Political correctness (PC) is straining our ability to express ourselves. It’s confounding our proper use of language, the right way of thinking and looking at things. In our effort to avoid hurting the feelings of our neighbors, we’ve become too careful, sometimes hypocritical in the way we present ourselves.
Until some race-sensitive people who are opposed to being reminded of the label “nigger” (a vestigial remnant of the harrowing days of slavery,) the word “niggard” to denote frugality has fallen out of favor. The words are avoided like the bubonic plague to minimize an affront against the black people.
On the other hand, the term “crippled” is benign. It simply describes a person with restricted mobility until we attach emotional and political meaning on the condition. We decide it should be replaced by softer-kinder terms like “handicapped” or “disabled” to wipe away any discriminatory negative connotations. It’s preferred to call the handicapped “physically challenged” which gives some degree of escape from the derogatory label even if it obscures the true legal meaning of the disability when claims are filed for benefits and entitlements.
The street sign “men at work” has received complaints from feminists who insist that it be changed by gender-neutral words like “people at work.” They say the gender specificity of “men at work” has marginalized women who labor building roads, thus discouraging others to get into jobs dominated by men.
Even science isn’t immune to the demands of political correctness. Color-sensitive individuals suggest “black hole,” which refers to the mysterious dark matter in the vast expanse of space (see photo of NASA) isn’t a good word for mainstream cosmology. In this age of string theory, singularity, and parallel universes, there are those who don’t approve of a “black hole” the way they dislike naming a cake “black forest” especially if it’s beside a white confection called “angel cake.”
Dinesh D’ Souza, a former Pres. Ronald Reagan policy adviser in the White House and author of the 1991 NY Times bestseller book on PC entitled Illiberal Education: The Politics of Race and Sex in Campus has this say:
“The term “political correctness” seems to have originated in the early part of this century, when it was employed by various species of Marxists to describe and enforce conformity to preferred ideological positions. Books, films, opinions, even historical events were termed politically correct or politically incorrect depending on whether or not they advanced a particular Marxist interpretation. The revolutionary ideologues of that period were serious people, and there is no indication that they spoke of political correctness with any trace of irony or self-deprecation.”
Eventually the term dropped out of the lexicon, only to be revived in the 1980s, when it came to apply to the assorted ideologies of the late 1960s and early 1970s: black consciousness and black power, feminism, homosexual rights, and, to a lesser degree, pacifism, environmentalism, and so on. The new Random House Webster’s College Dictionary defines political correctness as “marked by or adhering to a typically progressive orthodoxy on issues involving especially race, gender, sexual affinity or ecology.”
So we’re hooked with political correctness and we invent euphemisms and jargons to make many submit to some conformity of thought and interpretation. We find it hard to eliminate the negativities, apprehension, and paranoia when we find ourselves diametrically opposed to someone else’s point of view. We struggle to see the truth clearly. Therefore, we’ve become tangential, restrictive, and sometimes derisive, in using terms like “guest relations officers” to refer to prostitutes, “erectile dysfunction” for impotence, “senior citizens” for old people, “different” for gays, “mentally disturbed” for crazies, “laid off” for those who lose jobs, and “vertically challenged” for persons with short stature.
Advocates of PC believe prejorative labels lead to stereotyping which limits the dignity, rights, and freedoms of people. But our prickly obsession to be politically correct seems overriding to define a derangement akin to a chronic allergy. That’s why the list of politically correct words gets more complicated each day.
Though political correctness promotes a change that must redress unfairness on matters of race, class, social stature, gender, age, religion, scientific belief, political affiliation or sexual preference, too much PC is starting to cloud our senses. No wonder there are those who believe hypocrisy and political correctness should be interchangeable terms. =0=