Colour blind to being too PC

25th May 2001 at 01:00
YOU can't generalise, can you? About anything. I mean, children today won't let you.

When I was young generalisation seemed to be an essential building block of learning. "This is Hans," we were told in school. "He is a little Dutch boy. He wears clogs, eats tulips and likes to stick his finger in the dyke."

Nowadays no one would dare utter such a simplified overview for fear of being accused of racism. We also try to avoid generalising about genders, but I have yet to meet a little girl who picks up a car and goes "vroom vroom".

Just about any form of discrimination is non-PC these days. Yesterday, when Tom commented that his friend Zak had brown skin, the girls descended on him like police at a May day rally. "You mustn't discriminate!" they said, which was my cue to pick up the dictionary and point out that discrimination is not an inherently evil activity. It is the simple - and essential - act of distinguishing between two things. Tom has fair skin. Zak doesn't. People from Zak's part of the world have dark skin. For Tom to preend otherwise, as the girls insist he should, is potty. Discrimination against Zak for his skin colour is another matter entirely, but to pretend you haven't noticed is absurd and intellectually dishonest.

Ginny and Sarah's generation are growing up to be very nice, compassionate citizens of the world, but their hypersensitivity to any form of generalisation borders on the nonsensical.

Last month they got very exercised over the fact that I'd filled in the census form saying we were White and British. "Dad! That's racist!" I tried explaining that the only way the Government can monitor the integration of different races is to recognise they exist. You cannot have it both ways. Besides, wasn't it the case that we were White and British? Has any cause, however noble, ever been helped by denying the truth?

We got into quite an argument over that one, which Zak and Tom thought very funny. "I wish you could be more like your brother," I said. "Boys don't take these things so much to heart."

Now they think I'm sexist too.


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