Recently, Donald Trump has made a lot of bold (read: offensive) statements that have garnered him a lot of attention, leading to him being the frontrunner for the GOP nomination. His “claim to fame”, so to speak, is his refusal to be politically correct. While I vehemently disagree with Trump and what he stands for, and abhor his blatant racism and sexism, I understand his (and others’) frustration with the political correctness movement. With so many different groups in society, it is hard to know what isn’t offensive and what is. But that doesn’t excuse not trying.
The term “political correctness” is a little bit of a misnomer. It’s less about actually being “correct”, but rather treating everyone, regardless of their race, sex, gender, religion, culture, etc. with equal respect and compassion. It can be difficult to navigate this landscape with politically correct terminology; As a Cosmopolitan article points out, it appears that “good people with good intentions” can be shut out of discussions because they are not aware of what is politically correct language. I disagree with this statement; political correctness is not designed to exclude people from the conversation. Rather it serves to make conversation inclusionary of all groups. Most of it is basic common sense.
If you want to know how to ensure that you are being politically correct, I would strongly suggest reading this Wikihow article, as it offers really sound advice. I’ll summarize the points below:
- To become more politically correct, assess your own prejudices, and look at how those prejudices manifest in your life.
- Don’t be afraid to ask others what is the politically correct term for an individual or group- it is far better to ask than to inadvertently insult someone
- Respect people of different races.
- many common phrases are actually insulting. “Chinese auction”, “gyp” (coming from a demeaning term for Roma, or Gypsies), “Jew down” (meaning to negotiate), etc come from cultural arrogance and a lack of diversity
- Many common words are inherently offensive, such as “gypsy” or “Oriental.” Instead, use “Roma” or “Asian”, respectively.
- Common actions, like choosing a Halloween costume, involve cultural appropriation (for a look at this problem look at an earlier article I wrote.)
- essentially, this is borrowing aspects of culture from an oppressed group (such as people of color or Native American) and using it as a “trend” or a “game” without facing the discrimination that a member of the oppressed group would face for doing the same thing.
- Never make sexist, racist, or homophobic jokes. They are always politically incorrect.
Use language that includes LGBTQIA people. Some people are bisexual, transgender, asexual, genderfluid, etc. and they deserve respect and inclusion. Try to use gender-neutral language.
- For example, ask “do you have a partner?” instead of “do you have a boyfriend/girlfriend?” Don’t assume all people are heterosexual.
- respect everyone’s gender identity that they want you to recognize them as.
- Try to avoid gendering things, like jobs or traits.
- Support victims of abuse, sexual harassment or rape.
- While doing this, acknowledge that most victims, but not all, are female. Use gender-inclusive language.
- Avoid expressions that demean those with disabilities.
- Be accepting towards people of different sizes.
When you really think about it, it isn’t that difficult to be politically correct. Sure, you might slip up, and if you do apologize for your mistake. But being politically correct isn’t meant to prevent you from speaking your mind. As critics have claimed, it is not “thought policing” and it certainly isn’t tyranny. It’s common courtesy- why should we be trying to offend people? Everyone deserves respect and kindness. It’s that simple.