A Defense of Political Correctness

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 unarmed black people are gunned down by the police. I support programs that help homeless people, fund AIDS research 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 non-sexist 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. They have been taught to stifle themselves to make sure that they do not make others feel uncomfortable, 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 now ask others to watch their speech in order to avoid offending others, something that they have been doing for years. PC opponents (mostly white men) feel persecuted by such a request. To them, watching what they say 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 insulting 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, progress, manners and basic decency.

PC means not whistling at women when they walk down the street. It means not waving the Confederate flag, not gay-bashing with verbal or physical violence and not beating a man half to death just because he is black. If you think about it, you just might be PC yourself.

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