“I’m very depressed how in this country you can be told ‘That’s offensive’ as though those two words constitute an argument.” – Christopher Hitchens
I am liberal on most issues. Nevertheless, I am fed up with political correctness (PC). One dictionary defines PC as “the avoidance of forms of expression or action that are perceived to exclude, marginalize, or insult groups of people who are socially disadvantaged or discriminated against.”
The problem with that definition is the word “perceived.” Who is the perceiver? Some may perceive an Internet meme about suicide bombers as insulting to all Muslims while others find it funny because it pokes fun at a particular subset of Muslims.
I offer my own definition of PC. It is a doctrine that elevates sensitivity to others over truth. It is true that some Muslims are suicide bombers. Yet PC tells us we can’t poke fun at that fact or even mention it. If we do, the PC crowd labels us “Islamophobic” or accuses us of promoting “hate speech.” And it is much easier to label someone an “Islamophobe” than do the hard work of intelligently discussing the reality of radical Islamic terrorism.
PC advocates often use language to try to shame others. For instance, they label those opposed to gay marriage “homophobes.” I support gay marriage, but I know people raised in a religious tradition that taught them marriage is between and man and a woman. To be “phobic” means to fear something. My friends that oppose gay marriage do not fear gays; they just grew up with a different definition of marriage. Using labels to avoid addressing the merits on an argument is intellectually lazy.
Examples of how ridiculous PC has become are plentiful. Not long ago students at the University of California in Irvine voted to ban the American flag to create a more “culturally inclusive” environment. They felt the flag might offend some because they see it as a sign of American imperialism. The irony of students using their First Amendment right of free speech, a value our flag symbolizes, to argue for banning the flag is difficult to miss.
PC begins in childhood these days. Now every child that plays a team sport gets a participation trophy. PC advocates don’t want children on the losing team to feel bad because players on the winning team received a trophy. This approach obscures the truth that one team won and the other lost. Watching the winning team receive a trophy should inspire children on the losing team to work harder and try to do better next time.
I am told some schools no longer force students to participate in physical education because, gosh, we wouldn’t want little Johnny to feel bad if he came in last in the mile run. Nevermind the truth that childhood obesity is rampant. Never mind the truth that little Johnny’s heart, lungs, and legs get stronger every time he runs.
While PC is often associated with liberals, conservatives offer their own forms of PC. Conservative school boards across the nation are attempting to force schools to teach a “clean” version of American history that ignores the truth that aspects of our history were fraught with racism, bigotry, brutality, and injustice.
Some people take PC so seriously that they have completely lost their sense of humor. A few months ago some boys at a frat house hung banners in front of their house. One read, “Freshman Daughter Drop Off” and another read, “Go Ahead and Drop Off Mom Too.” This outraged many feminists. They claimed, without any empirical evidence, such behavior promotes a “rape culture” on campus. I have two daughters, but I found the signs funny. The signs poked fun at the obvious truth that a great deal of consensual sex takes place on campus, some of it at frat houses. They poked fun at the image of frat houses popularized in the movie Animal House. (If you intend to write a letter to the editor, please come up with a better argument than, “You wouldn’t understand because you’re not a woman.” I’m not a pilot, but I understand how aircraft fly).
Any doctrine that sacrifices truth and free speech to avoid potentially offending someone is highly suspect. PC advocates are turning us into a nation of humorless wimps.
Finally, there is a difference between PC and good manners. Using the N-word to refer to a black person doesn’t promote truth – it’s just an offensive racial slur without any truth attached to it.