By: Sofi Varon
Political correctness has sparked heated debates over the years. It specializes in banning offensive words, which at first glance seems innocuous, but many consider it to be a weapon for the neurotic. Arguments over its necessity or absurdity have increasingly become an epidemic. The feuds frequently explode on social media, but they have also seeped into our politics. I call this “the controversy over words.”
Political correctness has merit in aiming for politeness, but one must also recognize when such politeness can go too far. Some have labeled common words such as hysterical, crazy, and blind as societal taboo.
Even when we eliminate a genuinely offensive word, political correctness is the equivalent to sticking our finger up a faucet; rather than finding an alternate solution, we stubbornly end up trying to shove our whole fist. When a racist word is eliminated, for instance, and racism is still present, rather than thinking of a different approach, we fruitlessly try to find more words to banish.
Categorizing specific terms as “no-no words” have left some people satisfied, but the remainder of us frustrated. Racism hasn’t ended. Sexism hasn’t ended. Anti-Semitism hasn’t ended. We must acknowledge that the issue isn’t the words themselves, but rather the intent behind them. When we stop thinking of solutions and instead fixate on potentially offensive words, we end up tilting at windmills.
Naturally, political correctness has rightfully retired several terms, specifically the ones designed to be offensive and demeaning. We are capable of cleaning out the garbage, however, without throwing away every day materials. As blogger Bruce Mikells sees it, political correctness should be like sugar, best used in moderation.
Words describing African-American people have been repeatedly misused, retired, and replaced throughout history. From “Negro” to “colored” to “black people” to our current, but likely temporary, “African American”. All share the same definition, yet once negative connotations emerge, we hastily replace them. Problematically, the xenophobes using the words, however, won’t change because it’s “politically incorrect”; therefore, removing them is scarcely beneficial.
America’s prejudice is as old as the country itself. Modifying a word is but a lame attempt to avoid conflict. Instead of puzzling over a potentially offensive term, politicians should face the real reason behind America’s discrimination: our ego.
To eliminate the countless –isms that have plagued our society, we need to stop categorizing and associating ourselves with particular groups. To banish racism, for instance, we should stop identifying ourselves by our race. When people place both themselves and others into distinct categories, they face both pride and prejudice. Problems will arise the second we create an “us vs. them” scenario. We naturally associate the groups we are in to be the superior one. This is especially absurd because the groups are illusions. The groups, in essence, exist only in our heads. Scientifically, we are homo-sapiens. That’s it. We are not a religion, class, or country. We are human. It is when we promote unnecessary specifics that the -isms start to form.