Political correctness and equality?

Over the past couple of weeks I have started and then abandoned a few updates. There is a lot I have been thinking about, getting angry about and trying to figure out but I am not quite there yet with them. One topic that weaves through them is political correctness and what counts as a right. Political correctness is a term I find usually reserved to refer to something in a negative light, as somehow obscuring what is really being said or what really needs to be done.

There has been a study of university staff bias by George Yancey (a sociologist) and the Christian Anthropologists online have been discussing the study’s findings of bias against evangelical Christians in university appointments. This was especially pronounced in anthropology, which did not surprise me at all. When I chose to use a (Born-again) Christian welfare organisation as my fieldwork site for my honours thesis I got a glimpse into this strong bias.

Being a non-Christian* gave my project increased legitimacy at uni, which is perhaps not so much evidence of an anti-Christian bias as the staff’s strong objections to ‘doing anthropology at home’ at such a junior level. However, there is a sense in which Christians are ‘fair game’ in a way that other groups are not. In some ways, to me, this is less an instance of persecution than simply part of the territory that comes with being a dominant group. The website ‘Stuff White People Like‘  would receive a very different response if it was instead ‘Stuff First Nations’ People Like’, unless it was extremely clear that it was developed by and for First Nations people.

The focus of Yancey’s study was attitudes to hiring/ promoting university staff, so such a bias against evangelical Christians means that in anthropology departments other staff are less likely to want to hire Christians. After all, undertaking anthropological research and teaching with the explicit aim of furthering the aims of God’s kingdom on Earth is a very different project to what staff are hired to undertake in non-Christian universities. Yet the Christian anthropologists do have a point that this is discrimination.

Should we be less PC and be okay with discrimination in hiring in universities? It is not without precedent for Victoria Church based organisations are exempt from discrimination laws when it can be linked to their values. Are universities supposed to be open to a range of values? Is it okay for university to come up with their own ‘values’ and enforce them in research and teaching?

*I do not come from any personal faith perspective, which I was often asked both at uni and in the field.


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