Justice means sticking up for other people

Justice means sticking up for other people April 6, 2012

Just as it is encouraging to see the students at a Minnesota Catholic school demonstrating solidarity by sticking up for one another, so too it has been inspiring to see Catholic school administrators getting it right in Texas.

Last month, via Charles Kuffner, I shared the story of Catholic schools defending Jewish and Muslim schools in the Texas Associations of Private and Parochial Schools. Kuffner revisits the story this week, saying, “I think we’ve found the problem at TAPPS.” He quotes from a report in the Dallas Morning News:

Edd Burleson, in full charge, didn’t bother to chew on the question. At age 77, the former small-town state champion football coach, who later served as the superintendent of a Dallas-area school district, made it clear he has neither the time nor patience for political correctness.

Rather, Burleson, who left public schools in 1989 and has served since in the leadership of the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools, spit out an answer he knew would raise eyebrows. When finished, he allowed a knowing nod and wry smile to punctuate his words.

“We shouldn’t have accepted them in the first place,” Burleson responded without hesitation.

“Them” is Beren Academy. And on the first full day of spring, three weeks after Beren and Burleson found themselves in the national and international spotlights, the TAPPS executive director was asked if he had any regrets about his handling of the situation.

“What else would you want me to say?” he asked. “Want me to come up with some politically correct gobbledygook? I can’t. I’m telling you that’s how I feel.”

Once again, “politically correct” turns out to be the favored euphemism for “common decency” and “any pretense that I’m not an outright bigot.”

Beren Academy, you’ll recall, was the Jewish school who qualified for TAPPS’ basketball playoffs, but nearly had to forfeit when the association scheduled their first game on a Friday night after sundown. Burleson and TAPPS only rescheduled the game after a wave of public condemnation and the threat of litigation forced their hand. But Burleson doesn’t regret his own clumsy intolerance — he only regrets living in a world in which he has to interact with Jews, Muslims and anyone else who’s different from him.

Jewish schools are a marginal minority in TAPPS, and Muslim schools attempting to join the association have been excluded outright. But they’ve found an ally in the Texas Catholic Conference Education Department:

In the wake of Burleson’s comments, the Texas Catholic Conference Education Department said the group continues to be committed to reforms that would ensure diversity among TAPPS membership.

“The comments attributed to Mr. Burleson in the media (Sunday) come as a surprise,” the group’s statement read. “At a meeting with representatives of member schools last week in Belton, Mr. Burleson reportedly conveyed his intention to listen to the concerns of member schools and resolve these issues — he even scheduled a second meeting in two weeks to discuss it further. If today’s comments are accurate, they are dramatically different from the impressions he gave a week ago.

“The Texas Catholic superintendents’ position remains the same. If the concerns are not satisfactorily resolved, Catholic schools will reconsider their future affiliation with TAPPS.”

Catholic schools make up about 20 percent of TAPPS. That’s a minority. I’m sure those Catholic schools have been implicitly offered the kind of evil bargain often extended to slightly less-marginal minority factions — the chance to curry favor with the majority by supporting the exclusion of those even further down the pecking order. Kudos to the Texas Catholics for not playing that ugly little game.

Their actions on behalf of Jewish and Muslim schools can be seen, from one perspective, as selfless — they’re not fighting to protect their own rights, or responding to their own mistreatment, but to protect the rights and to correct the mistreatment of others. But from another perspective — from one that understands how justice works and what that Catholic doctrine of solidarity really means — we can also remember that defending the rights of others is an essential and necessary act of self interest. If others can be denied, excluded or mistreated, then you can be too.

 

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  • Anonymous

    “We shouldn’t have accepted them in the first place,” Burleson responded without hesitation.

    That’s mighty Christian of him.

  • Anonymous

    Oh, and more kudos to the Catholic organization for standing up for the Jewish and Muslim schools.

  • Saffi

    Not being “politically correct” used to mean that you trusted your own sense of morals more than that of others.  (Note: “more than,” not “in opposition to.”)  Somewhere along the line it became code for letting your behavior be the antithesis of morality, and taking pride in being an ignorant a-hole.

  • Anonymous

    It also became an insult, as in, “Oh, you’re so politically correct,” which implies that the “politically correct” person’s stated beliefs aren’t sincerely held.

  • Anonymous


    It also became an insult, as in, “Oh, you’re so politically correct,” which implies that the “politically correct” person’s stated beliefs aren’t sincerely held.

    I think that’s it in a nutshell.  In the past couple decades, ‘politically correct’ has been defined as the opposite of ‘sincere’.  If someone advocates a politically correct view, then by this definition it must be insincere.

    Another good example of the left fighting with a handicap — arguing on the right’s linguistic turf.

  •  Not being “politically correct” used to mean that you trusted your own
    sense of morals more than that of others.  (Note: “more than,” not “in
    opposition to.”)  Somewhere along the line it became code for letting
    your behavior be the antithesis of morality, and taking pride in being
    an ignorant a-hole.

    One of the things I find utterly fascinating about the right wing’s constant use of “political incorrectness” and reflexive anger at those who are supposedly politically correct is that it’s generally the right wing that is actually demanding the more rigid use of language and lack of, to borrow a phrase, outside the box thinking.  They’re the ones, to pick an easy target, who try to insist that there was absolutely no racial component to the shooting of Trayvon Martin and HOW DARE ANYONE BRING UP THE R-WORD!  They’re the ones who say that teaching evolution is an affront to religion and liberal indoctrination.

    So which side has the politically correct thought police again?

