Political Correctness has been around at least since I was in high school, a long time ago. It has resulted in hyphenated terms for Americans who are descended from people from other continents such as African-American or Asian-American. It gave rise to folks with disabilities being called “differently abled” or “handicapable. Even jobs have gotten renamed so secretaries are now “administrative assistants” and janitors are “sanitation engineers.”
As a disabled person, I find the language ridiculous and demeaning. “It makes light of the basic fact that disabled folks struggle with things that so many others take for granted” (Koepp, 2013).
While I sifted through articles in Walden’s online library, I was surprised to find that I’m not alone in my irritation with PC. This trend is causing problems all over the place.
Becker (1996) describes PC as a way to disguise deep prejudices under pretty words. Rather than building inclusion and understanding, it’s used as sort of a checkbox. Refer to people by the PC terminology: check. Include some non-dominant race resources: check. Multiculturalism requirements have been satisfied. Political Correctness has actually succeeded in keeping marginalized individuals excluded by preventing real discourse (Huntington, 1994). In my experience, the majority of those who insist on PC terminology are in fact the least understanding of differences.
As an example, Huntington (1994) describes a scenario in which she instructed her journalism students to write a short headline for an article. One student, a non-native speaker, used a politically incorrect term out of ignorance only to have a person of that nationality become rather irate and demand that the teacher force the other student to publicly apologize. Efforts to explain to the offended student that the error was unintentional were ineffective. Discussing why the terminology was incorrect and why it caused offense was not an option. Instead of fostering more understanding between the different cultures, the insistence on PC curtailed the discussion and made an already bad situation worse.
Other issues have come up because of PC. Wright (2006) describes situations in which schools pushing for more PC have instead discriminated against Whites. Students belonging to typically marginalized groups are given the floor to rail against Whites while the Whites are required to sit quietly and take the abuse. If that activity were reversed and White students were given the floor to belittle other students, the outcry would have made national news. Why is it correct in one direction but not the other? The activity does nothing to foster acceptance, tolerance, compassion, or understanding.
Should it be acceptable for anyone to use insulting words to refer to other people? No, but instead of just declaring PC and non-PC, what about an open discussion about the words and why they’re a problem (Huntington, 1994)? What about promoting real understanding and compassion for people? That would be more effective than using PC terms to hide the issue.
Becker, B. (1996). Beyond the popular and politically correct: multicultural education and the reform of theatre pedagogy. Annual Meeting of the Speech Communication Association. Retrieved from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED408623.pdf
Huntington, L. (1994). The right to be politically incorrect. Journal of the Association for Communication Administration, 3-4(1993), 79-81. Retrieved from http://web.ebscohost.com.ezp.waldenulibrary.org/ehost/detail?sid=446069da-7958-471b-a91a-dc2a24fbd58a%40sessionmgr112&vid=1&hid=124&bdata=JnNjb3BlPXNpdGU%3d#db=eric&AN=EJ475730
Koepp, C. (2013, December 16). Polite rudeness [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://ckoepp.webs.com/apps/blog/show/39643466-polite-rudeness
Wright, L. (2006). Pernicious politicization in Academe. Academic Questions. Retrieved from http://web.ebscohost.com.ezp.waldenulibrary.org/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=41562cd5-7019-424d-81e7-bb7ca9ce7c70%40sessionmgr111&vid=2&hid=124