A recent study from Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind found that 68 percent of Americans agreed with the idea that “a big problem this country has is being politically correct,” an assertion that comes directly from the mouth of none other than Donald Trump. One of the most common arguments against politically correct (PC) behavior is that it hampers freedom of speech. From one perspective, this may be the case, but looking at the concept from a more objective standpoint reveals that the opposite may in fact be true.
Political correctness is the active avoidance of language or behavior that aims to either exclude, marginalize or insult people who are considered “socially disadvantaged”. Like anything, it’s best done in moderation: college students will forever have off-color humor, but there’s a difference between situational comedy and intentionally hurtful language. The term has come to be associated with censorship in some circles, though that isn’t a valid connection to make. To illustrate this difference, it’s best to look at these ideas from the perspectives of those who believe them.
In a post on the Excelsior Spring Standard titled “Calling me Politically Incorrect Violates my Freedom of Speech”, a self-proclaimed good Christian woman recounts her experience having been told that she used language that was offensive to her conversation partner and was being “politically incorrect.” She pointedly noted: “… I was made to feel like I should be censored.” While this could be very true, it’s important to note that she was not, in fact, censored. Rather, she was able go online and write an entire article about how she disagrees with political correctness. This seems like a prime example of freedom of speech being exercised by both parties, rather than the censorship of one in favor of another.
The key thing to remember about political correctness is that, in the words of Guardian columnist Jessica Valenti, “PC culture is not about your freedom of speech. It’s about our freedom to be offended.” Provided the movement is used as a tool to give minorities a language with which to discuss their struggles and prompt dialogue in a beneficial light, we fail to see any sort of downsides to its growing momentum. So go forth — share your controversial ideas, talk about race and gender and respond to the views of others. That this kind of exchange can even happen indicates that our freedom of speech is thriving and well-worth exercising… just don’t cry censorship when someone disagrees with you.