Face Off: Political correctness: Think, then speak

A freshman once told me that Rider should teach classes on how to be politically correct. How were students supposed to know what they could and could not say? According to them, it was so unfair of minorities or groups commonly discriminated against to expect people to understand why they were so offended. And, by the way, people got offended way too often.

As a woman of color, I can’t say I immediately saw the point here. To bring it down to the simplest level, being politically correct means avoiding expression that could exclude, marginalize or insult anyone disadvantaged or discriminated against. So, let me get this straight then. We need to have classes on how not to make people feel bad?

Political correctness has this negative reputation of restricting people’s speech and allowing people to be more easily offended. And maybe, to some extent, this is true.

But that’s oversimplifying the real issue here. We often forget that our words carry weight and sometimes linger in the minds and hearts of those listening. Why would you want your words to hurt someone?

A lot of Rider students come from backgrounds that may not have taught them to watch what they say or that some statements can be viewed as racist, sexist, classist, etc. I agree with my freshman friend. That’s not anyone’s fault. There’s no screening process that stops prejudiced friends or racist uncles from slipping into our lives.

However, we’re all adults now. Our upbringings aren’t excuses for letting words fly. Our backstories are not chains we wear on our ankles. Open your eyes and look around campus. There are so many people, of all colors and sizes and mindsets. Being politically correct is not about coddling these people who are different from you. It’s about seeing them as equals, not the subjects of jokes or snide comments.

But of course, we can’t be expected to be perfect all the time. So you make a joke with your friends about brown people flying planes or worshipping elephant gods, and for some reason, they laugh. But you make that joke with me, a woman of Indian descent, and I don’t.

Before complaining that I’m too sensitive, take a second and evaluate those powerful words of yours. There are stereotypical insinuations hanging off each of your words, and no one wants to be stereotyped. What you said was offensive. Don’t blame me, or anyone else who are hurt by what you say. Blame your words.

I don’t understand why it’s a huge debate over whether we should be allowed to say offensive things. Sure, you may have a First Amendment right to say what you want. But the KKK has a First Amendment right to proclaim white supremacist views, and I think we can all agree that those opinions are fairly unethical. This isn’t an issue of legality, it’s an issue of morality.

If you say something that offends someone, just don’t say it again. Ask why that person was hurt. Actually listen to what they have to say. Then, say you’re sorry and take it as a lesson for the future. You have a right to your words, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t exercise caution with them.

Many prejudices, intentional or not, are born through ignorance. As I said, that was a cute excuse when we were young, but we’re all grown up now. Don’t take a class on political correctness, but take classes that expand your horizons. Consider Asian Philosophy or Philosophy of the Sexes. If you can, take a class in sociology or on race in society. If you don’t have spare credits, take a trip to the library and read a book. Stay informed on issues of race, gender and sexual orientation as they appear in the news. It’s not Rider’s job to teach you about what you should say — take that responsibility yourself.

Your mind and your words are the most powerful weapons you have as a college student, so don’t pull the trigger without using them both.

 

The weekly editorial expresses the majority opinion of The Rider News. This week’s editorial was written by the Opinion Editor, Samantha Sawh.

 

Printed in the 03/02/16 issue.

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