On reclaiming political correctness: challenging censorship misconception

The way conservatives portray the idea of political correctness is dramatic and incorrect, to say the least. By their reckoning, it is a threat that has been terrorizing innocents for almost three decades. It represents a living nightmare of Orwellian proportions: forcing well-intentioned people to hide their thoughts and allowing the wicked to dominate the conversation. 

This narrative is a complete fabrication, attempting to villainize a concept that aims to protect individuals. Political correctness is a relatively inoffensive idea that focuses on correcting the unintentional implications that occur within the English language. 

Problems with political correctness began in the 1990s. The term politically correct was connected to Stalinist orthodoxy and was formally used more, “with irony and disapproval than with reverence,” according to The New York Times.

The term gained popularity when it was applied to the story of college students to hounding a supposedly racist professor, according to The New York Times. Professor Gribben worked at the University of Texas and proposed a curriculum change, which caused a negative outcry from the student body.  Gribben was denounced in the campus newspaper and was called a ‘right-winger,’ according to The New York Times.

The professor later debunked the story, by explaining his perspective, however, the damage was already done. Due to this specific incident, and others like it, protestors and progressives have become the face of political correctness. Furthermore, conservative individuals who speak out regarding their beliefs found a scapegoat to blame when their beliefs were challenged. The idea of being politically correct is something they could criticize and pin all of their oratorical offences and failings. 

Many individuals claim that political correctness is associated with censorship and label it as submission. Overall, political correctness has lost its meaning and has become a label. At this point, it is more likely to generate rage at the status quo than to cultivate cultural sensitivity.

Feminism has undergone a similar misrepresentation. For many people, feminism has come to represent female superiority due to a few individuals who expressed that belief. 

Self-identification as a feminist, however, does not mean an individual is ideologically consistent with feminism. Feminism does not stand for female superiority, and no amount of debate can change the definition of the term. Poor representatives of political correctness have similarly corrupted the term to the public.

Political correctness is supposed to be about exact communication and sensitivity; it is a social correction on an unintentional breach of social etiquette. For example, a politically correct person draws attention to the use of the word “gay” as a derogatory comment on the basis that they believe the user is not being intentionally homophobic. 

Political correctness is not censorship. In many cases, the correction is not made because an individual found the comment offensive, but that they feel it could be offensive to another individual. 

It should be noted, however, that political correctness has nothing to do with the matter of intentional racism, bigotry or sexism. In those cases, the speaker is conveying his intended message without any miscommunication.

Unfortunately, the idea of political correctness has been politicized and villainized past the point of no return. It has become a buzzword capable of justifying hate speech and electrifying a crowd. Its definition has become an emotional association in the same vein as climate change. 

Political correctness needs a dramatic rebranding to becomemore than a talking point in the future.

Opponents of political correctness should consider what is more important—the ability to be publicly ignorant without contradiction, or to be sensitive to the experiences and history of other Americans.