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Has Political Correctness Gone Too Far?
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.