By: Matthew Mantzouranis
“I am politically incorrect, that’s true. Political correctness to me is just intellectual terrorism. Everyone isn’t going to love you all [of] the time.”
– Mel Gibson
From what started out as an attempt to consolidate peace and social equality for all has turned into one of the biggest dividing forces of our time.
Main purpose of Political Correctness
Political correctness is a term that describes language, measures, or policies in such a way that does not offend any particular group of people in society. Following the Civil Rights Act in the United States in 1965, society wanted African-Americans and other minority groups to feel more socially accepted. Prior to the Civil Rights Act, such minority groups like the African-Americans were the victims of slavery, racial segregation, etc. In other words, they were oppressed for hundreds of years. During this time period, they were called such names like a ‘slave,’ ‘nigger,’ ‘cotton picker’ and other derogatory terms. Hence political correctness was used to bring about a form of social equality and tolerance amongst various minority groups – whether it be race, ethnicity, religion, sexuality, etc. For many years, the strict majority accepted this and found this to be fairly reasonable but in modern time, this simple concept spurred out of control.
How it is being used today
Today, the concept has drastically changed. The main problem that modern political correctness poses is the fact that it brings upon a form of fascism. Fascism is “a way of organizing a society in which a government ruled by a dictator controls the lives of the people and in which people are not allowed to disagree with the government.” However, political correctness is not controlled by the government or entrenched in a Constitution but it frequently comes in conflict with the law. In modern times, political correctness often conflicts with one’s fundamental rights (i.e. Freedom of Speech, belief, opinion). A simple disagreement or a differing belief leads into a wave of backlash. People who are politically correct typically look for every possible reason to be offended by an issue even if they are not actually being discriminated against.
According to section two of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, “everyone has the following fundamental freedoms: freedom of conscience and religion; freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication; freedom of peaceful assembly; and freedom of association.” These rights were to be protected and not taken away by the government. Section one of the Charter – also known as the ‘reasonable limits clause’ which explains that everyone has a right to express their freedoms as long as it does not bring harm to another individual/violate any laws (i.e. death threats are an illegal act hence free speech does not apply in that situation, hate speech, etc.). In regards to the United States, their first amendment highlights the same points as the first and second sections of Canada’s Charter. But in the minds of those who support political correctness, ‘minorities’ have a right to discriminate against others but not the other way around.
Politics is a fairly sensitive topic of conversation. Every four years in both Canada and the United States, Conservatives and Liberals engage in an election to decide which party should run their perspective countries. Like in any rivalry, there will be passionate supporters on both sides (i.e. Conservatives increasing military funding and Liberals increasing environmental funding) constantly debating which party is better for the country as well as mocking the opposing party for carrying on differing beliefs and ideas. In the United States, the General Election will be taking place in November of this year as the two main Presidential candidates Donald Trump (Republican) and Hillary Clinton (Democrat) will be battling to become the forty-fifth President.
On the morning of 24 March 2016, students of Atlanta’s Emory University – a fairly Liberal (Democratic) university – had woken up to pro-Trump chalk scribblings all over their campus reading “Trump 2016,” “Trump,” “Vote Trump” the same way that many Liberal supporters display Black Lives Matter and/or “Find [Syrian] refugees a home” posters. Many students reportedly felt threatened by these scribblings that they had begun staging protests. Many anti-Trump supporters feel that Donald Trump is attempting to keep Mexicans out of the United States, and expresses Islamophobia due to the fact that he wants to build a wall along the American-Mexican border and propose a temporary ban on Muslims. Therefore, the protestors at Emory University felt that since Mexicans and Muslims are ‘minority groups’, they felt the need to categorize and antagonize those Trump supporters at Emory University even if their proposed ejection from the university is a clear infringement on their fundamental right to support a political candidate.
There are two key things to take note of in this situation: political correctness and fundamental rights. The protestors were offended and felt threatened by these scribblings to the point that they wanted the supposed ‘perpetrators’ kicked out of Emory University. However, those who made these scribblings were exercising their freedom of belief and freedom of speech. Now, it is everyone’s right to protest but it is a completely different matter when the goal of the protest is to expel those who have differing opinions than their own. Whether or not one supports Mr. Trump is irrelevant as everyone has the right to support the candidate that they find to be the most favourable to them. Just because one is offended by what another individual believes in does not give the ‘offended’ individuals the right to try and strip the latter from their constitutional right.
