One of the many debates politics has had, particularly during this last election, centers on being politically correct. As Republicans make out being politically correct to be a sordid attack against their party, Democrats hold those accountable who don’t adhere to the code of political correctness.
A quick online search finds politically correct is defined as “language, policies or measures that are intended to avoid offense or disadvantage to members of particular groups in society.” Politically correct means striving to be more inclusive by avoiding generalizations and providing specific context out of respect to current issues. In other words, being politically correct means being inclusive and respectful.
Many would argue against being politically correct since it’s considered the language of politicians, and with the negative stigma on politicians, many would believe being politically correct isn’t for “the common people” and would prefer their choice in politicians to be more like them. That’s arguably why Trump won the last election, not because of his credibility as a politician, but because Trump supporters wanted someone in office that reflected themselves.
Lucian Gideon Conway III, Meredith A. Repkea and Shannon C. Houck published a research article titled “Donald Trump as a Cultural Revolt Against Perceived Communication Restriction: Priming Political Correctness Norms Causes More Trump Support” that argues Trump’s resistance against being politically correct largely contributed to winning the Republican vote.
“Although there is a tendency to think of Trump support as reflecting ideological conservatism, we argue that part of his support during the election came from a non-ideological source: The preponderant salience of norms restricting communication (Political Correctness – or PC – norms),” the article states.
This article explains that pushing a politically correct agenda has hindered free speech to a degree. People are afraid to speak their minds in fear of saying the wrong thing and being publicly humiliated in the process.
“[Political correctness] explicitly attempts to remove negative group-relevant language,” the article continues. “As a result, in situations where the norms are in evidence, they create particularly strong public pressure to restrict one’s communication. … Further and more specifically, polls from the election cycle suggested that people liked [Trump’s] provocative language and that feeling voiceless better predicted Trump support than multiple other variables…”
Trump spoke on this issue in the Republican primary debate in August 2015.
“I think the big problem this country has is being politically correct,” he said. “I’ve been challenged by so many people, and I don’t, frankly, have time for total political correctness.”
Rather than admit he needs guidance to ensure he’s inclusive of all demographics and that he’s being respectful to all people, he claims he (and the United States) shouldn’t adhere to being politically correct. To Trump, learning how to be politically correct would mean taking what he deems as unnecessary “time” to speak about others (particularly minorities) with respect. Referencing back to the definition of being politically correct, using politically correct language safeguards against hate speech.
Despite the measures taken to promote political correctness, “this perspective suggests that these norms, while successfully reducing the amount of negative communication in the short term, may produce more support for negative communication in the long term,” according to the article.
The problem with political correctness is language’s lack of permanence. Language is constantly changing, and if everyone isn’t informed on these changes, people fear the judgment of their peers. While publicly humiliating someone for being openly prejudice is one tactic to dispel racism, sexism and other forms of verbal abuse, there are other times when unknowing participants use ignorant speech because they don’t know any other terms to describe what they’re thinking.
Holding people accountable for their negative words and actions is essential to achieve a better society, but sometimes people need a gentle explanation for why some words shouldn’t be used as other words are suggested. For those who aren’t sure how to say it, simply ask.