gay community is more than capable of speaking out for themselves without my second-guessing their reaction to Mr Schmitt. With that in mind, I popped into the Pink News site (‘Europe’s largest gay news service’) to see readers’ reactions, and mostly, they felt Mr Schmitt should be taught proper usage and not be given an apology, but that he should not have lost his job over it.
   A minority backed American Airlines’ move.
   So, judging by the readers of one publication, it seems that Mr Schmitt should be told off, especially if he’s still working as a trainer and contacting the public, but many of those whom he supposedly offended are far more tolerant than the airline might think.
   Not unlike the 1970s’ British TV series, Mind Your Language, where it seemed the majority deemed it politically incorrect as it was supposedly offensive to minorities.
   I don’t find the show offensive, the actors (most of whom were of the ethnic groups they portrayed) didn’t, and I have yet to meet any member of a minority who does.
   The fact that the majority thought us so weak and so unable to speak for ourselves that they made that judgement for us is more offensive.
   ‘Oh, those poor [insert minority race here]. They will be so offended by that. Let’s cancel the show.’
   I’m sorry, we have a voice, thank you. Engaging in dialogue with us is not that hard.
   Just as the gay community has a voice in this instance. They don’t need me, or American Airlines, or anyone else, to speak for them about the utterance of an 82-year-old man.
   ‘Oh, those poor gays. They will be so offended by that. Let’s fire the man.’
   Of course we should speak out in defence of our fellow human beings, but we should also engage in dialogue, too (that’s an invitation: everyone’s comments are welcome). We shouldn’t presume that, somehow, one group is superior, and that the other’s voice should not be heard.
   I just hope the motive for the article isn’t to separate people, because, as one reader on Pink News pointed out:

Political correctness run amuck! Aside from being unfair this is EXACTLY the sort of PC BS that causes moderate Str8s to think ‘gosh, the queers ARE getting out of hand’.

   It’s not the ‘queers’ doing it, it’s a corporation which likely had heterosexuals making the judgement to fire Mr Schmitt.

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Filed under: business, culture, leadership, USA—Jack Yan @ 02.17

2 Responses to ‘A bad choice of word, but what does the gay community actually think?’

  1. Bill Logan says:

    Sure, stamp out homophobia, but don’t get too precious about it. A hard line needs to be taken in highschool playgrounds, where life can be vicious, but this was not in the context of bullying. It’s unlikely a panel of gay fellow-employees would have made the same decision as the company did.

  2. Jack Yan says:

    Bill, you are right to make that distinction: taunts like that have no place in a playground.

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