Once touted as an answer to outdated and offensive terms, political correctness has lost favor in recent years. Anti-PC sentiments are so common that one could argue the concept has backfired almost entirely.
The argument against political correctness is that it has led to oversensitivity among Americans; that the rise of the PC movement has made it impossible to say anything without offending somebody.
Donald Trump is a champion of anti-political correctness. With his blunt, no-holds-barred speeches attitude, he has been hailed as the answer to two-faced politicians. His supporters stress that he bleeds transparency; that you don’t have to question his motives, because he tells you exactly what he’s thinking.
Along with his ultra transparency comes a tendency to generalize, and in turn offend, millions of Americans (and internationals) at a time.
In the wake of his “real talk”, countless Americans are outraged at his over-the-top crass way of campaigning. Yet his strategy has only strengthened his hold over current supporters, and has swayed a shocking amount of voters to his side.
The importance of political correctness to the presidential campaign was highlighted earlier this campaign season in an published by The Atlantic. In the article, author Conor Friedersdorf, a staff writer for the popular magazine, shared snippets of an email conversation he had with an unnamed Trump supporter. The supporter, who was happy to engage in a lengthy discussion over Trump’s proposed policies and campaign tactics, is reportedly a 22-year-old man from San Francisco who is voting for Trump in protest against a growing overly-PC culture.
The Trump voter claimed that under President Obama, the dialogue of Americans has shifted from one of unrestrained speech to one of intense political correctness. He argues that such a trend is concerning because he now feels judged for having opinions that differ from mainstream culture.
The anti-political correctness sentiment seems to be a foundational belief for Trump’s supporters, and indeed is a clear strategy in his campaigning.
When people say they like Trump because he “says what people are thinking,” or that he’s honest and to the point, what they’re implying is that he speaks with no concern for the repercussions. He doesn’t play by the rules of political correctness; he speaks his mind, whether it offends someone or otherwise.
Though it would be easier to live in a world where we can say what we feel without facing consequences, that simply isn’t the reality. Trump has gained a kind of vigilante status for “saying what people are really thinking”, but that doesn’t mean that what he’s saying (i.e. what people are thinking) is actually okay.
Political correctness can make it more difficult to have an intelligent debate with others. Frankly, I do agree that people are more likely to state offenses these days than in the past. However, that doesn’t mean that people are more easily offended now; it’s likely that people have always been offended by the way we in America speak about each other.
The dialogue is changing in America. It’s changing to a point where you do indeed have to be more mindful about what you say and how you say it. This dialogue shift doesn’t mean people are more sensitive now; it means people feel empowered to speak up when they feel they have been wronged. It’s because of decades of oppression and activism, because our country has been slowly pushing for more individual dignity and has held freedom of speech as a vital, natural right for all.
Political correctness and its ensuing challenges is not a shift away from free speech, but a movement toward free speech for everyone.
It means that if you speak with ignorance and disrespect toward others you should expect them to fire back with the same bravado and confidence in their defense.
That is a country that I want to live in; where I am held accountable for my actions because what I say, who I say it to, and how I say, matters.