I am politically correct. I think women doing comparable work should receive the same pay as men. I believe that universities should seek out faculty members from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds. I am angered when innocent, unarmed African-Americans are shot and killed by the police. I support programs that aid homeless people, feed poor children and recycle.
What’s wrong with that?
It has become trendy lately to point fingers at the so-called politically correct as the “thought police,” “new McCarthyists,” even “neo-Nazis.” Critics have denounced politically correct language and multiculturalism in a deluge of newspaper and magazine articles. PC opponents have waged a blistering attack on college campuses across the country, rejecting what they claim is regimented language and behavior. Indeed, PC-bashing is all the rage.
But political correctness is not about blindly policing language; it is about making conscious behavioral and linguistic choices and understanding why it is appropriate to do so. It is PC to call a 25-year-old female a “woman” rather than a ”girl,” because it puts her on equal footing with her male counterparts, who are not called “boys.” It is PC to say “humanity” and “police officer” instead of “mankind” and “policeman” because gender-neutral terms do not exclude or devalue women.
Women and minorities have long been required to check their speech and behavior. They have been taught to stifle themselves to accommodate the sensibilities of others and to never create a scene. Thus, women do not always speak up when men sexually harass them on the street. People of color don’t always protest when they hear a prejudiced remark. Gay men often remain silent when they’re called a “faggot.”
Now, after years of making political and social inroads, a number of women and minorities have gained the confidence to speak up and challenge demeaning labels and attitudes. They are now asking people to watch their speech in order to avoid offending others, something that they have been doing for years. PC opponents feel persecuted by such a request. To them, monitoring their language is a new and distasteful concept. What they don’t realize is that everyone else has been doing it all along.
Contrary to what the critics would have us believe, no one is being forced to acquire PC language or behavior. It’s just that the voices that were once ignored or silenced are beginning to finally be heard, and they are making it known that they are tired of the derogatory behavior and language that until now has been accepted as the norm. The fact that so many people regard this request for a little respect as an egregious threat shows just how important the PC movement is.
It is ironic that PC people are accused of intolerance, when political correctness is all about tolerance. It’s about respect for human beings, bassic manners and common decency.
PC means not whistling at women when they walk down the street, not waving the Confederate flag, not verbally abusing LGBT people and not beating a man half to death just because he is black. If you think about it, you just might be PC yourself.