The Truth About Political Correctness
The phrase “politically correct” or “political correctness” is one that saturates the airwaves, social media, and ordinary conversation. It originally functioned as a pejorative to hang on individuals excessively sensitive about the language used to describe historically disadvantaged groups. Now, everyone seems to ready to employ it for all kinds of purposes. You should for the sake of successfully navigating your work, dating, and social lives know the truth about political correctness.
Let us deal first with those things with which it is has nothing to do. A person who is rude, ill-mannered, uncouth, or shows any other signs of being a flat out asshole cannot defend himself by charging others with political correctness. Such persons ought to be criticized for their behavior and be made to understand, to the extent possible, why their language and manners are unacceptable.
Another group that should not be allowed to hide behind the political correctness rejoinder consists of persons who speak falsehoods so egregious that they are clearly meant to antagonize and offend. Anyone reading these words will know that this magazine—including many of my own articles—deal with subjects that many readers might find offensive. However, there is a difference between making observations that may make some people feel uncomfortable and forging statements calculated to degrade the significance of some terrible event in history, or that attempt to substantiate racial stereotypes. Anyone who charges you with being politically correct for objecting to their use of slavery and Nazi analogies has not a leg to stand on. Continue to beat them—verbally—until they either retract what they’ve said or retreat from your presence.
Now for the instances in which you should take umbrage at the notion of political correctness. Any attempt to divert you from calling things by their proper names should be resisted. Murder, rape, theft, lying, stupidity, ignorance—these are all strong words; and they should be used when the occasion calls for it. Do not be conscripted into using euphemism or circumlocution when it is right to attach these words to individuals who have deserved them. In water cooler conversation, “black” rather than “African-American” is fine; and Latino is a perfectly acceptable catch-all for the many Americans whose ancestors hail from Mexico and various parts of Central and South America.
When among friends or in a social group that may include strangers, the topic of religion may come up. If it does, it is permissible to view religion as a set of ideas, because it is a set of ideas. Whether you are a believer or a non-believer, you should not feel as though you cannot criticize the belief systems of others. While it may be best to avoid the subject altogether, you are within your province to object to ideas you happen to disagree with. Criticizing faith is not an act of racism. For ideas and beliefs are not the same as peoples and racial groups.
The pressure to conform to politically correct language exists even in the dating world. The other day a friend of mine told me that a girl he took out on a first date objected to his use of the word “blowjob” when he was telling her something completely unrelated to the two of them. She found it degrading and insulting. Here, the problem is obvious: it is not with the man, but the girl. You should be able to use shorthand to describe an act that millions of women perform every day. Another friend was lambasted on Facebook for using the phrase “loose women” when describing the kind of women that a certain billionaire presidential candidate dated when a young man. If the woman who objected really believes that such women do not exist, she is either completely deluded or an abject fool.
The point is that people should not be allowed to get away with rude, ignorant, and bigoted comments by simply charging their interlocutors with political correctness. It is just as important, however, that the latter not be used to keep people from expressing themselves sincerely and authentically. In any case, if you are a person of good intention, sound diction, and common sense, you will have little need to pay any attention at all to the notion of political correctness.
About Christopher Reid Chris was born in Washington, D.C. and lives in Britain. He works as a blogger, essayist, and novelist. His first book, Tea with Maureen, has just been published.