  • Their actions on behalf of Jewish and Muslim schools can be seen, from one perspective, as selfless — they’re not fighting to protect their own rights, or responding to their own mistreatment, but to protect the rights and to correct the mistreatment of others. But from another perspective — from one that understands how justice works and what that Catholic doctrine of solidarity really means — we can also remember that defending the rights of others is an essential and necessary act of self interest. If others can be denied, excluded or mistreated, then you can be too.

    I have always held to the axiom that any sufficiently farsighted form of self-interet is indistinguishable from compassion. 

  • Why “libertarian” excuses about not defending injustice fail, in a nutshell.  If you want to claim to practice some kind of enlightened selfishness?  THAT IS DIFFERENT THAN REGULAR SELFISHNESS.  The “enlightened’ part is key, as in, “oh, I look at the consequences of my actions on a broader scale,” like as in, if you allow rights to be fungible privileges…YOURS MIGHT GET FUNGED.

  • Anonymous

    Way back in the mists of time, the expression “politically correct” was coined by some people on the left as a joke against other people on the left who took avoiding offensive terminology to such extremes that they became offensive themselves by making it crudely obvious what they were doing.

    The joke was misunderstood, as always, by the right, who began to apply it to what normal people call common politeness or thoughtful courtesy. It’s long past time to give the term a decent burial.

  • Being politically incorrect just means that you want the freedom to espouse your racism/sexism/xenophobia/ablism out loud and without repercussions.

    Nit you you, but you know what I mean…

  • Anonymous

    The only time anyone will consciously choose to be incorrect is when it follows the adjective “political”.

  • LL

    You guys, he’s 77!  That means he can be as big a douchebag as he wants, and the rest of us have to be OK with it. Only the hopelessly politically correct could possibly disagree with that. 

  • The term was also used in the 1960s and 1970s to describe the way in which ideological conformity was mandated in Communist countries – the concept of a “politically correct” mode of behavior and thought and expression was intended to convey the notion of the dead hand of government stifling critical analysis of the regime.

  • WingedBeast

    “Politically Correct” even when it came to mean “talking nice about minorities” in the US, to my mind, always had a definition meaning “that which is the correct way to speak to your audience in order to achieve the best result.”

    From that sense, when your audience is made up of conervatives and right wingers, the most politically correct thing to do is denounce political correctness.

  • Alexf801

    As someone who grew up in Texas, I have some doubt that the Catholic’s are being completely altruistic.  As a kid I was in the mostly all white advanced placement courses.  I was one of the few Catholic students who was white and in those classes.  I remember distinctly being told by other students that Catholics weren’t really christian, but pagan, and that they worshiped the saints as gods.  Looking back I realized that the 13 year olds who said such things were simply parroting what their parents had told them. 

    My line of thinking goes like this: if the Muslims and Jews can be removed from the program, why stop there?  You can remove those pesky Catholics as well.    

  • As recently as the 1940s and 1950s it was commonplace to trash Catholics (the actor playing the xenophobic racist demagogue, in his talk, trashes Catholics, Negros, Freemasons and foreigners).

  • Theo

    A Swedish blogger put it best IMHO, remarking on a well-known Swedish right-wing pundit: “He styles himself ‘politically incorrect’, which is a politically correct term for ‘an asshole’.”

  • Chris

    Given that, in Texas in particular, a large (and growing) fraction of Catholics are non-white, and that ‘Jew’ and ‘Muslim’ have the connotation of ‘not white,’ there was likely a secondary reason behind the Catholic support here.

  • P J Evans

    The not-large city near where I lived in Texas, population maybe 25000, had two Catholic churches, one primarily white and one primarily Hispanic. I think the various (and numerous) Baptist and other evangelical churches had similar divisions.

  • Anonymous

     I shouldn’t probably be amused by this, but my mother was raised a strict Catholic and later in life, brainwashed into the fundamentalist paranoia.

    My stepmom’s cousins (Catholics) sent their kids to the only Christian school in the area, thinking it would be better than a public school. Things went well for a little while, and then at some point in the year, their youngest son came home visibly upset. His mother asked him what was wrong, and he replied “Mommy, did you know some people hate Jesus?” She was a little taken aback. “No, who hates Jesus?” His response was worse. “Catholics!”

    They pulled their kids out of the school, post haste.

  • friendly reader

    You know, even if you buy the whole, “We should be more forgiving of older people because they didn’t have the advantages of upbringing that we have now”*, that doesn’t mean you put them in positions of power!!. Racists, regardless of whether they were a product of bad upbringing, are not fit leaders. You make them step aside so that their racism only affects them and their personal relationships, rather than afflicting it on an entire organization.

    *I admit I feel sympathetic to this argument, because as much as many people like to paint our current civil rights battles as “the final frontier,” if history is any lesson, by the time we are all 77, the youngest generation may consider us bigots for things we aren’t even cognizant of right now. I hope we’ll have a better ability to adapt, but who knows? But as I said, that doesn’t mean we place bigots in positions of power, it just means we have an understanding of where their bigotry comes from.

  • Anonymous

    “The comments attributed to Mr. Burleson in the media (Sunday) come as a surprise,” the group’s statement read. “At a meeting with representatives of member schools last week in Belton, Mr. Burleson reportedly conveyed his intention to listen to the concerns of member schools and resolve these issues — he even scheduled a second meeting in two weeks to discuss it further. If today’s comments are accurate, they are dramatically different from the impressions he gave a week ago.

    It wouldn’t be the first time that someone said two different things to two different audiences. It’s just a matter of which audience he *meant* to lie to.