Smith: The landscape of “political correctness”


By Wylliam Smith

Something I find increasingly annoying is the lengths one must go to in order to not offend someone in 2017. A running gag is that it is almost impossible to make a joke in 2017 without somehow offending someone.

Now, I’m not condoning being  rude or a jerk. Rather, I am saying that nowadays, it seems as you do not share the exact same opinion as someone, then you are perceived as being “offensive.”

Sometimes, the scrambling people get themselves into trying not to be offensive in turn just makes the situation worse. For instance, one time when I was at work, a coworker was telling a story with a black person in it. She then corrected herself to African American, then looked at me and awkwardly and said, “Or whichever is politically correct.”

While I view myself as black, I don’t particularly care whether someone says black or African American, although that varies from person to person. Questions such as this are something I get consistently, and they always seem to just make the situation more offensive or uncomfortable than if the people had just followed their first statement.

Being polite is something that everyone should strive to do. Not only does it show professionalism, but it is just the right thing to do. A big part of being polite is making sure that you are politically correct, and the best way to do that sometimes is through asking questions. I just feel that in some cases, being “politically correct” has too many rules.

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Merriam-Webster defines political correctness as “conforming to a belief that language and practices which could offend political sensibilities [as in matters of sex or race] should be eliminated.”

I have no problems with this definition, and yes, one should make sure that they take everyone’s background into consideration to avoid being rude. Where I draw the line is when people either try way too hard to do this or abuse its definition entirely.

I already brought up how uncomfortable and annoying it can be when people try too hard to maintain political correctness, but that’s just one extreme to this trend. The other is how people get offended simply by others disagreeing with them.

Recently, I wrote an article in which I spoke of the LGBTQIA+ community. I referred to the community with those initials only to have people email me and get mad because I used the wrong ones. These people told me I should instead use the LGBT abbrevation, and that I wasn’t really bisexual because I did not use the language they preferred.

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Ignoring the attacks on my sexuality, I feel that this is where the problems in “political correctness” arise. People create their own definitions of what being politically correct means, and anyone who differs from that is not welcome in their group.

A similar situation with another Daily Iowan writer happened last week during a point versus counterpoint story that was published on Dec. 1. In the comments to that story, a reader said that one of the reporters should be fired because her viewpoint was not in line with the norm.

While political correctness is extremely important, nowadays, it seems that its meaning changes for everyone. This leads to people shunning those who don’t agree with their ideas or others being too scared to even speak because they don’t want to offend someone.

You must find the balance between the two extremes so that you both are being respectful and empathetic to everyone but also not ostracizing those who do not agree with common beliefs.

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