‘PC madness’ serves necessary purpose


Jenna Liu

On a brightly lit stage in Cleveland’s Quicken Loans arena, Donald Trump listened to Megyn Kelly list the numerous derogatory names he had called women in the past; fat pigs, dogs, slobs and disgusting animals. After a quick pout, Trump quipped that he had only been referring to comedian and noted Trump enemy Rosie O’Donnell before lambasting the state of political correctness in America. The crowd roared with applause.
Political correctness has a distinctly negative connotation today, with many seeing it as an oversensitivity that limits their freedom of speech. Fox News regularly hosts commentators who fervently call for ‘an end to PC madness’ and dismiss any instance of offense as an overreaction.
What exactly is political correctness, though?
The phrase originated in the early 20th century, a product of Socialist pushback to the Stalinist doctrine. Socialists used “politically correct” to refer to individuals who valued loyalty to the Communist party over compassion and equality.
It’s ironic that a phrase that once applied to those who disregarded tolerance and justice is now being used to disparage people who aim to uphold those same principles.
For instance, when the South Carolina state congress debated displaying the Confederate flag at the capitol, hundreds rallied to oppose what they believed was political correctness destroying their heritage.
Yes, they believed that political correctness was the cause for people wanting to take down a symbol that encapsulates a heritage of slavery and racism. They did not consider the idea that maybe, just maybe, there was a legitimate reason for removing a symbol of hate. There has been so much vitriol against this so-called oversensitivity, but the same people who blast political correctness have rarely put any thought into why others may be offended or upset.
For many fierce opponents of the so-called ‘PC trend,’ a swing in the ideology of the general American population has caused a lot of discomfort. When a Christian bakery in Indiana sparked public outrage by turning away a gay couple, those opponents howled against political correctness. When Donald Trump used racially tinged rhetoric and garners backlash from Hispanic activists, those opponents raged against PC culture. For them, the fact that the majority of Americans have different views on what they consider to be acceptable behavior makes no difference. In their eyes, what doesn’t offend them should not offend anyone.
The impact of this mindset is a lack of dialogue that prevents real debate. If you have different opinions or perspectives than someone else, tell them. Just don’t wave around political correctness like it’s an infallible weapon of argumentation. It’s not. In fact, deploying that term is one of the laziest things you can do, as it provides no justification or warrant.
Political correctness is too often used as an umbrella for people to hide under and avoid the consequences of their words or actions. People have a right to react negatively to anything you say; your own personal beliefs have no influence on the legitimacy of theirs. What needs to happen is discussion, no matter how uncomfortable it might be, instead of pointing fingers at political correctness.
If someone believes they’re in the right, they should give a valid argument for why so. If not, they should apologize. Either way, it’s time for people to shut the umbrella on political correctness and face the rain, however hard it comes.