Although politics always includes differing viewpoints that divides each other from an ideological standpoint, political correctness promotes intolerance towards the opposing ideology. Like in the example above, Republicans and Democrats have a differing belief system – much like Blue Jays and Yankees fans – but the two individuals supporting the two different parties could still get along as long as they treat each other like equal individuals with respect. However, political correctness seeks to be intolerant to and antagonize those who have different beliefs like how many protestors at Emory University demanded those Trump supporters to be kicked out of the university. Whether an anti-Trump supporter believes that Donald Trump is a racist or if an anti-Bernie supporter believes that Bernie Sanders promotes laziness should not affect those who support the two candidates as long as the two individuals treat each other with respect.
Religion is another sensitive topic of conversation. There are plenty of different religions in the world: Christianity, Islam, Hindu, etc. In 2013, Audrey Jarvis, 19, was told to remove her cross necklace by Sonoma State University in northern California. The reason for this was because “other students might find it offensive.” This clearly violated her freedom of religious belief.
Everyone has the right to practice any religion as they see fit as long as it does not violate any laws. Since the goal of political correctness is to make sure that no group of people get offended – even if no illegal offence was made – those who support political correctness feel that infringing one’s fundamental rights is completely justified. See the problem? Since Christianity was known as the primary religion at one time, that makes all of the other religions ‘minority religions.’ Hence, political correctness divides Christianity from every other religion.
As political correctness sought to remove social discrimination by getting rid of offensive terminology, they brought in new terms to describe certain scenarios. But many of the original terms that political correctness replaced did not even provide an ounce of discrimination to begin with.
Here are a few terms that were changed in favour of political correctness:
|Original Term||Politically Correct Term|
|Broken Home||Dysfunctional family|
|Foreign Food||Ethnic cuisine|
|Garbage Man||Sanitation Engineer|
|Illegal Alien||Undocumented Workers|
|Sex Change||Gender re-assignment|
If one were to pronounce one of these original terms instead of the politically correct term, they would be publicly shamed by those who support political correctness even if the term was not even offensive. How could the term, ‘garbage man’ be offensive if collecting garbage is what they do? If you have to sit down and critically think about how a simple term like that could be perceived as offensive, it is not worth changing the term. Compare that to an African-American being called a ‘cotton picker.’ Calling an African-American a ‘cotton picker’ has a racist intent and meaning behind it hence why disallowing the use of that term was essential. But being called a ‘garbage man’ when one drives around in a garbage truck collecting garbage does not have any discriminatory meaning behind it. Also, if one has a white skin color, how could the term ‘white’ be offensive? Feel free to look at the rest of the terms displayed above. Again, if you have to critically think about whether or not any of these words can be perceived as offensive, there is no point on trying to change the term.
Everyone who celebrates Christmas or has heard about Christmas knows that Santa Claus plays a big role in the traditional holiday. Santa Claus is the fictional character who drives around in a sleigh delivering presents to all of the good kids at midnight after they have fallen asleep. But in 2007, “Santa Clauses in Sydney, Australia, were forced to revolt for the right to say ‘Ho Ho Ho’, the traditional laugh of jolly old St. Nick.” It turned out that their employer from the recruitment firm, Westaff – who supplies hundreds of Santa’s in Australia – believed that Santa’s laugh “could frighten children and be derogatory to women.” How could this be derogatory to women? Because it is too close to the American slang word ‘hoe,’ meaning prostitute. However, when this story broke nationally, Westaff changed their mind on the matter. This was a classic example of political correctness trying to find a way to turn a classical Christmas tradition into something that can be seen as offensive even if the intent behind the laugh was not meant for prostitution purposes.
If you are still not convinced that Political Correctness has gone too far…
Imagine you are an American citizen who is proud to carry the American flag and wear American flag t-shirts. Then one day, you are sent home from an American high school for wearing your American flag t-shirt. How could this possibly offend anyone? Oh wait, it is because you wore it on Cinco de Mayo, a Mexican holiday. On 5 May 2009, many Mexican Americans from Live Oak High School south of San Jose felt that students wearing a t-shirt with the American flag on the Mexican holiday, Cinco de Mayo was disrespectful and threatening and called those wearing the American flag a bunch of racists before complaining to Assistant Principal, Miguel Rodriguez. Therefore, “fearing violence, the assistant principal told several of the white students wearing the American flag that they had to turn their shirts inside out or go home. They chose to leave.” Take a step back and think about what this means. These students were not even allowed to wear their own nation’s flag in their own nation just because the day fell on another nation’s holiday. Wrap your head around that.
