On Being Politically Correct

I see more and more posts going around social media about how being politically correct has ruined this, that, or the other. Basically, the argument is that being PC was once a good thing, but that it’s been taken too far, and that these days people just need to stop being so sensitive about anything. If we’d all stop being offended every time someone sneezed, then wouldn’t we all be happier?

And I get the argument. I understand that many many people end up using the wrong term for something or someone, and they end up making someone else feel bad by accident. And it can leave people who want to do the right thing feel like they’re caught in a stutter step, trying to remember what term they’re supposed to use when talking about something. What a pain, right?

Well . . .

I’ll concede that it can be difficult to remember sometimes. But I don’t think being PC or trying to not offend people is a bad thing. (I can’t believe I just had to type that sentence. Think about it for a minute. Really?) First off, I’d suggest avoiding the PC label, because that makes it much easier to dismiss. “Politically correct” is something that sounds like it could be distasteful. Or like it’s being done purely for selfish purposes. It’s the equivalent of “I don’t want to do this, but my parents are making me.”

So let’s just focus on trying to not offend people for a moment. And yes, I get that there seems to be an ever-growing number of ways to offend people, and groups who might be offended. It’s such a bother, right? Can’t we just all agree to stop being offended, and then we can all be happier?

An observation: almost all of the memes or posts I’ve seen going around have been from straight white men. Often older ones. I don’t see any coming from the groups who are supposedly being offended.

A second observation: I don’t see posts or memes about specific situations. I see people talking about “those people” who get offended about everything.

A third observation: one of the bannermen for the “stop being so PC” movement is Donald Trump.

Time for some conclusions:

  • The words we use every day have power. That’s why we use them. We speak to accomplish various things. Words have such power that advertisers are willing to pay millions of dollars so that people will listen to just 30 seconds of those words. Why? Because listening to those words makes people more likely to buy stuff.
  • Yes, it can be difficult sometimes to remember the right thing to say. But you know what’s more difficult? Having people constantly belittle you or ignore you or harass you, day in and day out. People aren’t being “overly sensitive.” This is something people would realize if they didn’t generalize all these “sensitive” people into a stereotype. When you talk to actual, real, breathing people who are struggling, you start to see the difference.
  • If you say the wrong thing? Apologize and try to do better. It’s simple. Don’t get defensive. Don’t accuse the “other people” of being too demanding. Admit you got it wrong, smile, and try to do better.

If there seems to be so many different terms and types of people we need to pay attention to these days, that’s a good thing. It means we as society are starting to recognize the fact that there are many many different groups out there. We saw the world in simple binary terms for so long, it shouldn’t be surprising that it’s upsetting to some to discover those “facts” are anything but. The world is a colorful, diverse place. I’m all for doing my best to stop forcing round pegs into square holes.

Bottom line for me: if I can help someone else by simply trying to use a different set of vocabulary terms, why in the world would I want to stubbornly refuse to do so? It costs me nothing.

And that’s about all I have to say about that.

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