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In Defense of Political Correctness

Trump - The Ringleader of Bigotry

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Political Correctness - Good Intentions

Personally, I have never liked the proverb -
"the road to hell is paved with good intentions".

Good intentions are their own justification.
Political correctness has good intentions; it sometimes fails in execution.

  • Change is clumsy.
  • Change is uncomfortable.
  • Change causes animosity.
  • Change requires consistent practice.
  • Yet, change is one of the few constants life offers.


Society is changing, it wants to be better, more inclusive, less marginalizing. Donald Trump's appeals to regressive old attitudes about race and language decency is alarming; his rise to the presumed Republican nomination for President of The United States is evidence that not only should political correctness matter, but it is critical for America to mature psychologically and emotionally. Trump's overtly bigoted pandering to the juvenile, fearful, narrow-minded bigots, manipulating their fears with incorrigible racism and misogyny is validating for a specific group of people that want their reactionary views legitimized.
Political correctness, even in its annoying, bumbling awkward and bitterly contentious application, political correctness is a necessary shift for public language. In a culture where perception matters, like here in the United States, making the effort to change the language is critical to our maturity as a society.

Language and the tone we inhabit in our social discourse is critically important. Language that is inclusive, respectful. Words and terms that don't diminish, demean or depreciate ones social status. Language can marginalize groups, language can also help restore the previously socially marginalized.
Political correctness is why 'retarded' is now 'learning disabled'. 'Retarded' had become a pejorative in American culture, a school yard bully term used to demean. Political correctness is why there are no more actresses, women are simply actors, no more comediennes, only comedians, no more songstresses, only singers or vocalists.

Political correctness can also be absurd. 'Thought shower' was coined as a politically correct term for 'brainstorm'. Brain storm was thought to be insensitive to those with epileptic disorder. 'Differently abled' was concocted to be politically correct for handicapped.

The major motivation of political correctness is amending language and tone around race and gender, hoping society evolves to a more equitable relationship with each other.

Political Correctness - Self Determination

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Origins

Political correctness in its present context was born in the "new left" movement of the 1960s and '70s. This new left formulated after the classic leftist, socialist and communist structures were decimated by the paranoid, unconsitutional McCarthyism of the 1950s. The classic or 'old left' was more focused on workers rights, the relationship of labor to capital. Social/cultural issues were acknowledged, but not their major focus.

The new left emerged from college campuses. Academia was much more resistant to anti-constitutional suppression of thought. Students were freer to explore and experiment with alternative ideologies and their application. So, in the ashes of the classic vanguard socialist and communist left, wrecked by McCarthyism, the new left formed.

Political correctness in its present context is widely attributed to writer Toni Cade Bambara, in her essay The Black Woman: An Anthology (1970), Toni wrote:
"a man cannot be politically correct and a [male] chauvinist, too."

Progressives and leftists often used to the term in their own circles, as a reminder of their own resistance to trans-formative cultural change. The term - politically correct - became PC in leftist circles, but wasn't in mainstream usage until the 1980s and the Reagan administration's resistance to it. That resistance was founded on the resurgent conservative movement's war on academia. After the momentous gains of the left from the mid-1960s to the late 1970s, Reagan's election symbolized a conservative backlash, a regression. Activism on college campuses became non-existent. Social movements that were starting to find a voice in government and the media hit a stone wall with the election of Reagan and the conservative revolution. Gil Troy of the - Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History writes:

"Critics consider the Reagan Revolution reactionary, an assault against the great liberal gains that, over the previous fifty years, had democratized and humanized America. They claim Reagan widened the gap between rich and poor, encouraged greed, and threatened the accomplishments of the civil rights, feminist, and environmental movements. The intensity of the ongoing debate more than three decades after his inauguration demonstrates the Reagan Revolution’s continuing resonance."

Resistance to PC culture was to conservatives, resistance to the ideas and efforts of the left in general, it continues to this day.

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Freedom of Speech - Not Freedom From Consequences

There are few if any laws mandating political correctness, nor should there be. Activists and academics provided us with a linguistic framework for social equality, while still acknowledging each person's unique expression and challenges. PC is not melting pot "we're all the same" American disingenuous platitude. PC is founded in the spirit of the cultural mosaic, community cultural strength through diversity. Individuals don't have to contort themselves to 'blend in' to the melting pot, people are able to express their full uniqueness in a mosaic society.
The standardized version of what an American is changes. What represents an American becomes a broader, more inclusive vision. Expanding that vision requires language changes.

