6 Spectacularly Failed Attempts to Be Politically Correct
In theory, being politically correct is pretty straightforward: treat people the way they want to be treated, do your best to not be a dick, use a convoluted system of needlessly cromulent terminology, and bam! You get a little badge that says you completed the hardest challenge of all: being a decent human being.
Here are a few very public entities still working on unlocking that achievement ...
Xbox User Suspended for Being from a Place
In 2010, 26-year-old Xbox user Josh Moore signed up for Xbox Live, entered his contact information, and was immediately banned. Why? Because he listed his hometown as Fort Gay, West Virginia.
In historic Wayne County, along the rivers Tug Fork and Big Sandy.
Now, to be perfectly clear, Fort Gay is a real place, and there is likely no more or less than the usual amount of homosexual activity occurring there. Microsoft just had some automatic filter in place to prevent homophobic bullshit, and Moore's hometown accidentally triggered it. Easy problem, simple fix, right?
Not quite: When Moore contacted Microsoft customer service and attempted to explain that Fort Gay was a real town and not a biting criticism of his little brother's sofa cushion hideout, they straight-up called him a liar and adamantly refused to look it up. They wouldn't so much as Google the zip code. They told him that, if he stuck to his story, his account would be cancelled and he'd forfeit the two years of service he'd already paid for. No refunds, obviously -- because homophobe money spends just as nice as any other.
Besides, Josh would probably just spend the refund on more hate speech.
Microsoft wouldn't even budge after Moore got the mayor of Fort Gay (again, a real official position, not what you call the guy camping the spawn point with an MP-40) to back him up. The company insisted that the word "gay" isn't appropriate under "any circumstances," which apparently means that MS had never actually spoken to a gay person, since it's considered a completely acceptable term in most contexts, in addition to the entire other meaning of the word.
Microsoft eventually recanted, gave Moore his account, and apologized, saying that "In this very, very specific case, a mistake was made" and "We're going to make it right."
Reportedly, Moore felt positively gay after hearing the news.
Life Cereal Says: "Because They're Brown!"
Quaker Oats, like most companies, just wants to appeal to as broad a demographic as possible, so they make an effort to keep the models on their packages diverse, like so:
They both cost three bucks, so at least they're equal.
Did you spot the problem? Congratulations! You're more observant than literally every single employee of a massive multinational corporation. Maybe the box designers were really OCD about color coordination and wanted to match skin tone to background, maybe only African-American kids showed up on shoot day for the new product ... or maybe the folks in charge just saw the word "brown" on there and thought "I know some brown folks!" Regardless of intention, the implications are a bit disconcerting: Are those kids supposed to be "sweet as brown sugar"? Because we've got to say, Mick Jagger pretty much ruined any innocent connotations of that phrase. Why is "normal" Life represented by white folks? Also -- and maybe we're reading too much into this -- but doesn't anybody find it a little odd that the black kids have absentee parents?
Clearly, it wasn't just us: After the inevitable controversy, Quaker Oats decided that depicting people at all was just too risky, and they mercilessly culled all humans from the covers of their boxes. Well, all but the cold, calculating, psychotic visage of Mr. Quaker, anyway.
Oats are skin shavings from his victims.
The First Black RNC Chair Goes "Urban"
In 2009, the Republican Party was feeling a bit insecure about their shaky record on race relations. So, in an attempt to lighten the mood, one of their members released a feel-good parody song titled "Barack the Magic Negro." Shockingly, that didn't help at all. Clearly, the RNC were in need of some rebranding, so they elected Michael Steele as the first black chair, hoping to wash away a bit of the "racist old white guy" stink (think Ricola and stale farts filtered through expensive leather).
Or he got the job automatically for inventing "Drill, baby, drill."
But it wasn't enough to just elevate a black man to a position of power -- Steele had an entire campaign mapped out in which he planned to apply Republican principles to an "urban-suburban hip-hop setting" in a way that was both "off the hook" and "avant-garde, technically." Because he felt this would appeal to "everyone, including one-armed midgets."
Those are not terrible parody quotes. Those are actual, from his mouth quotes. The first black man in the premier position of power within the RNC, and they immediately started in with the rapping-grandma routine.
He should have done the "rapping little white girl" shtick. That's still funny.
