Why Conservatives Say Political Correctness Is Ruining America, & Why They (Ahem, Donald Trump) Are Wrong
During the much-anticipated but generally anticlimactic GOP debate last Thursday, The Donald delivered a few expected jabs at his opponents, the female sex, and the concept of political correctness. In fact, he denounced political correctness so strongly that he could build his entire platform on his stance against it — it might be the only stance he's made clear so far. But Donald Trump is far from the first conservative to tout their opposition to political correctness. The right has generally argued that being politically sensitive essentially ruins democracy. Forgive me for my language (or don't, because you wouldn't care anyway, right?), but that's just bullsh*t.
During the prime-time Republican debate in Cleveland, Trump fired back at moderator Megyn Kelly, who had asked about the real estate tycoon's extremely misogynistic comments towards women, by saying:
I think the big problem this country has is being politically correct.
According to Merriam-Webster, being "politically correct" is defined as follows:
Conforming to a belief that language and practices which could offend political sensibilities (as in matters of sex or race) should be eliminated.
This belief, founded on social politeness and courtesy, has long been a thorn in the side of conservatives, who view it as a threat to freedom of speech and a crutch for minorities (though viewing the female gender as a minority is problematic in itself).
Conservative commentator and instigator Ann Coulter said on Fox Business in 2010:
Under the P.C. regime, I feel like I need a NASDAQ ticker to see what word is in, what word is out, who can use which word. This is a regime of terror. It has nothing to do with hurting people's feelings.
The equally provocative Bill O'Reilly has made several similar assessments, writing in an op-ed on Fox News's website:
It's long past time for Americans to stop accepting politically correct nonsense. You can't sing "YMCA". You can't have a camel come on a college campus. You can't say a kind word about a black-owned restaurant if you are white. That's all so much bull.
He even blamed political correctness for the death of Kate Steinle, who was shot by an illegal immigrant in San Francisco, where such immigrants are protected under the city's sanctuary status. O'Reilly claimed the city's sanctuary status led to her death, saying on his show The O'Reilly Factor:
The cold truth is Kate Steinle is collateral damage to the insane far-left politics that have long corrupted San Francisco. Dangerous people are walking around because of political correctness.
In 1999, Charlton Heston succinctly said in a speech:
Political correctness is tyranny with manners.
These are just a few of the incendiary comments from high-profile conservatives, but they reflect a collective view that political correctness unfairly favors certain factions and is the enemy of the First Amendment — and therefore, an enemy of American democracy. And while political correctness can easily veer from choosing one's words tactfully and inclusive political policy into unnecessary self-censorship based on empty social boundaries that carry no actual weight (i.e. whispering racial descriptors like "black," "Mexican," or "Asian" as if you'd offend someone by describing a person's race), it should be thought of as more than just decorum. It's an attitude that inspires cultural change and social progress.
For example: Whether or not you agree with affirmative action, its emergence nevertheless signaled an overall societal goal to empower disenfranchised groups. The addition of certain cultures that might not have previously appeared in the average American high school student's history textbook is not censorship that stifles democracy, but a broadening of the student's worldview that helps him or her to better understand America's freedoms. Sensitivity training in the workplace is not promoting "tyranny" or a "regime of terror," but helps protect those who are at risk of violence for their gender, race, sexual orientation, or religion. These are all pillars of "political correctness."
Just as conservatives like to point fingers at political correctness as the root of all of America's problems, liberals could easily accuse them of using the belief as an excuse to hinder social progress and cultural inclusion. But I'll refrain from doing that, because that wouldn't be polite.