CATE O’BRIEN | OPINION COLUMNIST
Recently, I have seen an increasing amount of disdain for political corectness, and I’ve been wondering why. Why is there so much hatred for a concept that was created solely so that people would respect one another?
My guess is that political correctness makes people uncomfortable because of how much anger it harnesses. This anger seems, to me at least, to be pretty legitimate. Oppression is angering. When you have been repeatedly insulted, pushed to the bottom, ignored and scorned, it is very hard to keep swallowing your emotions and stay silent. At some point, that anger is going to come through. And that’s what seems to be happening right now. Only very recently our culture has begun to be cultivated into a place where it is okay to openly share your stories of oppression. Minorities, women, homosexuals and so many more: all have made incredible progress in an incredibly short amount of time. One of the things that this progress has done is open the gates up for discussion, which means that all of this anger—all of the insults, ignorance and scorn—all of it finally has begun to have a place to release itself. And all of a sudden, a huge mound of suppressed oppression is flooding our conversations and our politics.
So I understand why people who haven’t felt oppressed, who haven’t seen firsthand the history that we are only just beginning to overcome, who haven’t been insulted, ignored and scorned, would not understand the significance of this mound of seething anger. I understand that it feels to them like they are being attacked, again and again, just for being born straight or white or male. This anger—this incredible, forcible rage that is such a release and relief for the oppressed—feels like a personal attack, especially for straight white men who work really hard to be good, decent people. And not only that, but it feels whiny, it feels weak, it feels overly sensitive, because they cannot relate to the anger that is being spewed at them. Anger accomplishes a lot, but it can be separating. I don’t think anyone wants political correctness to separate us from one another more.
But should the concept of being politically correct be mocked solely because it is too full of anger for the privileged to relate to it? Because they feel like they can’t say the things they’ve always said, do the things they’ve always done?
I don’t want to censor anyone. But I do think that it’s important to pay attention to the words we use as individuals as companies, and as a country. Not because I’m whiny or weak or overly sensitive, but because I want to live in a world where the oppressed don’t have to suppress their anger and in fact don’t have a reason to be angry at all. And so: yeah, I am politically correct. I don’t think there’s anything to be ashamed about in that statement. It just means that I care about how my words and actions affect all of the people around me, not just the ones that look and think the way I do. Being politically correct shouldn’t be something that our culture turns its back on. I think now, after the smoke is just beginning to clear around the presidential election, it is more obvious than ever that we need to be respectful, kind and thoughtful. When did being conscientious and respectful of other people become a bad thing? Maybe it was when those other people shifted from those we know and understand to those we don’t. Maybe it was when the people we were respecting were no longer solely our race, our sex, our sexual orientation or our religion. Maybe that’s when being politically correct became being whiny, weak and overly sensitive. Or maybe I’m just being too PC.