Posted by: mvhuff | December 4, 2016

Political Correctness

At some point in the eighties, I had a book that claimed to be a politically correct dictionary – it was a parody that mocked some of the extremes of political correctness. What I remember as the most egregious examples were, supposedly, official Government designations of a plane crash as either a ‘failure to maintain clearance from the ground’ or a ‘controlled flight into the terrain’. Clearly these and some other examples of Government-speak were ridiculous and eminently mockable.

Over the years, many have continued to disparage what they call political correctness and say they value people saying what they mean rather than dancing around a subject or being delicate to protect someone’s sensibilities. It gets a lot of attention because, I think, people want to be able to say what’s on their mind without worrying about offending people – some because they fear inadvertently offending and some because they just don’t care about potential offense (at least to others – their own offendedness may be a different matter).

While this is not new, it ideas of political correctness got additional attention this year due to some colleges trying to tell kids to be so sensitive and many applauded this saying that kids have to learn to live in the real world.

It’s all well and good to say you’re going to call a spade a spade and it works fine when you’re discussing shovels. But when you start talking about people, some labels are not really used to identify what sort of person you are discussing but to intimate, sometimes subtly and sometimes not so subtly, that that other person is not really a person. Somehow they are less or alien or something. Not only do some labels seek to reduce the status of people – some outright dehumanize them.

But labels are one thing, and intellectual discussions are something else. We should be able to discuss disagreements with clear terms and clear and civil heads. No one should feel the right to require others to always respect their beliefs by not disagreeing with them – but to respect their beliefs and their humanity.

I believe that everyone should, though, be able to have a safe place where, when they want to get away and even be in a bubble they can. I think that is the best thing about home when it is full of people that get you and accept you and love you – that sometimes you can just be the delicate mess you are and let the confrontation wait for later.

Colleges are odd places in that the students live there – so that it makes home a bit dicier. When you want to be safe but people are putting bananas at your door to imply that you are closer to monkeys than people, that’s just not right and it has nothing to do with the so-called political correctness.

We need to realize that all people are people and we are ALL at the same level. We may have different beliefs or different looks or different values but we are all human. We should be careful that we don’t avoid political correctness by trying to use labels that dehumanize anyone. So, call a crash a crash and a spade a spade, but realize that human beings are not shovels and using language to affirm, rather than diminish, our co-humanity is not a bad thing.




  1. It is a delicate balance, isn’t it, Mary? You may enjoy a post in a similar vein from my blog a while ago

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