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Imagine a world where people are jailed because they did something against the grain. Where you have to carefully watch what you say to the point of thinking ten years ahead, or else you’ll get fired. Where people defend violent attacks linked to religious persecution only for the sake of diversity. For most of these instances, this is already our world. The obsession with being politically correct has made it so that it is difficult to have a differing opinion without people immediately referring to you as racist, sexist, homophobic, or transphobic.
People do this insisting that they are only calling out the mean words, but most of the time it ends up worse. Being called any of these names can lead to you getting fired from your job, which is unfair but often the case. Out of everything, looking at things from a different point of view is the most controversial and despite that, centrism is the only way.
P.C. culture is dangerous to free speech in the same way that safe spaces shelter university students from triggering conversations that happen outside university walls and should be happening indoors as well. Also, though people may say hurtful things, microaggression is just a fancy word for minor bullying.
A microaggression, defined by Derald Wing Sue as, “…everyday slights, indignities, put downs, and insults that people of color, women, LGBT populations and other marginalized people experience,” is either bullying or false perception. This is because of the definition of microaggressions that it makes the most sense see them in this light.
Slights, put-downs, and insults are a few minor forms of bullying while indignities are only picked up as one perceives them. An example of an incorrect assumption in my eyes would be a list from Claudia Rankine’s Citizen (2014) in which she lists names of police victims (p. 134).
I by no means wish to disrespect the dead, but some of the victims on that list are not victims, but agitators. The Michael Brown incident is an example of this, judging by a report from the Department of Justice that stated, “Of the eight gunshot wounds, two wounds, a penetrating gunshot wound to the apex of Brown’s head, and a graze or tangential wound to the base of Brown’s right thumb, have the most significant evidentiary value… the latter is significant because it is consistent with Brown’s hand being in close range or having near-contact with the muzzle of Wilson’s gun and corroborates Wilson’s account that Brown struggled with him to gain control of the gun in the SUV” (p. 17).
There was no racism in this case, but a defense of Wilson’s part. An example of minor bullying, in this next case, would also come from Rankine’s Citizen when a coach referred to a team member as a, “nappy-headed ho” (p. 40). Even though it can be a hurtful slur, it should be met with maturity on the other end, which it was. Safe spaces, places where people isolate themselves from opposing ideas and values, are dangerous to the psyche.
This is because it creates an echo chamber and when people are surrounded by their own values and ideas, there is no need for necessary debate. A letter from the University of Chicago to incoming freshman read, “…we do not condone the notion of intellectual “safe spaces” where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own.” Even Chicago recognizes that safe spaces are where intellectual conversations go to die. Universities are places where you discover different opinions and hopefully learn something from another perspective, but when this is interrupted by the use of safe spaces ideas are not challenged. When ideas are not challenged, people are lead to assume that they are always right – not the case in an always changing world. The ideas that safe space dwellers do not want to hear are labeled as “unsafe” ones when in reality that is further from the truth.
A common “unsafe” idea would be labelling the wage gap as a myth – which people are often called sexist for doing. While there is an earnings gap, it is not in the way that most portray it. It exists because women commonly work in lower-paying jobs and sometimes make poorer decisions when it comes to their career. In safe space, it would be sexist to say that. Truth does not live in a safe space. Political correctness has delved us into deep holes where free speech is threatened simply because some do not agree with an opinion – creating the useless need for safe spaces. Jonathan Chait’s article, Not a Very P.C. Thing to Say (2015), described political correctness as, “… antithetical to liberalism…its most frequent victims turn out to be liberals themselves.” An ideology where its victims are supposed to be their followers is simply unnecessary.
A telling situation to the damage P.C. culture can do is one described in Chait’s article where, “6,000 people at the University of California – Berkeley signed a petition last year to stop a commencement address by Bill Maher, who has criticized Islam (along with nearly all the other major world religions).” In a country where everyone is guaranteed the right to say whatever they wish, we only defend that right if their views match ours when the purpose of first amendment freedom is to have challenging ideas. Chait criticizes this by saying that P.C. culture insists people treat faintly unpleasant ideas or behaviors as full-scale offenses, which often happens in the realm of P.C.
The term microaggression is then used to silence people, followed by the people who back up the silence retreating to safe spaces and the “echo chamber” effect persists. Though it may seem by the way I speak about these things like I am biased on the right side, I take a firm stance in the center. I understand why microaggressions – minor bullying – is hurtful. Having a filter when it comes to certain things is just an unwritten rule of life, but the first amendment should not be infringed upon even if the speaker is irresponsible in their word choice. Being mature in situations where you feel threatened – walking away, loving your enemies, avoiding confrontation where necessary – should always be a natural reactionary trait.
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