I’ve often told people that political correctness is a reaction to people being impolite, little more. But it’s still worthwhile, I’d say, and being done for all the right reasons.
I think I was wrong. Political correctness has shifted, and become overoppressive for all the wrong reasons.
Language is power. The ways you label someone, the ways you call someone have a deep and direct effect on their lives. Originally, this was the point of political correctness. It was to explicitly call out the demeaning language, the slurs and ethnopaulisms. By naming the behaviors, by outlawing the behaviors, the hope was that the behaviors would go away.
This is not what happened.
Instead, it became impolite to even discuss the subject at all. The moment that happened, the moment that those with privelege began to claim outrage for themselves, the moment that injustices became silenced to avoid ruffling feathers, political correctness became a tool of oppression. We feel that we cannot talk about race, gender, or class without being branded as impolite.
No, really. White people don’t like talking about race.
White people – including children as young as 10 — may avoid talking about race so as not to appear prejudiced, according to new research. But that approach often backfires as blacks tend to view this “colorblind” approach as evidence of prejudice, especially when race is clearly relevant.
We cannot examine the realities that crimes of hate might just exist, even if they are never labeled hate crimes. We have nod-and-wink racist dogwhistles in campaigns (though, of course, everyone claims innocence). We have a Vice-Presidential candidate being subjected to ugly smears just because of her gender. We have Sen. McCain getting booed at his own rally for defending Sen. Obama. And we still have black people getting killed by white people when nobody’s looking, almost like it was a decade ago. (That not enough? Read further down in the same story where the same town “was in the news last year after a black girl was sentenced to up to seven years in a juvenile prison hundreds of miles from her home for shoving a teacher’s aide at school, while a white girl was sentenced by the same judge to probation for burning down her parents’ house.”)
This isn’t some subtle matter of perception – there are real damn reasons for people of color, women, gblt, and the differently abled to think they’re being persecuted. But talking about it makes people uncomfortable, which leads to the discussions being stifled (wrongly) in the name of political correctness.
You see, political correctness isn’t about everyone being comfortable. Facing up to the privelege that we have, facing the real challenges and difficulties is inherently not comfortable.
But it damn well might be correct.
[Edit: My wife opines that this might be self-censorship; because of specific experiences I think that the self-censorship is based in suppresion from those higher up on the social ladder.]