The Pros & Cons of Political Correctness
Political Correctness as we know it is something that came to prominence in the 1990s (although the term is much older and had far different connotations). Since then, it has generally been used disparagingly as a critique of what some, in particular conservatives or those on the right of the political spectrum, see as thought policing and the unfavourable curbing of freedom of speech.
But what is political correctness? And has it been a help or a hindrance?
Oxford Languages defines political correctness (noun) as the avoidance of forms of expression or action that are perceived to exclude, marginalise, or insult groups of people who are socially disadvantaged or discriminated against.
In more recent years, there has been a much stronger division between those who attack what they consider to be woke, and those who take pride in being so.
As someone from an ethnic minority who experienced racism first hand as a child, political correctness has always been much more than a buzzword or some nebulous and distant concept. I have always thought of it as being synonymous with simply being considerate. Taking others' sensitivities into account when writing or speaking seems to me to be a decent thing to do. More so when dealing with those already vulnerable or disadvantaged.
Has political correctness helped those very vulnerable and disadvantaged people, though, or has it in fact hindered them? Certainly in terms of legal protections, it could be argued that minorities and historically oppressed groups have achieved important victories and equalities that are both needed and deserved. The current situation faced by transgender people, however, is illustrative of how there is still so much to be done and also of the galvanisation of reactionary forces.
Whether or not decades of political correctness has been a contributing factor to the rise and influence of said reactionary forces is a matter of debate. It probably has played a role as a useful target (even straw man in some instances) for many to attack. And there probably have been times when those labelled the PC brigade have gone too far, especially when it has shut down sensible and necessary discussion and debate (which should always be promoted).
What we cannot allow as a society, however, is anything to be used as an excuse to target, harass and continue to oppress those that are vulnerable or disadvantaged. During this PRIDE month, that is especially pertinent with regards to the trans community. And with so many refugees (especially those of colour) now facing unjustifiable treatment by those who are meant to afford them protection, we all need to remember the value of kindness and empathy...
'Give me knowledge so I may have kindness for all.'
- Plains Indians Proverb