Justn Ist was born in California in a suburban middle-class upbringing. Like many of the youth of his time, he grew up wearing hand-me-downs and eating TV dinners. Going out to dinner was a luxury, reserved for the once or twice a year celebration. In America, even a single father like Justn's could raise his kids, wisely save and invest.
After getting his Bachelor's degree, Justn met his beautiful wife at work. Although he was white and she Hispanic, they never heard a scoff, received a dirty look or other hint of disapproval from others. With black cousins, nieces and nephews, they had the ultimate diverse family.
In the 1990's and early 2000's, the country seemed to be entering a post-racial era. By 2008, the U.S. proudly elected its first black President. Yes, there were still individual acts of prejudice and racism, but overall the society enjoyed an openness and acceptance to others.
Then something happened. The voices echoing from the campus lecture halls to the Hollywood microphone grew louder and louder about unfairness, injustice, and racism. There was a desperation, a pleading in their tone at first that was neglected by the evidence -- the reality around them. But, like a wounded animal fighting for its existence, the quiet cries turned into deafening screeches. As the words reverberated through the years and the claims became more extreme, they gathered a fervor and rage not seen before, morphing into a dark and ugly hubris.
Justn and those around him were shocked at these cries especially when every statistical measure consistently showed the opposite trend. They began to wonder if they were just insulated, blind to the truth. Un-Corrected, Justn’s first published work, was the result of this search for an answer.
About Un-Corrected: A Good Man's Struggle Against Political Correctness Run Amok:
Steve Schmidt’s manuscript was intended to comically mock the growing allegiance of a population to a dark, divisive ideology in 1920’s pre-Nazi Germany. Unfortunately for Steve, innocent intentions often generate negative consequences. Showing a budding romantic interest his manuscript on campus, it “triggered” not only her, but a series of events that led to national news, even involvement in the political debate between candidates for President of the United States. Steve’s newfound infamy brings his film to life, but not without consequences. He, and his film, have become pawns in the chess game between competing political campaigns. Our clueless hero is forced to navigate the minefield of both Hollywood political correctness and the dark underbelly of divisive national politics in an oft-hilarious path to sanity. * Contains some profanity and adult situations
Tell us about your journey in writing and completing Un-Corrected.
The narrative that came forward after the Michael Brown incident in Ferguson, MO, hatched the first ideas for Un-Corrected. It became clear from the evidence and ensuing investigation of the Eric Holder Justice Department under Obama that "Hands Up, Don't Shoot" never happened and it was ruled that the police officer acted in self-defense. But, the narrative of Hands Up lives on to this day. Why didn't the truth matter to the protestors? Why wasn't the media more forthcoming and insistent on correcting their misreporting and the narrative they helped popularize? Police officers were shot in the ensuing unrest from this incident. The murder of police officers continued to rise nationwide thereafter. I started to think about how political correctness and false narratives were affecting our society -- and in some cases lives are literally at stake.
Did the current state of affairs have an impact on your decision to publish this now?
Absolutely. The topic of racial harmony is one of the largest issues in the country right now. My satirical novel mirrors a lot of the headlines we see today -- protests/riots, cancel culture, charges of racism/sexism/privilege, etc. But, it is also about friendship, moving forward, and true acceptance of others. Ideally, I would have waited for a publisher through the traditional methods, but I wanted to strike while the iron was hot.
In 2020, over 7 million Californians voted to allow the discrimination of people based on the color of their skin in supporting Proposition 16. I’m serious, it says exactly that in the proposed state constitutional amendment. When a proposition almost passes, in this day and age, that allows people to be discriminated against based on skin color – no matter the rationalization behind it – the time to take action is now.
Tell me about some of the topics you discuss in your book.
The book is about a young filmmaker named Steve who battles the politically correct crowd in Hollywood as he works on his controversial movie. His film is a satire on how the society in pre-Nazi Germany came to accept that evil, horrible regime. But, these days there are people who insist you can't have a sense of humor about sensitive topics. Ironically, Steve becomes the poster boy for insensitivity and begins to incur the wrath of the PC mob. They tell him he needs more "people of color" in the film...but he points out that the film is set in 1920's Germany, hello? Finally fed up with increasingly unreasonable demands, he decides to go over-the-top-politically-correct in the hopes they will see the error of their ways. First, he starts moderately, with Asian Nazi's walking down the studio halls. He goes more and more extreme until he ends up with the Hitler character as a Puerto Rican transgender person. But the joke is on him, the "woke" crowd loves it -- he is so avant-garde!
Are you in any way concerned that your book will offend certain groups of people? Are you ok if it does?
I certainly expect that some people will be offended by parts of Un-Corrected. But I'm sure that somehow, they will find a way to make it through their day if they get a little insulted. It speaks to the generosity and good nature of our country that we have been so reluctant to offend others. But, there is a line to be drawn. Being offended has become so pervasive that it should be an Olympic event. It is a choice one makes -- to take offense or not. I no longer live my life worrying if I upset someone in this way. I hope that we all try to be decent and respectful to everyone, but I think we need to stop walking on eggshells around those who have the need to feel like they are "enlightened".
Do you believe there is a healthy way to express people’s differences - perhaps in the sense that it encourages discussion?
Ultimately, the book is about people of different beliefs, races, and cultures coming together and developing friendships. There is a scene in the book where the main character, Steve, who is a straight white male is at a small party stuck in a situation where he is talking with the Puerto Rican transgender actor. Let’s just say it starts awkwardly for both of them. But, the two of them begin to talk and gradually overcome the discomfort (aided in no small part by alcohol) and become friends. The two never would have understood each other without having a conversation – taking time to learn about the other. I believe that the key to having a more harmonious society is for us to understand each other. Context is critical to this process. Political correctness denies the opportunity for context. There is an instant judgement taking place, where ideas and conversation are shut down.
Have you experienced any difficulties being in a diverse relationship? You and your wife come from different cultures - do you clash when it comes to these issues?
No. I've found that most people in interracial relationships have a disregard or even disdain for political correctness. Perhaps because being PC is such an empty, phony virtue signal to those who live in a diverse household. It is funny. It is almost always a white person married to another white person who tells us that our ideas are not PC enough. My family agrees with me that political correctness makes racial harmony much more challenging.
What are the main messages you would like your readers to take away from Un-Corrected?
We’ve come to a time where the pendulum has swung too far. Yes, there is individual racism in America, but we are not institutionally, systemically racist. How can we come together as a society if we are constantly told we are victims? How can there be racial harmony when one group of people is told that they are inherently privileged, flawed, and their successes are not their own? What happens to the psyche of the youth of so-called disadvantaged groups when they are constantly told that they can't achieve success on their own, that they need a boost up solely based on the color of their skin? I want the readers to ask questions, challenge the narratives that they hear, even mine.
In your opinion, what can bring people together under this new administration?
I hope the Biden Administration will reject or at least play down identity politics. How can we be united when our whole identities are wrapped up in our gender, race, and sexual orientation? I think we'll be a much happier, successful, and unified society when we STOP celebrating the first Asian bisexual person to do this or first black female to do that. We know we will have made it when you don't need Black Entertainment Television or Hispanic Times Magazine or Indian Dwarf Transgender Weekly. One day people will just be people. We'll be judged on our ideas, "the content of our character, not the color of our skin" as a great civil rights leader once said.
What we can expect from you next?
I am starting a book on our changing language and their effects on the American culture. It has similar themes as Un-Corrected in that our words are altered over time to push a political agenda.