The concept of being politically correct in and of itself is a good one. It reminds us to think before we speak, to be polite in our interactions. It reminds us that being offensive is not necessary.
Political correctness was designed to be “an avoidance of forms of expression or action that marginalize or insult groups of people who are already discriminated against.”
I have no inherent problem with political correctness. I know some people do. They actually, and perhaps ironically, find being politically correct offensive. They feel it impedes their ability to speak freely and to express themselves.
I would argue, if you’re offended by a term that asks you to think before you speak and to be polite in your interactions, then maybe you don’t have anything worthwhile to say in the first place.
Words matter. They can cut as deep as any knife. And we can choose to use words that lift people up, that inspire, that provide encouragement, that are kind, that are well intended or we can use words that cause pain, perpetuate negative stereo-types, reinforce negativity and destroy a sense of community.
I choose the former.
What I hate about people being offended by political correctness, is their need to justify their use of hurtful language by saying being politically correct is overrated or that it is too extreme, that everyone is afraid to say what is really on their minds because of it. Hurting someone and knowing you are hurting someone by the language you use is indefensible.
One is still capable of saying what is on their mind, even if not a popular point of view, without being offensive, if one takes the time to search themselves for the right words.
The term itself has been distorted. Perhaps in an effort by some, to distract from real issues that need attention, issues of race, class and poverty and to avoid dealing with institutional discrimination found at every level of our society. It’s easy to avoid addressing substantive matters when you instead choose to focus on the use of language getting in the way of addressing these matters.
The reality is that the language matters and saying things that offend is not okay. Period. End of story. It’s never been clear to me why people are offended by the desire not to be offensive.
People like to say that being politically correct stifles the truth. I disagree. The simple truth is that political correctness, in it’s purest form, requires one thing. It requires thinking before you speak. This does not mean that you cannot speak your mind. It means you should simply choose your words carefully, take time to craft a thoughtful response and know what you are talking about before you open your mouth.
Being politically correct does not mean you need to sugar coat what you say. It only means that you should speak your mind with care.
This was never an offensive concept before the term political correctness became such a divisive phrase. It doesn’t have to be. And it shouldn’t be.
True political correctness does not ask you to censor yourself. It simply reinforces what many of our mothers taught us growing up…”if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”
It’s not a new idea.