In a world that wishes to be color-blind but can’t remember neutral pronouns, is there room for political correctness? In reference to the humanity of the world i.e., the most important parts of our identity are in fact social constructs: race, gender, and religion. The logic behind political correctness used to push “respectability politics” when referring to the “other” might in fact be more harmful than helpful.
Respectability politics requires one to conduct and carry his or herself in such a way that is to concede deliberately to mainstream societal values. We as a society find it hard to digest the things that we cannot classify into the categories that our brain process experiences. As a byproduct of socialization, many of us are incapable of shaking the constructs imposed on us by society. Merely our existence, as the “other”, is to defy the status quo, and with that comes the desperate need to awaken from a brainwashed state and not only ask questions, but demand answers. Why must we fight for the right to proudly wear our diversity, even in the land of the free and the home of the brave?
Firstly, the narrative that political correctness portrays is irrelevant to social and political realities. Secondly, power holders are unwilling to address society’s real problems. We must demand more from the people we interact with, and from those who lead us. We must also organize among ourselves. We must create spaces to express values that are overlooked by the hegemonic majority.
Politically correct words are constructed on the premise of an inherent respect that the word embodies; however, this notion is contradictory to the treatment of the groups addressed. It is all a front, a magic trick if you will, to disguise what’s really happening behind enemy lines. This rhetoric fosters an allusion of visibility and understanding, which reflects what we’ve seen in the aftermath of Maria. Nations like Puerto Rico are easily cast aside and unaccounted for when it’s more convenient. However, when a wealthy man is looking to book his next vacation which private resort will he choose this time?
Until we as a society realize that we should operate from a place of deeper acceptance and transparency, not tolerance and coexistence, the paradigms that govern our lives will kill us slowly. It is not to say that we should gaze through lenses blind to each other’s differences, but to learn to accept that the world remains in motion because of this variation. Nonetheless, in the intended purpose of the institutions created to protect us, we also see attempts to silence and downplay attention from substantively discriminatory behavior in the workplace, at home and in the streets of our cities. Not to mention, the ways that these systems undermine marginalized groups are disguised as good intentions. What is really happening to our people on the ground level?
Navigating everyday social spaces becomes a daily ritual of anticipation of and preparation for an ignorant altercation. We see this narrative in every controversial aspect of life: critics of gender representation, slut-shaming, Islamophobia. Those who challenge heteronormative culturally implicated boundaries are chastised. The bodies of woman are policed and violated, and their violators are relieved of blame. Practitioners of the Muslim faith are stereotyped and violently attacked, and each account of maltreatment lacks legislative repercussions time and time again. Power dynamics protect perpetrators, by allowing them to hold position of power in which they can reinforce the acceptability of the circulation of this propaganda. They shift the focus from the systemic issues deemed tolerable by our institutions, to an individual’s behavior which is irrelevant to the injustices suffered.
Ask yourself, “Why can’t I seem to remember to use gender-neutral pronouns? Is it because it’s too hard or because I simply do not care enough to respect someone’s presentation? Why is it that I feel that women only exist for male pleasure? Why is that I feel an irrational fear towards Muslims?”
Political correctness is dead. Today begins our work toward establishing levels of respect. So, the next time you find yourself huffing and puffing about the ridiculous amount of respect and compassion that you should be required to show to your fellow earth-inhabitants, ask yourself: is it really that hard?