But this doesn’t mean that we do have time to call Rosie O’Donnell a fat pig.
During the Republican primary debate last week, Megyn Kelly, moderator and regular Fox News host, called Donald Trump out on misogynistic comments he’s made in the past. His response was: “I think the big problem this country has is being politically correct. I’ve been challenged by so many people and I don’t, frankly, have time for total political correctness. And to be honest with you, this country doesn’t have time, either.”
To prove his remarks, a day later he said on CNN that Kelly is a “lightweight” for whom he has “no respect”, and that “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes. Blood coming out of her wherever.”
I’m not interested in giving my opinion on him as a presidential candidate or even as a human being. What I’m interested in is in taking a look at political correctness in our societies and, hopefully, contributing to a fair discussion that will allow people to deliberately choose what they want to believe.
After I heard his comments, my main worry was the overwhelming cheering from the audience and later the amount of support these comments received in different media sources. I’m not going to describe the main demographic that’s supporting these kinds of comments (I’m assuming any relatively smart person can figure it out), but I am going to say this: Political correctness wasn’t created for the sake of people who aren’t minorities. The fact that you’ve been delivering casual slurs about people who are different from you, in one way or another your whole life, and that now those people are calling you out on them, doesn’t deprive you from your right of freedom of expression, it deprives you from being a total jerk; so calm down, do yourself a favor and listen to those people, because they’re giving you an opportunity to improve yourself.
Taking into consideration the influence that our words have on our own thoughts and the thoughts of those who listen to us—a seemingly innocent term may perpetrate some stereotype or reinforce marginalization—political correctness is a key ingredient for harmony.
However, sometimes we pay more attention to what is said than to where it comes from, or what its intentions are; we’re more concerned about what should be said than what our words should represent. It’s not a mere matter of creating rules to regulate our language—and consequently our thoughts—, it’s about how we feel about each other. Whether something is PC or not is an important issue, but what defines the issue is what the slur represents.
Saying that political correctness is a problem isn’t completely off. Political correctness is only one of the first stages in regulating a society that is still taking baby steps in realizing that its members are actually equal, and what’s more, that its members are pieces of one great body. We do need political correctness, today and always, but those of us who like policing it must be careful that we don’t indulge in self-victimization or make others seem as helpless victims, while at the same time making the perpetrator feel and look like a hopeless monster. We want to be aware of not falling into an extreme apologetic behavior or encouraging phony respect. In these ways language policing can sometimes turn into a tool for manipulation.
What we must strive for, now that we’re learning the challenges and benefits of political correctness, is to instill a sincere attitude of unity; an attitude than comes from a better understanding of our human nature and our human civilization. In our human nature we have more similarities than differences. Our human civilization can benefit more from unity than animosity. Once we understand these truths we realize that political correctness is not the ultimate goal, it’s only one piece in the puzzle towards that social harmony many of us believe in and desire. It’s one way in which we manifest that sincere attitude of unity.
Thinking that mere political correctness is the ultimate goal is a problem, because this way we expose it to easy manipulation; we turn it into a toy ball jumping from the hands of one angry oppressed group to another. Simply policing each others’ words is a waste of time and energy. At this stage of our social evolution what we want is to actually educate, to promote the benefits of equality and unity, so that the future generations don’t have the same struggle of regulating who says what to whom.
So you might say differently abled, under-resourced, first nation, person of color, undocumented immigrant, same-sex marriage and so on, but what will determine whether you’re a good person or not is how you actually feel about the people you’re referring to.
What we say must actually represent how we feel, and how we feel must manifest our best selves, and that means understanding and applying the principle of oneness in all of our interactions. It’s not enough to force ourselves to be respectful to one another; we want to actually transform discrimination, prejudice and stereotyping into sentiments that would manifest the principle of oneness. Sentiments such as respect, patience, solidarity, justice, compassion, love.
So, yes, being politically correct can be a problem. We don’t have time for political correctness [only]. Just regulating our words, without changing the attitudes behind them, is a waste of time. But it doesn’t mean that we do have time to disrespect people; it means that it’s time to move on to the next level: unity in action.
“Whoever gives reverence receives reverence.” Rumi