Did someone call the sheriff of political correctness?
The proliferation of social media platforms has exposed a significant portion of the boundless walls of data and information. Access to resources has become more attainable and less intimidating to anyone who can connect to the internet. Even the conversations that people usually discuss behind closed doors can now be openly accessed in public spaces within the confines of social media. Outside those platforms, search engines offer the convenience of ingesting as much information as you can—all at the tip of your fingers.
But at the corners of the public marketplace of ideas, there lies the polite society. They are often the ones who excessively police what people can say in terms of race, gender, religion, or other social issues. They are the red lines of political correctness. Those who dare cross those lines, unwillingly or not, get persecuted in the court of the moral panicking public.
Political correctness (PC) refers to the manner of speaking that suggests carefully choosing words when addressing or talking to people from different walks of life. The goal is not to be offensive, discriminatory, or fall into demeaning stereotypes when it comes to those who hold divergent views and opinions. If we take one or two steps back in time, this act automatically constitutes good manners. This is not to say, however, that being polite is not an admirable trait because it absolutely is. The issue with being PC lies within the limits that society dictates as agreed-upon boundaries. Who sets these agreed-upon limits on what people are permitted to say and get away with, anyway?
What’s so wrong with political correctness (PC)?
Perhaps nothing, especially if, as mentioned above, your goal is to not discriminate or commit the social crime of othering, or the act of treating someone as essentially different and inferior to the group you belong to. Being politically correct can also save you from tripping down microaggression holes like if you unassumingly say someone is good in Math, as a compliment, because the person is from a specific race known for being good at it, or when you say someone is smart solely by knowing they study in a particular school. These compliments may unintentionally express our biases and prejudices.
Political correctness is controversial because of the varying opinions of people around it. Love it or hate it, just like anything in this world, when something becomes excessive, it can cause more harm than good. The language we use is a tool that can promote inclusivity while also doing exactly the opposite of it. Take it from the Spice Girls when they said, “too much of something is bad enough.”
Many people will argue that political correctness is censorship of freedom of speech because it wouldn’t really change how one feels about and perceives a person or group by choosing a less offensive language. In fact, most people who fear public scrutiny are prone to developing internalized prejudices and biases by simply knowing that many people get easily offended over their choice of language.
We lose valuable opportunities for being excessively politically correct.
If you are paying close attention to it, both sides become problematic when a call-out has no follow-through. When a person who unknowingly uses a slur receives a call out, but no further reinforcement to educate was offered, the very purpose of advocating for political correctness could take a backseat—further losing the opportunity to educate and prevent internalized biases and oppression. Isn’t the point of political correctness to avoid negative stereotyping and discrimination?
We can’t fight discrimination with discrimination. We can’t simply read someone to filth and move along in hopes of them learning their lessons when the very opportunity for learning is already in the palm of our hands. Sure, the only person responsible for their learning is the very person who needs it. Learning curves vary and learning, per se, could go both ways. Things that seem too obvious for some may be ambiguous and discombobulating for others.
If you can point out something that needs correcting, it will only be restorative or transformative if the discourse is followed by actions that could drive change. If the call-out is done only for the sake of calling out, it only creates further noise and does not really serve any good cause. Instead, it could even saturate the discussion and dampen the opportunity to learn and educate. There is way more work to do after pointing out what needs to be set right. Missing out on the follow-through moves the act of correcting someone as counterproductive.
Pointing something out is just the start. What you do after is the actual work.
Political correctness is like the wind that seeks to blow out a fire; it may also cause it to spread. Given that we are all wired differently, our learning process differs from each other. What you already know may still be unbeknownst to others. What I know could be inundated and require redressing. Since not everyone can see through things that need to be corrected, we sometimes need the help of others to call those out, and perhaps they can help us go through learning and unlearning things.
No society can expand and include more people if it’s not willing to hear out opposing views. Don’t stop at just calling someone out. Break away from your echo chambers and stop preaching to the converted. Encourage healthy discourse by welcoming those who have different opinions as yours. Do not lose valuable opportunities and ideas by being excessively politically correct.