Last Updated: December 21, 2017, 3:58 pm

Political correctness necessary


The opposite of political correctness is not unfiltered truth and freedom of expression.

There is an active war against political correctness in this country right now. With President Donald Trump calling political correctness one of the biggest problems in today’s society, it has never been a more hostile time for kind words. Proponents against political correctness claim its purpose is not to eliminate insults, but to protect thin-skinned millennials with their so called “safe spaces” and “trigger warnings.” They claim the push for political correctness is a fight against the First Amendment. 

When Dixie State University announced its new identity last year, I tweeted a picture of the mascot with the caption “Brooks the buffalo is DSU’s new mascot.” One of my followers responded by saying the term “buffalo” was politically incorrect and DSU’s mascot was a bison, not a buffalo. Calling a bison “a buffalo” may have been seen as just a small accuracy error by some, but because bison has been mislabeled as buffalo since America’s earliest settlers, I was perpetuating an error not unlike calling Native Americans “Indians,” or worse, “Injuns.”

To be politically correct is to avoid terms that may hurt others. While I doubt a bison would feel insulted if it heard me call it a “buffalo,” there are many groups of people who do feel hurt if they hear a term that misidentifies them.

Political correctness is not about censorship. It’s about being a decent human being with sympathy. Terms like “faggot,” “retard,” the N-word or even “plig” are words that do not reflect sympathy because they mislabel a human being with a word often used as an insult. Political correctness simply asserts that all people, regardless of age, ability, race, gender, sexual orientation or class membership should be treated with dignity and respect. 

There are no laws enforcing political correctness, and there never will be as long as the Constitution is the law of the land. You can say whatever you want short of fighting words and obscenity, and no one will arrest you. However, that does not mean you won’t lose your job for using ignorant words. 

One of Trump and other right-wingers’ most repeated politically incorrect term is “radical Islamic terror.” President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton famously refused to use the term “radical Islamic terror,” because they didn’t want to marginalize the millions of peaceful Muslims around the world by linking their faith to terrorists. Saying “radical Islamic terror,” like Trump has already done several times in speeches since his inauguration and during his campaign, also adds to the extremists’ recruitment rhetoric that America is at war against Islam as a religion.

Using the terms “radical Islamic terror” or any other politically incorrect term does not change anything; it only has the potential to hurt others. 

Political correctness is only necessary because of the society of insults and ignorance in which we live. Political correctness can go away when acceptance, sympathy and acceptance become the norm.