While prominent Republican politicians are bending over backward trying to deal with Donald Trump’s never-ending stream of offensive statements, Clint Eastwood has a different response: "Just fucking get over it."
Hollywood’s tough guy, with an iconic scowl to match, spoke candidly in a recent interview with Esquire about film, this year’s election, and the GOP nominee. He admitted, "[Trump’s] said a lot of dumb things." But for Eastwood, Trump’s "onto something." And the problem isn’t so much Trump, as it is a country too sensitive to handle what he says.
"We’re really in a pussy generation," Eastwood said. "Everybody’s walking on eggshells. We see people accusing people of being racist and all kinds of stuff. When I grew up, those things weren’t called racist."
Eastwood is correct. A lot of things that weren’t considered racist when he was born in 1930 are seen a bit differently today.
Racial segregation in public schools is now unconstitutional. A few anti-lynching laws were passed to intervene on vigilante violence against African Americans. Native Americans and African Americans have legally ensured rights to vote. In a landmark Supreme Court decision this summer, affirmative action, a program that has been created to rectify systemic racial inequalities, was deemed constitutional. And even Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential candidate, mentioned "systemic racism" explicitly in her acceptance speech.
Political correctness has helped. And yet, even today there’s still much further to go.
That’s because political correctness isn’t simply about name calling. Political correctness is about holding people accountable for their offensive actions against systemic inequalities that make it seem like there was never a problem in the first place.
Clint Eastwood is critiquing political correctness based on the idea that accountability is censorship
Eastwood's statement depends on a common misunderstanding about political correctness: that it’s about censorship.
That’s a part of Trump’s populist appeal. He’s lauded for being politically incorrect because, unlike Washington insiders, the rationale goes, he is uncensored and isn’t afraid to say anything. That includes kicking off his campaign by accusing Mexican immigrants of being "rapists," suggesting the US ban Muslims from entering the country, calling Sen. Elizabeth Warren "Pocahontas" on Twitter, or criticizing a Gold Star family.
Political correctness doesn’t stop him from doing those things. That’s one of the blessings of the First Amendment.
Political correctness, instead, aims to hold people accountable for their actions in a world that typically doesn’t force them to take any responsibility. That means that if Trump and others do something racist, they’re probably going to be called out for being racist.
Over the course of Eastwood’s lifetime there have been two major racial justice movements: the civil rights movement and the movement for black lives. Though nearly half a century stands between them, both address issues around poverty, education, police brutality, and are likewise met with the same skepticism.
And instead of recognizing those concerns, Trump has mischaracterized the movement for black lives as anti-cop — cop killers, who, by extension, are an example of what America’s long lost "greatness" stands against.
Meanwhile, if Trump was to be elected president, he would take the White House as his black constituents would still more likely be living in poverty without the resources necessary to get out of it. Redlining practices targeting black communities have continued to deprive entire neighborhoods of their economic viability for generations. A 2015 report by the Century Foundation found that more than one in four African Americans lived in concentrated poverty, compared to one in 13 white people. Meanwhile, white families have six times as much wealth as black families, and the poverty rate for black people (27.2 percent) is almost three times that of their white counterparts (9.6 percent).
Additionally, unemployment is far higher for black people, and always has been — at least 60 percent higher than for white people since data collection started in 1972. At the end of 2015, the black unemployment rate was 9.5 percent — only slightly less than the national peak (9.9 percent) in 2009 after the economic crisis. The white unemployment rate was 4.5 percent.
In a 2014 review of FBI data, Vox’s Dara Lind found that law enforcement officers in the US kill black people at disproportionate rates. In 2012, African Americans accounted for 31 percent of victims killed by cops despite making up only 13 percent of the population. According to ProPublica, black teens were 21 times more likely to be killed by police officers between 2010 and 2012 than their white counterparts.
Indeed, even though millennials are the most racially diverse generation in American history, and generally more tolerant of racial differences than their predecessors (ahem, Clint), racism continues.
So while Eastwood laments living among a bunch of "candy-assess," those young "candy-assess" tend to have to call out folks for being racist because many in his generation failed to do the same.