Political correctness is defined as “conforming to the belief that language and practices which could offend political sensibilities should be eliminated”. It typically entails the avoidance of expression that could be interpreted as offensive to socially disadvantaged groups of people. Political correctness has recently become an extremely debated issue that contributes to the political divide between Americans. The two main sides of the controversial argument support and refute the idea that political correctness, when put above common sense and the safety of citizens, can be detrimental to the nation and counterintuitive to the original motives and goals of the concept. But how much is political correctness responsible for the “unsafety” of our nation? And does ignoring it allow for the further belittling of social groups? Is political correctness even a strong enough force to hold people accountable for the marginalization of such groups?
Some people, specifically the white, wealthy elite, in our nation typically believe that being politically correct is inimical to our country because it can lead to unpreparedness. President Trump believes that by being politically correct, Americans are blind to facts and therefore putting our nation in danger. “They have put political correctness above common sense, above your safety, and above all else,” the President declared after a Muslim gunman killed 49 people at a nightclub in Orlando. “I refuse to be politically correct” (The Guardian). There have been many arguments like this that blame these disastrous events on Americans’ lack of truth. Conservatives, like President Trump, believe that the “sugar-coating” of truth in America leads to the unpreparedness and naivety that causes mass killings, terrorist attacks, and other terrible happenings in our nation. Platforms of multiple republican politicians include ideas such that America is plagued by “political correctness run amok” (Time). According to the vast majority of conservatives, political correctness no longer entails what its original motives called for.
Political correctness was first about recognizing the oppression that marginalized groups had faced in the past, but as time went on it became a term forced down the throats of American citizens. Americans became over-sensitive and were unable to function without being personally offended by every waking issue in the nation. It is a common belief that some Americans feel the need to assert themselves into every situation and allow themselves to become offended over issues that wouldn’t typically concern them. To provide a well known example, people who are not Native American becoming offended by the name of the NFL team, The Washington Redskins. The argument is that these people have a right to stand up for rights of all people, but do they have a right to affiliate themselves with the topic if they aren’t even affected? In other words, if they have no idea what it feels like to be part of the oppressed group, do they have a right to be offended? The sports team is arguably not degrading or making fun of Native Americans, so why the controversy in the first place? Regardless, there is probable cause to believe that being politically correct has a different meaning as the times have changed, but is being politically correct worth the safety of our nation, and how much fault can it assume for the vulnerability of our nation?
The other side of this argument provides a more ethical approach to this topic. By being politically incorrect, people tend to stereotype against minorities and therefore further marginalizing these groups. It is argued that being politically incorrect exposes the “truths” of social groups, but in reality being politically incorrect overexaggerates the truth and that can cause its own issues. By associating all Muslims with terrorists is an extreme over-exaggeration and stereotype. In theory, political correctness is meant to prevent the additional marginalization of socially discriminated groups (QZ). According to many advocates for political correctness, there has never been a time in history where the white male hasn’t been the most powerful group of people on the planet (New York Times). This discredits the conservative idea that they should be allowed to promote political incorrectness because they have never felt what it is like to be part of the marginalized groups in society. Why should the most powerful group of people on the planet be allowed to control what the alienated are not be offended by? What allows the white man to sacrifice the entirety of minorities for the success of other white men? Because if stereotyping the minorities in our country is done in order to protect the rest of America, the only group of people that political incorrectness would be protecting are white males. By sidelining the minorities — all women, all refugees, and all people of color — the only people left to do the sidelining are white men. According to this argument, by supporting political incorrectness, people are both knowingly or unknowingly supporting the social divide of our nation.
While both arguments exercise different appeals and have different ways of attracting interest, they both fail to recognize the importance of the other side. In order to stay true to the nation’s values of liberty and equality, but also to the values of safety and property, there needs to be a balance between the two sides of the argument. Americans need to be understanding and willing to look past differences. We, as a nation, need to understand that stereotyping will not make us more prepared; if anything it will make people on edge and cause more chaos. However, on the other side, Americans should understand that not every example of cultural adoption is a direct stab at that group of people. We need to understand that our safety can be compromised, but we need to accept that marginalizing our own people and others that need our help is not a way to solve that problem. To find a balance between these two arguments would lessen the political divide between the people in our nation and could sincerely help the people who are sidelined.
Political correctness in today’s society entails the avoidance of insulting forms of expression that can result in the further marginalization of socially deprived and segregated groups. However, like all things, there needs to be a balance between multiple extremes in order for it to benefit the entire nation (even if it doesn’t directly satisfy each and every person). In this case, when these two extreme ideas are taking into the consideration of all people in the nation, there is the possibility of a decrease in the social divide and an increase in unity throughout the nation.