Political correctness is ok and necessary
There is quite a lot of hubbub these days about the evils of political correctness. If we believe what is being said, then we should no longer have a filter on social or political discourse, that being politically correct is bad. I have even heard politicians and commentators say that being politically correct is corrupting our society. I refuse to believe that.
Social discourse and our democracy demands that we carefully consider our remarks and not defame people or inflame situations. Valid and constructive criticism is always appropriate and necessary but should be measured. Terms that degrade others have no place in our discussions. Let me consider a lifetime of experience.
When I was young, people with intellectual disability were referred to as “retarded.” Even worse names were often used. I did not understand the impact of using such terms and often used them. I am now embarrassed by my immature behavior and regret it. The use of those terms implies a less-than-human status for others and falsely elevates me to a greater level than my fellow citizens.
As I continue my introspection, I realize that I also used negative terms to refer to folks with physical disabilities. People with physical disabilities do not deserve to be referred to with demeaning and dehumanizing words. They are people, not ugly words.
Again in my youth, I used words to make fun of folks that were homosexual. Additionally, terms that degrade one’s race or ethnicity are offensive and regrettable when used. Someone’s sexual orientation, the color of their skin, their language, or their accent does not define their humanity. Words do matter when referring to others.
So my life journey has taught me that words make a difference. The term “political correctness” (defined as the avoidance of forms of expression or action that are perceived to exclude, marginalize, or insult groups of people who are socially disadvantaged or discriminated against) has evolved during my adult years. The action of “being PC” (politically correct) has become part of the culture. And I think that the practice is to our benefit.
Under the guise of purposely not being PC, numerous politicians, commentators and fellow citizens are now rude, crude and disrespectful. They say that they “tell it like it is” or “call a spade a spade.” I have no problem with criticism. Criticism delivered in a civil manner is valid, helpful and can even be life-changing. Criticism delivered in an uncivil way (degrading, demeaning, disrespectful) only serves to inflame passions and foment hate. Calling people “losers” implies that our fellow citizens are either winner or losers. Really? We are all in this together and deserving of respect. Life circumstances can alter at any time and today’s “winner” could be tomorrow’s “loser” if one accepts that people are either winners or losers. I choose not to believe that.
So political correctness is ok and necessary in my view. Can it be overdone? Sure, but if one’s criticism and/or remarks about our fellow citizens are respectful, being PC is still a good thing. Not only is it a good thing, it is a necessary component of a civil society and democracy such as ours. After all, civility is the hallmark of citizens of faith. Citizens of faith care about how they treat each other.