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Has Political Correctness Gone Too Far?

Updated on November 5, 2014
Ruby Bridges.
Ruby Bridges.

The Origins of Political Correctness.

According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, to be politically correct is to "agree with the idea that people should be careful to not use language or behave in a way that could offend a particular group of people". Now, as far as I can make out, this means that you should be careful with the way you are in society - ie not shouting "spastic" in the street when you see a disabled person, or inciting someone with epilepsy to have a fit.

In the past, the word "black" - which is the crux of this hub - has been used as a derogatory term to refer to those who have coloured skin. People like Rosa Parks, Ruby Bridges and Martin Luther King Jr have all faced racial hatred and discrimination based on the colour of their skin, which is quite patently wrong. As another example, people who were homosexual were put through electrotherapy as a way of "curing" their homosexuality. Again, another example of discrimination against a minority.

However, these days political correctness has now taken over our right to free speech. People are allowed to say what they think - as long as they don't offend somebody. Now, to my mind, the very nature of free speech is that one can say what one thinks. If it offends somebody, then a debate is sparked and (if we're all adults about it) opinions are aired. However, if we act like children and decide that we, and we alone, are right, then naturally we will get nowhere - as seen with most religious debates when everybody thinks they are right and that their God is best (NB: this applies to religious extremists only).

An Example of Political Correctness Gone Mad.

Recently, I had training for a new job that I'm doing within the NHS. Nothing glamorous, just a receptionist job, but I had to do "Conflict Resolution" training. Which was all well and good, until the point where we got onto the subject of black people and its history. I won't bore you with black history - that's what the Internet's for - but it was intriguing how it panned out.

We started off discussing our trainer's friend, who was Jamaican and apparently didn't like Nigerians. I'm not really sure why, nor do I much care, but what transpired was me essentially getting shouted down. I made the point that back when I was a child, golliwogs were simply a child's toy and calling somebody black wasn't a problem. Even up until my mid-teens, I could call my black friends "black" and they didn't really care.

I managed to get about four sentences out before the entire room of about twelve people began shouting me down. I was told I was "unprofessional", "disruptive", "irritating" and "racist", which I - ironically - took great offence to. I am most certainly not racist, nor will I ever be - my nephew is black and some of my best friends are black. In fact, as an example, I present Gina Yashere. She is a fantastic comedienne from London, and she is black, as she herself states in her video (skip to 0:49 for her segment on Stand Up Revolution, hosted by the amazing Gabriel Iglesias).

My point was this: assuming that every single black person on this planet is going to be offended by the word "black" is patently incorrect and offensive in itself. I have several friends who do not mind being called black, and do in fact call themselves black! The fact is, you cannot live your life worrying about whether or not you'll offend somebody with what you say. What any logical person would do is this - have a conversation with that person and if they seem like they'd be offended by the word "black", do not say it. However, if they seem OK with it, then casually mention it.

Obviously you can't drop it in there by saying "Oh yeah, would you mind if I called you black?" - that's just daft. What you can do, however, is perhaps talk about black musicians like Louis Armstrong or Ella Fitzgerald. This is just an example, and being honest it's probably not a great one, but because not many people care about skin colour it's a bit hard to think of ways to put it into conversation!

Gina Yashere on Stand Up Revolution.

So What Can We Do?

One thing I really think people ought to do is simply care less about political correctness. The trainer I had tried to give an example of how I might be offended by something - he said "Oh, you'd be offended if I called you four-eyes", to which I replied "No, I wouldn't". I am genuinely not offended by people calling me four-eyes or anything like that. Not because my self-esteem is huge (although it's a lot better than it was ten years ago!), but simply because I don't care what he thinks.

The other thing I think we can do is not assume people will be offended. By assuming that, we simply become afraid to speak our minds and have an opinion - which just makes us brainwashed. By not having an opinion, we might as well not be born with brains and the ability to think for ourselves because it is this ability that makes us unique. People are never going to agree with one another 100% and it's this that makes us different. Debates are one of the best ways we can resolve differences and gain a deeper understanding of what makes us different.

Simply agreeing with one another does not promote understanding or tolerance - it simply means that we're too scared to voice our opinions, and we're too afraid of offending people to think for ourselves. When I was a teenager, calling people black wasn't such a big issue. Nowadays it's the biggest issue going, along with LGBTQ rights and the problems in the Middle East. Frankly, I think political correctness has gone way too far and we need to tone it down before we all become too scared to voice - or even have - an opinion.

What Do You Think?

Are you offended by the word "black"?

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    • Rowenya profile image
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      Jess Rhodes 3 years ago from Margate, Kent

      I can understand the political correctness definition, however I am unclear on your point about those in the western world. I can see that the word "black" has had negative connotations in the past, and I do not deny that. However, when somebody assumes that everyone will find it offensive to be called "black", and then you see comedians/comediennes such as Gina Yashere calling themselves black, you do have to wonder whether the assumption is correct or not. Obviously character is more important than colour, as are things such as intelligence and sense of humour, but this is not being argued.

    • Rowenya profile image
      Author

      Jess Rhodes 3 years ago from Margate, Kent

      I agree with this, however the crux and aim of the post was to discuss the word "black" and whether or not it is offensive.

    • whomtheSonsetFree profile image

      Susan 3 years ago from USA

      I didn't infer that ALL are. But the majority are. If you are a Muslim and this offends you then I apologize for the injury. However I do not apologize for telling the truth. Islam/ ISIS / al-Qaida /Boko Haran/ Hamas, Fatah etc etc etc etc are, of a certainty, extremist in the extreme.

    • someonewhoknows profile image

      someonewhoknows 3 years ago from south and west of canada,north of ohio

      Political correctness is just a way of saying we are right and you are wrong.

      Can't help but think why is it most people in the western world feel comfortable saying the word white or black when it comes to race without it having a negative connotation simply because of the fact a person happens to be a particular color. Character is more important than color.

    • Rowenya profile image
      Author

      Jess Rhodes 3 years ago from Margate, Kent

      And if you read my reply, I said I do not condone any religious extremism at all. However, as a Muslim myself I can say with a degree of confidence that not every Muslim is going to commit terrorism. It's simply a rather infamous minority that has tarred us all with a bad label. By your logic, I could say the majority of racial attacks were committed by the Ku Klux Klan - does that make every Christian a racist? No it does not. By applying the label of "terrorist" or "racist" to an entire group, you are assuming that everyone behaves in the same manner, which is wrong. The majority of Muslims in the Western world do not agree with terrorism, just as the majority of Christians - and indeed people - would say that the Ku Klux Klan (or Westboro Baptist Church for a more recent example) are completely wrong.

    • whomtheSonsetFree profile image

      Susan 3 years ago from USA

      The majority of terrorist attacks are committed by Muslims. There's no two ways about that Rowenya.

    • Rowenya profile image
      Author

      Jess Rhodes 3 years ago from Margate, Kent

      Exactly! It's like people who say that Christians are persecuted whilst continually blaming Muslims for everything - that makes Muslims just as persecuted! I don't condone religious extremism, but to blame an entire group for a just a few crimes ... and when you go back into history, you can see Christians "cleansing" Muslims during the Crusades. It's ridiculous!

    • whomtheSonsetFree profile image

      Susan 3 years ago from USA

      Yes! It's ridiculous that one group can't mention the other groups color or gender or nationality while others denigrate Christians and Jews for our faiths non-stop.