In Defense of Political Correctness

Is everyone too sensitive or are you just an asshole?

A two part series

I recently saw a tweet where, in various headlines, the term “political correctness” had been changed to “treating people with respect.” Political correctness is defined by the always-reliable Wikipedia as “using words or behavior which will not offend any group of people. Most people think it is important for everyone to be treated equally, fairly and with dignity. Some words have been used for a long time that are unkind to some people.” 

Despite the harmless nature of this definition, people seem to think political correctness is a huge problem. US presidential hopeful Donald Trump has said that one of America’s biggest problems is being politically correct, despite the existence of matters such as extreme poverty and global warming.  

In my travels around the Internet, I often see comments on news articles or opinion pieces where a marginalized group or individual has stood up against injustice: “Everyone is too sensitive! Take a joke! It’s a free country, I can say whatever I want!”  Is everyone really too sensitive? And is it too much to ask to be treated with respect? 

One of the greatest things about our country is that we have freedom of speech. I can tell you that I think the recent tuition hike is bullshit and that our government should do something about it without worrying that I’ll get thrown in jail. 

However, the freedom of speech clause doesn’t say that you have free speech without repercussions or without someone else exercising their own freedom to disagree with you. So no, when someone calls you out on saying something that may be sexist, racist, or homophobic, they’re not limiting your free speech. They’re asking you to stop being an asshole. 

It’s easy to ignore issues in our society by dismissing those who attempt to address them. By saying everyone is too sensitive, you’re trivializing the issue, which tends to shut the discussion down and prevents us from advancing toward equality. 

If you had a relative who was dying of cancer and I made a joke about it, you would probably get upset. If I dismissed you and said you were too sensitive, you would think I was a huge jerk. Why is it any different when we’re discussing injustices faced by marginalized groups of people? Take the r-word for example. We’ve almost completely eliminated a word that used to be used colloquially. Why? Because it’s not nice to make fun of people with disabilities. 

If it feels like a hassle to avoid using hateful speech or makes you uncomfortable when someone calls you out on it, stop and think what it must feel like for the person on the receiving end of your words. Is it really that difficult to think before you speak to avoid ruining someone’s day and delaying progression towards equality? I challenge you to learn the terminology of what is considered “politically correct”. Five minutes of Google searching is all it takes. Don’t make shitty, overdone sexist jokes and apologize when someone points out that something you said was offensive. Being politically correct or treating people with respect is not as big and scary as some people make it seem. Educate yourself, and use your knowledge to spread positivity and progressiveness.