Those language changes are not codified legally, they're slowly, sometimes discouraging and even a woefully painful striving to become cultural norms. The personal consequences of not at least trying to be PC are not legal ones, they're social. Ones livelihood can be adversely affected. However, the 1st amendment is protection against legal consequences. Which is the the largest misnomer about PC. One is not legally responsible for being non-PC.

The 1st amendment is constitutionally protected speech. However, the 1st amendment does not offer protection from the social consequences of speech. The bill of rights free speech assurances does not translate to employment, business relationships or social interactions. Such is the natural order, those that refuse to acknowledge or make the effort in the face of trans-formative change endure consequences, social, not legal consequences.
PC is awkward, its proponents can be overbearing, but PC signifies the next chapter in humanity's social evolution. As PC evolves itself, it will be less bumbling, its proponents will become less strident and demanding. PC will develop a grace of its own, as society begins to appreciate the beauty, the resilience, of a diverse, more dialectic-ally thoughtful society.

All Change is Initially Ridiculed

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Presently PC is Mainly Ridiculed

While researching this piece it was exceedingly difficult to find any sources that were supportive of PC. What came to mind is the south of the 1950s. One would have been hard-pressed to find any sources that supported integration.
Momentous courage over several decades brought civil and voting rights to the disenfranchised. Although I'm not proposing legal remedies for speech mandating PC, even if it were legally possible. I believe in humanity collectively, I believe the majority of people want to be equitable, want inclusiveness and empathetic relations to diverse others. The forces of regression are loud, shrill...even boastful now. I think it the last desperate stand of bigots.
Youngsters on college campuses have found their voices again, after decades of relative silence. Publicly those young folks embrace PC, if not personally.
I am optimistic.

One Love,

Duane Townsend

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16 comments

annart profile image

annart 8 months ago from SW England

I agree with most of your points. Sadly, it's not usually the change that is the problem, it's the way people take it to extremes.

The origins of the 'political' part were (here, at least) to get 'one up' on the opposition. In Britain, political correctness has gone totally barmy! I've written a hub on it.

PC is great when it brings respect, tolerance and understanding, but then that should exist anyway.

Great hub!

Ann


Duane Townsend profile image

Duane Townsend 8 months ago from Detroit Author

Thanks for reading Ann. Your added perspective is appreciated.


Shadrack2 profile image

Shadrack2 8 months ago

Such an interesting perspective. I love the way you have brought it out.


Duane Townsend profile image

Duane Townsend 8 months ago from Detroit Author

Thank you Shadrake2.


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 8 months ago from Mechanicsburg, PA

Duane, this is a well written and heartfelt defense of your point of view. I disagree with your premise, but you presented it very well.

Why do I disagree? Because PC is inherently coercive. The whole point of it is to force everyone in the society into speech conformity through the use of massive and punitive social pressure. The purpose is to enforce a shift toward a more "progressive" outlook. You explicitly acknowledge that when you note that conservatives are usually anti-PC while progressives are usually the PC police. Why is that? Obviously it is because PC is designed basically to force people to speak, and therefore eventually to think, in a way progressives approve.

Thus, PC is not neutral, but is a weapon for beating down opponents on the other side of the cultural and political divide.

Who defines PC? It is the cultural elites, the gatekeepers of mass communication. It's certainly not the grass roots. Social media is notoriously non-PC. So, PC serves to enforce fealty to the societal norms favored by the culturally powerful, who, like any other set of human beings, are interested in perpetuating their own power and worldview.

This is not at all to say that the people who rail against PC are on the side of the angels. What they usually are crying about is being criticized for their use of abusive, disrespectful, and denigrating language toward people and groups they dislike. They should be criticized. They should be subjected to “the social consequences” of speaking in ways that belittle people they consider to not be part of their cultural tribe.

But that’s very different from approving the enforcement of PC as a societal norm. If I refer to someone as an actress, I’ve denigrated nobody. In fact, I may just be congratulating Brie Larson for winning the Best Actress prize at the Academy Awards.