To make matters worse, in 2015, the Supreme Court rejected an appeal that the students’ free speech was violated in the affair. This further explains how political correctness further divides nations. If one cannot wear their own country’s flag in their own country, I do not know how it could get any worse. It is like if Canadians were told not to wear a t-shirt with the Canadian flag on it in downtown Toronto on the Fourth of July – American Independence Day – because it could offend Americans living in Canada.
“It rewards those who believe the flag is a symbol of hostility toward minorities. If they think there is a problem, then don’t hold a Cinco de Mayo celebration.”
– William Becker, a lawyer who sued on behalf of several parents
Creation of Safe Spaces on College Campuses
In order to shield differing opinions that could very well offend certain groups of people, safe spaces are being created – especially on college campuses. By definition, “a safe space is a place where anyone can relax and be able to fully express, without fear of being made to feel uncomfortable, unwelcome, or unsafe on account of biological sex, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, cultural background, religious affiliation, age, or physical or mental ability.” The irony about the creation of safe spaces is that the majority of them are created for those who support political correctness, not those who suppress it.
Although one could argue that safe spaces are a violation of one’s freedom of speech, safe spaces by law are legal. However, this does not benefit individuals from an educational standpoint.
In order to fully understand an issue, one has to acknowledge all sides of the argument rather than shielding themselves from the opposing argument(s). In other words, if one is not politically correct, they are not allowed to ‘violate’ another’s safe space.
“The whole purpose of college is to learn how to deal with difficult situations, not to run away from them…one of the most dangerous places on a college campus is the so-called ‘safe space’ because it creates a false impression that we can isolate ourselves from different views.”
– Michael Bloomberg during the University of Michigan’s graduation
Let us take one of the most controversial figures in world history, Adolf Hitler as an example. As many already know, Hitler was responsible for the holocaust which killed eleven million Jews. On the other hand, he was also responsible for drastically improving Germany’s economy in the 1930s, resulting in the recreation of the German empire. One could also make the argument that Hitler was a very good leader. But since this is a sensitive topic, many politically correct individuals would refuse to talk about it, leaving those who are open-minded to see how this argument could make sense. But those who are close-minded and thus retreat to safe spaces as a result of this topic will refuse to acknowledge any information that they simply do not agree with.
Safe spaces deny individuals from expanding on knowledge and having intellectual conversations. Again, using the holocaust as an example, many historians often wonder why Hitler killed eleven million Jews. Here is a typical conversation between an open-minded person (person A) and a close-minded person (person B):
Person A: Why do you think that Hitler killed eleven million Jews?
Person B: Because he hated them.
Person A: Why do you think that he hated them?
Person B: Because he was racist.
Person A: Well technically, Judaism is a religion. So that cannot be as race and religion are two different things.
Person B: Why are you defending him? You’re racist too! *Leaves*
This is the average conversation that the two kinds of people would have. As one could see, person B – refusing to acknowledge that Judaism is a religion rather than a race – resorts to insulting person A for proving a part of their narrative wrong. Person A was not even defending Hitler, he/she just did not want to believe in false information. Telling and even proving one who’s politically correct is wrong often results in them retreating to a safe space because they felt that their belief system was attacked. This form of political correctness attempts to smear the latter who holds a differing opinion as a racist – or any other similar term – even if an act of racism was never present.
No one could run away from differing opinions forever. If safe spaces help shield individuals from difficult situations, how would those individuals learn how to deal with real-life problems in the workplace? If safe spaces ‘help’ isolate individuals from differing views, how could they run for positions in office when they have to hear other political parties’ differing views on how the country should be run? Safe spaces eliminate the possibility of having a simple conversation with different individuals holding different opinions because those who retreat to safe spaces are often afraid of hearing an opposing argument. Professors teach students how to argue, what arguments could and could not be made, etc. but if the student refuses to acknowledge both sides of an argument, there is no reason to believe that those students would ever be successful.
In conclusion, political correctness went from displaying common courtesy to rid discrimination from minority groups into a full-blown attempt to censor fundamental rights. It went from preventing derogatory terms to showing intolerance to those with differing beliefs – also known as bigotry. Modern day political correctness presents nothing but fascism that disallows citizens from supporting a different political party, believing in a different religion, pronouncing words that have no discriminatory meaning behind them, wearing your own nation’s flag within your nation, and much more.