When I begin to write a blog entry on this site, a question pops up. It asks, “What’s on your mind?” The answer for the last few days is the term “political correctness” bandied about for some years, and especially by Republican presidential candidates of late, as a way to disparage forms of speech often intended to stem hated and bias.
What is political correctness to you? When we don’t ask such questions of ourselves, terms like “PC” are used as propaganda. If we’re not paying attention, if we fail to question the appropriateness of their use, we are more easily persuaded. We are like sponges.
Having studied persuasion all of my career, watching how words are used is a significant part of what I do. And so it is with “political correctness.”
Here is one definition:
“Political correctness is a term primarily used as a pejorative to describe language, policies, or measures which are intended not to offend or disadvantage any particular group of people in society; in pejorative usage, those who use the term are generally implying that these policies are excessive.”
Excessive by what standard? Inconveniencing which people? It’s easy to refer to consideration for others by using words not offensive to them as “PC” — a negative thing. Is it really? At least, is it really in all cases or is it also a way to reduce conflict and to enhance civility?
More on this later. Just raising the issue right now. When is such consideration of people unlike ourselves in some way a negative thing, when is sensitivity to what might cause them offense simply too much in light of other concerns, and when is it a useful and productive way to raise our own sensitivity to cultural, gender, age, or other differences? The answers are not simple. Asking these questions of ourselves is important. At least then, we’re thinking. At least then we’re not duped.