Then, in 2009, it got worse. Here are some publicity stills of the esteemed chair "chilling down" with his "homebound boys" in the "neighboring hoods." (See, those were terrible parody quotes.)
"Is this what your crowd refers to as 'sassiness,' chairman?"
Professional Golf Wants to Mend Centuries of Racism (With Some Friendly Fried Chicken)
Before the 2013 U.S. Open, Spanish golfer Sergio Garcia was lobbed a big fat wobbling softball of a question about his opponent, Tiger Woods. Garcia was asked if the pair would "be friendly."
They hoped he'd threaten to eat Woods' children, but golfers are an affable lot.
"We'll have him 'round every night," Garcia chuckled. Then, noticing that nobody in the room was gasping and holding their hands over their mouths in shock, he went on to clarify: "We will serve fried chicken."
Then he presumably flipped the press the double bird while flying away on his jet pack.
Only days later would he realize that he'd been totally stupid.
In case you're not up on your racial stereotypes, the idea that black people can't get enough fried chicken goes back to Birth of a Nation, and it's largely considered offensive because, you know, Birth of a Nation. But man, maybe it was a matter of ignorance. Basically every culture on Earth serves some form of fried chicken, because fried chicken is awesome. Maybe he just meant to say he'd serve Woods a big fat plateful of deliciousness.
As long as nobody comes along to fortify this racist debacle, maybe the whole thing will just blow over. Uh-oh, here's George O'Grady, head of the BMW golf championship, and it looks like he's driving a cement truck:
Soon, an apology for the apology, the best kind of apology.
Listen, we know that in Spain, nothing short of a concentration camp is considered racist. But even so, "That's not racist, he has black friends!" is a pretty universal admission of guilt.
Disney Totally Messes Up Their First Black Princess
When putting together The Princess and the Frog, a literally jazzed up retelling of The Frog Prince, Disney came across some issues. Namely that in early drafts their first black princess ever appeared as a servant named Maddy. Yes, Disney creatives at one point sat around a table and somebody said, "Hey, instead of a princess, what if she was a maid -- and instead of a name, what if she was just called something phonetically very similar to an archaic racist term for black women?"
And everybody thought that was such a good idea that they had to write it down.
"Mammy" turned, over the years, into an ethnic slur. Many words do that.
Luckily, sanity prevailed, and Disney reinvented Maddy as Tiana the waitress (the closest a black woman can get to a princess, apparently?). Unluckily, they didn't fire the guy who came up with Maddy, but instead promoted him to be in charge of product placement. Here's what he came up with:
To X, From Y. Platonic Valentine candy!
Obviously the characters aren't supposed to embody the flavors in any way -- it's just a total coincidence that the white girl with the blonde hair is vanilla and the only black girl in the pantheon gets watermelon. Hell, chocolate would have been less offensive (just ask Life cereal up there).
Dove Offers to Scrub Away Your Unseemly Blackness
In 2011, Dove launched a skin product intended to moisten and revitalize aging skin (we're not sure how, so we're forced to assume it involved kidnapped orphans and youth-draining elixirs). They tried to be inclusive with their promotions, and prominently featured a white, Latina, and black woman in their ads, all showing off hauntingly youthful flesh.
Unfortunately, their arrangement left a little something to be desired.
Not even one Asian woman.
Due to silly layout problems, Dove not only implied that their product could wash away your ethnicity, but also that this was desirable. If you think we're reading too much into it, keep in mind that skin-lightening is a real thing, it's not exactly uncommon for us to be told that white = success, and it probably doesn't help that our brains tend to interpret images as progressing from left to right.
It legitimately looks like this Dove ad is saying that dark-skinned girls have terrible, damaged skin, and that this soap product can "fix" them -- finally turning their consumers into the skinny blonde women they've always dreamed of being.
The ultimate goal.
After the inevitable firestorm of controversy, Dove issued a statement clarifying that "all three models were intended to showcase the 'after' product benefit" and that they "do not condone any activity or imagery that intentionally insults any audience."
Don Rickles was presumably insulted by this statement, leaving Dove mired in a hellish Mobius strip of perpetual offensiveness.
Related Reading: Did you know ovulating can make you more racist? It totally can. And even if you aren't already a racist, Glee could turn you into one. Even nerds can be racist- as we've thoroughly documented.