Editorial: Use of +politically correct+ language shows respect for other membersMarch 19, 1997
Use of 'politically correct' language shows respect for other members
PC language may take some extra thought, but shows courtesy.
Although we often joke about using 'politically correct' language, it is still important for members of our society to respect each other enough to use it.
Many people think that politically correct language merely involves semantics and does not make any difference in the real world. Some may pay lip service to political correctness while they remain unchanged in their attitudes.
But the reason being politically correct is important is that it causes us to consider the impact of what we say, and that does make a difference.
Perhaps it seems silly to say 'he or she' instead of only 'he' when the gender of the subject is unknown. People who see nothing wrong with leaving things as they are may say, 'It's just those busybody feminists getting mad about nothing again.'
But why leave out half the population when it is just as easy not to? For example, instead of writing, 'If a student needs medical attention, he can go to the Health Center,' one could write, 'Students in need of medical attention can go to the Health Center,' or 'If students need medical attention, they can go to the Health Center.' After writers teach themselves to habitually use nonsexist language, they can do it without thinking twice.
Politically correct language aims to change the status quo. If people continue saying 'man' when they mean 'humankind,' 'geezer' when they mean 'senior citizen' and writing headlines like, 'Female doctor wins award,' we will continue to subconsciously assume that white, heterosexual males under 55 are the norm and everyone else is an exception.
We cannot claim to have true equality in the United States until our language reflects the diversity of our society. Politically incorrect language marginalizes groups of people. It identifies them by their physical characteristics, ethnic backgrounds, etc. instead of their qualities and abilities as human beings.
Although it may take extra thought to use politically correct terms, doing so brings us one step closer to accepting different types of people as 'normal.'
Some people may protest that political correctness infringes on their freedom of speech. However, one person's freedom of speech ends where harm to another person or group of people begins. Offending other people is not a part of a normal person's 'pursuit of happiness.' Also, no laws except the laws of etiquette mandate the use of politically correct terms.
War, terrorism and violence result from people hating each other. Children learn to hate when they imitate the derogatory speech and actions of those around them.
Therefore, improbable as it may sound, referring to people in politically incorrect terms can contribute to more serious problems.
Unless we change the way we speak about other people, it is difficult to change the way we think about them. By using racist, sexist, homophobic or other non-inclusive language, we perpetuate the stereotypes that breed hatred, whether we intend to or not.
Using politically correct language is one small way to eliminate intolerance in society. It requires little effort to substitute respectful terms for offensive ones. As a civics professor said recently, 'P.C. means plain courtesy.'
From The Bradley Scout (Bradley U.)
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