I don’t have to tell you that many humans seek to label other humans. With a white mom and a Dominican dad, you have lived it. You witness people trying to balance their desire to be politically correct with a sincere curiosity. Because you have been viewed as white, Latino, and mixed, you also have a unique experience of having seen humans’ ugliness to other humans from various angles. You have seen that, for all of the public messages and pressures around political correctness, many Americans aren’t being very nice to each other.
At the moment, a general definition of political correctness involves eliminating language that could be offensive to others and socially agreeing to use particular labels that are viewed as acceptable language. The immediate question that follows, however, is about who gets to decide what is offensive and what is acceptable… cue social media arguments. The term “political” implies that these decisions are made by individuals and/or groups in a society that have power, are trying to maintain power, and/or are trying to gain power.
Here are two major issues that come with this connection between language and political power. First, although many have pure intentions behind their efforts in political correctness, they often help achieve the opposite of what they intended. If political correctness seeks to support the marginalized and give a voice to those who have not been heard, we are failing at this exercise in the United States right now.
What I’m about to write won’t be politically correct, but here goes, and follow me until the end: There are naturalized citizens in the United States who do not believe in widespread amnesty for illegal immigrants. There are self-made business owners who grew up in poverty who do not believe in raising the minimum wage. There are physicians who work in free clinics who do not believe that a universal health care system is the best solution for vulnerable patient populations. There are nurses on the front lines right now who do not trust how Covid-19 data is being reported in their particular facilities, based on what they are seeing each day. I am not saying I agree or disagree with any of these particular stances. I am saying that they are my fellow human beings who deserve to be heard.
Why aren’t we hearing from these people, whose voices should be a part of our national conversation? It’s because in our culture of political correctness, we have in fact marginalized individuals who have a thought, opinion or idea that is contrary to what a group in power has decided is acceptable. You’ve seen it… a growing culture of “Do your thing, Facebook” against anyone who seeks to disagree with what is presently defined by a political party to be correct.
So, instead of hearing more voices, many are silenced. We shouldn’t be surprised at this outcome if we carefully study the origins of the idea of using political power to get citizens to conform to a certain norm. “Political correctness began with the ‘Frankfurt School,’ a group of German thinkers committted to Marxism and the eradication of Christianity (1864-1993). They created an educational theory that would advance Marxism, not by revolution, but step-by-step simply by changing the language” (Erwin Lutzer).
The second major issue I see is that changing someone’s language does not necessarily change his or her heart. A 70-year-old Vietnam Veteran who doesn’t know that he’s not supposed to say Eskimo anymore, but who has a heart for all people and is willing to make sacrifices for freedom is much more of a patriot in my eyes than a 21-year-old Political Science major who knows all the correct terms but is rude to the waitress and won’t even give five dollars for a local children’s book drive. Sadly, the world is watching as educated, politically correct Americans attack, insult, and demoralize each other.
Now, I am in no way saying that we should revert to common use of terrible words that people have worked so hard to make unacceptable in our society. You know that I loathe certain words used as hurtful and hateful labels. What I am saying is that if I refuse to speak certain words, it should not be because a political party directed me to do so. It should be because I do not want to hurt another human.
After all, if we continue to base our acceptable language on political norms created by a small percentage of the population seeking to gain power over the majority of the population, instead of basing our norms on moral values, then we are wading in dangerous waters:
United States, 1793–Under the Fugitive Slave Act, slaves who escaped were legally considered to be “fugitives from justice.” (Really?)
England, 1805–Speaking against King George III, even if you were starving, was not politically acceptable language.
Sovient Union, 1936–Trying to wave a red flag about the flaws of forced collectivization meant that you were an “enemy of the people.”
Germany, 1940–Calling a Jew a “rat” was politically correct according to the ruling Nazi Party.
Rwanda, 1994–The National Republican Movement for Democracy and Development (sounds nice, doesn’t it?) cultivated a national movement to refer to ethnic Tutsis as cockroaches. About 800,000 Tutsis were slaughtered that year.
China, 2020–The Communist Party of China deems that it is acceptable to detain thousands of ethnic Uighurs in reeducation camps until they renounce Islam and learn to speak Mandarin.
Bangladesh, 2020–Citizens who claim Christianity can be charged with “unlawful conversion.”
I am a student of history. You want me to conform to certain language norms because ANY political party told me to do so as part of its efforts to gain or maintain power? Nope. Not happening.
The problem revealed in each of these and countless other history lessons is that political groups in power propogated the dehumanization of certain members of a society. It was okay to view certain individuals as less than human. That is always dangerous.
Sure, political correctness is supposedly a remedy to that age-old problem of humans using words to harm other humans. What we now have instead, however, are rampant national conversations on social media in which citizens are chipping away at the humanity of other citizens. I refuse to be part of it. This is why you won’t hear me saying the following:
“All those (Christians, Muslims, immigrants, welfare recipients, felons, college kids, protestors, police, thugs, deplorables, etc., etc.)
Deeming an entire subgroup of a population as having some negative quality that allows you to be mean to them is offensive, and it is presently being done by lots of so-called politically correct people.
I do not know what lies ahead for our country, but I want you to know that I plan to never engage in the dehumanization of any person or group of people. I may vehemently disagree with a person or group. I may denounce the behavior of a person or a group. It is okay for you to do that, and to take a stand for what you believe. But I will not engage in name-calling, sweeping assumptions, or personal attacks on people who disagree with my point of view. And it will not be because I am trying to be politically correct. It will be because I believe that each human is an eternal soul created and loved by my Savior.
Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man. Colossians 4:6
I love you forever,