Why We Should All Be PC

By Nathan Baumgartner

Opinion Contributor

PC, despite being a two-lettered abbreviation, has a plethora of possible meanings. Here at Canisius, we’re blessed with the presence of Project Conversation. In the US, there’s the classic juxtaposition between users of PCs and Macs. But there’s also a more serious, more controversial, and more impactful meaning of the abbreviation: no, this is not an opinion piece to get you to join Project Conversation or to start using PCs. This opinion piece is about political correctness.

In the eyes of many, being “politically correct” effectively takes away one’s freedom to say whatever you want. However, anyone glued into media today can see an environment progressing towards equality: a 09 February 2016 written by Jeremy Diamond of CNN depicts backlash towards a certain presidential candidate for repeating a slur said in the audience in reference towards another presidential candidate.  But the reality is that you cannot say whatever you want. For every action someone takes, whether “good” or “bad” (all in itself subjective on the person), there are always consequences, which are also “good” or “bad” (again, subjective on the person). We may have “free speech,” but this was designed to protect people from speaking out against the government, not bullying other people. In this respect, there is the belief that people need to exercise consciousness when picking words to describe people, things, and events. Ideally, this should all be something implicit, effectively being done by everyone. Yet it isn’t: the vocabulary of a group of people is limited. Let’s do a case-study of myself, a gay cisgender white male. If I were to say certain words in reference to a group of people, my words could be considered offensive to other groups of people. However, if my gender, sexual orientation, etc. were to change, the connotation of those words could also potentially change.

The difference between this example and someone like Beyoncé with her not-so-new (yet, let’s be real, it’s new) single “Formation.” Beyoncé does not attack a single person. In fact, she stays away from such ad hominem attacks, not a single part directed towards one person in general but rather, society. Beyoncé speaks out against oppression, but not necessarily shaming individual people into doing so by throwing out insults in an effort for her to like her song. Trust me, Queen Bey does not need to resort to such tactics to gain attention to her songs, because she has demonstrated herself to be a very charismatic leader in bringing racial disparities to the attention of the general US-American population, in itself a very diverse mix of people.

I do see the point that political correctness can be taken too far: in an argument posed by Sean Connelly on 24 September 2014, he writes, “Hypersensitivity needs to be controlled. Today, people are attacked for saying the smallest things. We must embrace that every person has the right to say what he or she needs to say in a respectful way. The key is RESPECT; if you get angry for the sake of someone disagreeing, then you are part of the problem. Communication is the center piece to solving all issues and being direct is key to solving problems. There is nothing wrong with disagreeing; it is essential to growth, conflict management and ideas. It is impossible to please everyone, but being modest and honest is something all people can appreciate. Therefore, be you, but respectful and understand other points of views. Plural ignorance is real, and we all do it at some point. However, we should not hold back.” While I agree with him wholeheartedly, his misplacement of this text under notion that it “compromises freedom of speech” is something I disagree with.

There is no such thing as a free lunch, and there certainly is no such thing as free speech, either.

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