“Political correctness” is a hot-button issue as of late. It’s hard to look anywhere without finding something potentially offensive.
Most dictionaries would define “political correctness” as something like “avoiding doing or saying things that may offend certain groups of people.” An example of this in national news is seen following the Charleston church shooting in June. After photos of the shooter with a Confederate flag emerged, many people began calling for the flag to be banned, insisting it was a symbol of slavery and white supremacism. Companies like Amazon and Walmart stopped selling products with the Confederate flag on it. A trio of students were recently suspended following a fight over a student’s backpack with the controversial flag attached.
An increasing trend towards political correctness is being seen on college campuses. Several notable comedians, including Jerry Seinfeld and Chris Rock, have both indicated unwillingness to perform at colleges for fear of being too offensive in their humor. The University of Wisconsin released a list of “racial micro-aggressions” for students to avoid, which included asking minorities “Where are you from?” and asking an Asian person to help with a math or science problem. Last year, Elon University in North Carolina banned the word “freshman”, claimed to be a sexist term that, when referring to first-year female students, suggests they are viable targets for sexual violence.
Proponents of political correctness say they are only interested in treating people with respect. Opponents say this “respect” is stifling to free speech.
It’s hard to avoid being offended, but learning how to not take offense is perhaps the best solution to offensive situations. Such an idea is not new; a 19th century children’s rhyme expresses it thus:
Sticks and stones may break my bones
But words will never hurt me.
If children can understand it, adults certainly can. People need to recognize that others will say or do offensive things that are not worth fighting over.