Opinion: Political Correctness – Has It Gone Too Far?

In an era of near-excessive political correctness, a lot of our conversations revolve around ensuring that what we say does not offend anyone. This open-mindedness and adaptability to different peoples’ needs and backgrounds is admirable and kind, but at what point does this political correctness impede on our freedom to express ourselves and our thoughts? Is this fear of being offensive preventing us from saying what we truly think and feel?

 One of the foundations of a democratic country is the freedom of thought and to freely express one’s feelings and opinions, so can we go as far as saying that political correctness is a violation of democratic rights? It’s a debatable topic and a point of controversy for many, however I think political correctness -- not just in politics, but in media and everyday life -- has gone too far and is impeding our progress as a society.

We then have to ask the question, what is and should be considered political correctness? What about things like trigger warnings and leaving certain words or phrases out of a speech or piece of writing in order to not to cause emotional or psychological strain on someone who may have had a negative experience relating to the phrases? Would, and should, trigger warnings be considered a limitation to our freedom to express ourselves? Or are they instead an improvement of our society in the sense that they make things more accessible for certain people? The argument herein lies whether you think trigger warnings are a justifiable form of political correctness, as I believe, since they don’t have any negative consequences but rather work to make life a bit easier for some people.

When it comes to things like politics, I strongly believe that avoiding using the proper terms to refer to a problem is in fact contributing to the problem. I do acknowledge the argument that with the term ‘Radical Islam’ it is often counterproductive in the sense that using the term further produces negativity and xenophobia, which in turn radicalizes more Muslim youth and contributes to the problem of terrorism rather than solves it. However, I do also believe that acknowledging that the problem is in some ways related to the radicalization of the Islamic religion is essential in finding a solution to the problem of terrorism as well, therefore a complete negligence of the topic is counterproductive as well.  

However, when the fear of being offensive gets in the way of one’s safety and one’s freedom to think, this political correctness is going too far. Take for example the story of the neighbour of the Bernanindo shooter who didn’t report suspicious activity because he worried that his claims would be considered ‘racist’ since his neighbours were Muslim. Had he not been worrying about appearing offensive but had rather used his common sense and judgement and reported the activity, he may have saved fourteen innocent lives. 

It’s arguable that most, if not all, of Donald Trump’s support stems from the fact that he does not care at all for being politically correct. He says what he thinks and is such a drastic change from almost all other politicians that it has garnered him much support and even admiration. Why? Because many people have gotten sick of hearing the same rehearsed speech from politicians and seeing no form of action. And they have every right to be. When the politicians you elect to lead your country and act for you and your country’s best benefit do nothing more than speak vaguely on topics that affect millions of lives every day, it does get quite tiring. Don’t get me wrong, I am in no means supporting or admiring Donald Trump, but rather am attempting to provide reason as to why his following is so large.

Political correctness has tainted politics and government, and made us into a more fearful society. Of course I’m not suggesting that we all speak every thought that passes through our mind, but I am encouraging everyone to try and not limit their entire process of thought based on what we think may be perceived as offensive. There’s a clear distinction between being offensive and the perception of being offensive, which often more subjective and takes people by surprise, but if we all use common sense and basic human decency to communicate with one another, we can both ensure that our freedoms are not being impeded upon but also that we are not unnecessarily being rude or insensitive to others. It really isn’t a matter of intense research or a certain level of evidence being needed to prove a theory, it’s more-so that we need to ensure that we are not letting fear rule our lives.

Let us know in the comments what you think about political correctness – is it necessary to protect people’s feelings or is it just an excuse to avoid genuinely addressing problems in our society?