Abusive speech takes place on both sides of the political spectrum. PC effectively attempts to forcibly stack the deck against one side of that spectrum and in favor of the other. By doing so, it becomes abusive in its own right.


Duane Townsend profile image

Duane Townsend 8 months ago from Detroit Author

Ron...thank you for reading and responding. This is an important discussion that needs to happen.

You present so many points it's gonna be tough to consolidate an efficient response.

Yes, social media is notoriously non-PC. I have no issues with that. Page moderators and social media sites have done a good job in trying to minimize incendiary language and derogatory comments. There is no 'force' involved, these are individual people or groups that decided that decency and respect for all matters.

When you refer to a woman actor as an actress, that does communicate a 'lesser' professional expression than being a actor. Words do have history, labeling women with a noun -actress- that are performing the same vocation as men, is a change that needs to be made. People that act are called -actors.

There are no laws against smoking, however, smoking is highly unacceptable in society now. I would say the same, about old, non-PC language. PC society learning to address itself in a more equitable manner.


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 8 months ago from Mechanicsburg, PA

Duane, on the use of "actress" - I deliberately tied it to the example of the Academy Awards Best Actress award to show that the term is considered offensive, except for when it's not.

In other words, some people decided that an "actress" was somehow a lesser being than an "actor." Isn't it derogatory in itself to say that the feminine form of a word is inherently inferior to the masculine? PC never demands that all thespians be called "actresses." Isn't that a rather obvious bias in itself? Isn't it clear that the choice of "actor" rather than "actress" is either entirely arbitrary, or an admission that those trying to impose that usage, though they probably would never admit it even to themselves, actually do consider anything identified as female to be inferior to what is identified as male?

In my opinion the use of "actor" as the only descriptor for both men and women of that profession is not something that arose from the grassroots, but something imposed, as I say above, by the culturally elite gatekeepers of mass communication. In the process, they unwittingly reveal their own prejudices.


roob profile image

roob 8 months ago

How about people act in a real manner? Why can't they be "true" instead of pc. I mean who would honestly want someone to act politically correct after all the politically correct lies that have been told.


Duane Townsend profile image

Duane Townsend 8 months ago from Detroit Author

Ron...Those people that decided actress wasn't acceptable to them anymore were the women actors.

(See Toni Morrison's image and quote above in the article)


Duane Townsend profile image

Duane Townsend 8 months ago from Detroit Author

roob...Sounds like you're saying PC leads to dishonesty.

Please explain.


Big E 8 months ago

Let me let you in on a secret. You do not have to watch what you say nearly as much when you are black. Black skin is like a shield.

it is possible to change you appearance to black. They have a dark chocolate tan. They have wigs. Or shave your head. Color contacts for eyes. Renew drivers license picture and live as a black person.


Duane Townsend profile image

Duane Townsend 8 months ago from Detroit Author

Big E... Your comment is dangerously close to a troll. I approved it just in case you intended to make a more reasonable point.


roob profile image

roob 8 months ago

@Duane Townsend: Yes sir I am, when people are being politically correct they are at the least changing their tone and use of words to sound a certain way or appease a certain crowd. Some things they believe they can't say because they aren't politically correct. Very often the truth is not politically correct, that is what I mean!


Duane Townsend profile image

Duane Townsend 8 months ago from Detroit Author

roob...

Yours is a false analogy.

The point being, one can speak their truth in a manner that is respectful to others.


roob profile image

roob 8 months ago

thats your opinion boy unless you can prove me wrong lol. The govt has been pc for as long as they have been corrupt. Maybe you like being lied to and not hearing the truth. I don't know. I would rather hear it as it really is instead of sugar coat. Gay people are gay. I don't need to say homosexual. People should stop being so sensitive and trying to act all sophisticated. Behind closed doors all these proper people are as big as sinners as everyone else. They just look that much more shady when they get caught doing something not PC.


Duane Townsend profile image

Duane Townsend 8 months ago from Detroit Author

roob...

I'm approving your comment. The world needs to see the absurdity of the anti-PC argument.

Seems you're anti-PC simply because you want to be disrespectful to others. You called me 'boy'.

You're the perfect example of the majority of anti-PC'ers.

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