Politically correct language is language that avoids offending or ostracizing particular groups of people – the word “homosexual” is the politically correct version of the word “faggot”. While politically correct language prevents conflict, and improves individuals and communities, it also has limitations. Sometimes it can disrupt the meaning and impact of the message we are trying to portray. Because of this, it is important to find an extent of political correctness that still enables freedom of speech.
While people can define us by the language we use, the language we use also defines us. Being politically correct can make us better people. The way the receiver of our message construes our message determines whether it is politically correct. What is considered politically correct varies from person to person; while one Asian might find the term “chink” humorous, another might find it degrading. As a result, being politically correct requires assessing how the receiver of our message differs from ourselves, and how we can remain tactful despite these differences. This forces us to accept that people have varying beliefs; sometime sit even forces us to refine our own.
Similarly, while we can define a community by the language the people within that community use, the language the people within a community use defines the relationships within that community. Being politically correct can improve the community we live in by creating an atmosphere where everyone is comfortable with sharing their ideas, without feeling restrained by the fear of being penalized for thinking differently. This enables us to productively debate diverse viewpoints, and broaden our own. It ensures that the future generation will learn how to be tolerant from a very young age, which is essential for the development of society.
While being politically correct seems ideal, it also has limitations. Take the news. People trust the news to objectively impart what is happening in the world. One might debate that this gives them the responsibility to be politically correct, lest they create conflict or further segregate the world. However, being politically correct can disrupt the meaning of their message. The term “undocumented immigrants” could give people the impression that it is a slight mishap that the country forgot to document these immigrants, or that these immigrants were unaware that they had to be documented. On the other hand, the term “illegal aliens” makes it clear that these individuals are doing something illicit. It pressures them to do, and gives them no excuse not to do, what is right – get a citizenship, or leave.
Being politically correct can also alleviate the impact of the news. If a child molester is on the loose, it is the responsibility of the news to warn society about it. Stating that a child has been “molested and terminated” instead of “raped and beaten to death” lessens the urgency parents will feel to be wary of their child’s whereabouts. While the latter is politically incorrect – it creates disturbingly vivid imagery – it is more effective in keeping the citizens safe.
Nevertheless, the news should refrain from unnecessarily using politically incorrect language. They should use the world “black” instead of “nigger” because they are so interchangeable. If possible, the news reporter shouldn’t even label the people he is reporting about. This would conceal any irrelevant prejudices (which might inadvertently skew a viewer’s understanding,) that the reporter may have. It would also prevent the creation of unnecessary conflict and further segregation of the world.
In conclusion, politically correct language – language that avoids offending or ostracizing particular groups of people – can improve individuals and communities. More importantly, it prevents the expression of prejudices that separate the world. On the other hand, political correctness also has limitations: it can disrupt the meaning and impact of our message. Because of this, it is important to find an extent of political correctness that does not disrupt the meaning or impact of our messages. Otherwise, we would no longer have freedom of speech, which is imperative to the progression of society.
Courtney from Study Moose
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