Political correctness is a great idea that’s, well, gone just a tad too far. Fortunately, we’re not living in our grandparents’ generation anymore, a time when segregation was legal, slander was a viable way of getting a quasi-Communist thrown in jail, and corporal punishment was today’s equivalent to a teacher politely telling a student that he answered a question incorrectly. However, in spite of the abolishment of these preposterous societal norms from yesteryear, today’s youth, myself included, seems overly sensitive and way too willing to call others out for their social blunders.
Let’s consider a recent example of said oversensitivity. The end of 2015 saw Princeton University students protest for the removal of Woodrow Wilson’s name from a campus building. For those unaware of the controversy, Wilson--our nation’s 28th president--instituted various policies that were, by today’s standards, racist. Now, hopefully, you took note of the italics here. Considering that Wilson was the product of a generation that was less sensitive to racism, it would seem a little absurd to denounce the man’s name just because he was acting in line with what was deemed acceptable for the times. It’s also not like Princeton supports Wilson for his racist policies; if anything, naming a campus building after a late president and former university chancellor is just another way to tout the school’s prestige.
I’ll be the first one to acknowledge that this example is a little extreme, and perhaps isn’t the most accurate reflection of what political correctness aims to do. However, it does capture the essence of the drawbacks of political correctness--that free speech (the First Amendment to the Constitution!) isn’t “free” anymore.
Since when has it become acceptable to consider someone’s free speech more “right” than someone else’s? Last time I checked, never. It’s unfortunate to think that every time we use the term “black” we almost immediately have to wonder if we’ve should’ve used the term “African American” for fear of sounding racist or ignorant. In the grand scheme of things, most of our social mishaps aren’t mishaps at all; they are just another way for PC--politically correct--police to call us out.
“Political correctness has gone too far because it prevents people from sharing their own opinions and saying things that are meaningful. It’s just another way for people to judge others based on what they say or think,” senior Eleni Rally said.
What Rally says echoes the familiar argument that “anti-PCers” cite when trying to convey their stance to advocates of political correctness.
However, now that I’ve sufficiently denounced the idea of political correctness, I need to address my critics because, well, that’s what any good writer would do.
See, a world without political correctness wouldn’t necessarily be such a great idea either. To drop all of our social filters and let our instincts--instincts that might be ridden with stereotypes and other unfair generalizations--drive our conversations would be bad. Really bad.
So, at this point, the real question becomes “what’s our alternative if we don’t use political correctness to filter our offensive ideas?”
The answer lies in our collective social conscious. We need to be more aware of what we’re saying in the first place to avoid putting others down unfairly.
“It’s important that we are conscious of how what we say affects others. The term ‘political correctness’ has been corrupted from its original definition and has become this idea that carries with it a negative connotation. We need a new word to describe our sensitivity toward others,” sophomore Viva Freedman said.
By the same token, however, we need to be thick-skinned. The world outside of Burlingame is big, bad, and sometimes even mean. The reality is that our future is going to be filled with many instances of offensive gestures and other actions that we might find insulting. And while some experiences may merit more of a response than others, it’s our job as people to just brush the offensive grit and grime off of ourselves and move on.
What it really all comes down to is the importance of honest sensitivity.
“There’s a difference between what you should say and what you can say. It’s something called tact. We all want to think before we speak, have tact, be aware of sensitivities, and still be honest,” history teacher Jen Rohrbach said.
A level of sensitivity is required to build strong relationships with our peers. If we’re really looking to change our overbearing PC culture, we need to embrace our honesty without sacrificing our ignorance.
So, the next time you’re discussing a socially-conscious issue with a peer, don’t limit your opinions just to conform to what others want you to say. It’s okay to speak your mind, just be respectful of others’ thoughts and opinions.