Hyper-sensitivity impedes on collective development

As a society, both on and off campus, there have been tremendous steps forward to promote equality and tolerance. There is no disputing that these are crucial for our collective development, however, we need to recognize true intolerance and not condemn completely benign statements and actions.

If we do not, if we allow such unwarranted criticisms, we risk trivializing true intolerance and hinder the development of a tolerant society.

An example of this recently took place and it is the purpose of this article to discuss the event and why it is important that we truly understand intolerance so that we can all work together to create a more united society.

A few weeks ago, an annual event held by the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity — “Jamaican Me Crazy” — received the complaints of students, faculty and community members, as the title and description were deemed offensive.

The criticisms ranged from racism to offending mental health. The fraternity, which I belong to, changed the name of the event to appease those who were offended. However, the fraternity was still suspended indefinitely from Laurier campus as a result of the complaints.

The term “Jamaica me crazy” is a widely used colloquialism and can be found in well-known products and merchandise. For example, Ben & Jerry’s has a “Jamaican Me Crazy” sorbet available at such major retailers as Wal-Mart. Wolfgang Puck’s “Jamaican Me Crazy” K-Cups are available from the Keurig website and many other retailers, and there are numerous Caribbean restaurants with the same title.

If these products have passed the gauntlet of hyper-sensitive corporate counsel and retailers, one has to agree that the term is a benign one.

Further, the party itself was intended to promote Jamaican culture in a positive light — the theme was meant to evoke a spirit of light-hearted good times, an image frequently presented by the Jamaican Tourism Board itself.         To deem the party racist and offensive despite the title’s ubiquity and good intentions completely trivializes such classifications.

When some get offended on behalf of Jamaican culture, they run the risk of misrepresenting them entirely. A great example of this is a Volkswagon commercial in which a white, Midwestern American man is so happy with his car that he begins speaking with a Jamaican accent.

The crux in this commercial is that many of us see Jamaica as a sunny, happy place — an idea that Tourism Jamaica works very hard to get across.

It is not a stab at Jamaican culture, for it is perpetuating the positives of the country. USA Today thought this ad racist, but Jamaica’s minister of tourism told USA Today he viewed it “…as a compliment … people should get into their inner Jamaica and get happy.” Those who criticized the commercial ran contrary to what Jamaica would like to be viewed as, and the same thing has happened with the cancellation of the party.

There were complaints that using the word “crazy” was offensive toward mental health issues. I hope I do not have to show countless examples of the benign use of the word crazy for you, dear reader, to see that condemning the use of the word crazy without an offensive context is an extremely unwarranted attempt at censorship and cannot be supported by those who want the de-stigmatizing of mental health to continue forward in a serious manner.

This particular event is one example of a worrying trend that can be found in institutions that are on the forefront of political correctness.

People are so keen to fight intolerance that they target innocent events instead of looking for true offenses. Not only does this trivialize the importance of tolerance, it ends up alienating people who should be working together to fight real issues.

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