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Political Correctness and Its Limitations Essay

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Updated: Jun 4th, 2021

Introduction

Political correctness (PC) refers to the elimination of verbal discrimination and negative stereotyping in public rhetoric by protecting people of various genders, races, sexual orientations, cultures, and or social conditions. This phenomenon is mainly associated with progressive social moments that tackle such issues as gender-based bias, LGBT-community rights, and ethnic minority advocacy. Although political correctness is meant to protect marginalized communities against insulting, this notion is demanded today, and it is hard to identify people who hold bigoted ideals, thereby creating the illusion of a progressive society.

For this reason, this paper is aimed at demonstrating the fact that political correctness is a socially dangerous and ambiguous phenomenon. While some suggest that it can be beneficial for creating a safe environment in which all people can feel accepted, the level of contemporary political correctness is extreme. As the justification base, narrowly focused texts by Iris Marion Young, Gloria E. Anzaldúa, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. will be utilized to support specific arguments. In general, political correctness stifles free speech and does nothing to protect minorities.

The Politics of Difference

Although PC is intended to consider the cases of incorrect behavior in relation to minorities, its implications may be fraught with even more dangerous consequences, for instance, erasing the line between real and illusory violations. According to Young in Inclusion and Democracy, only the politics of difference can offer an opportunity to achieve a fair and public discussion of specific dissimilarities that exist among people in society.[31] The author states that those who criticize the politics of difference wrongly reduce them to “identity politics.”[32]

Accepting this principle implies considering structural social groups as more crucial for appealing to justice rather than cultural groups. However, the scholar suggests that identity politics is dissimilar to the politics of differences since the former strives for solidarity through culture preservation except for cases when it is mixed with political oppression and social intolerance.[33] Thus, accepting the politics of difference implies considering structural social groups as more crucial for appealing to justice rather than cultural groups.

When speaking of recognition politics, Young suggests that the ideology consists “in the assertion of specificity and difference towards a wider, from whom the movement expects respect and recognition of its agency and virtue.”[34] In regards to such groups, this statement does not include the assertion that a social group or the identity of one person against others should be characterized by its distinct qualities. Therefore, the author characterizes the politics of recognition as claims against discrimination, the unequal distribution of opportunities, unfair burdens, and political marginalization.[35]

The issue of ambiguous politics in relation to ethical attitudes towards minorities is also considered by Anzaldúa. In “La Prieta,” the author reasons that even the oppressed need to call the members of their own community on prejudices.[16]

Calling people out is crucial; however, this cannot be done if the masses are afraid to speak openly about their beliefs. The incidents described by Anzaldúa demonstrate the inconsistency of the system of political correctness, in particular, with regard to racism since minorities may show no less aggression regarding other members of society.[17] Similar issues of homophobia, gender-based humiliations, and other acute topics prove that the system developed over the years may be ineffective, and the law cannot be relied upon if the situation is aggravated in practice.

Standardized Thinking as the Cause of Bias

Political correctness may be seen as a tool to minimize aggression but not as a means to get rid of it totally. Any manifestations of bias that are regulated by law are difficult to reduce at the expense of ideological work. Moreover, in case the politics of differentiation is explicit, society will be unequivocally divided into separate segments, which will be the evidence of the problem’s existence but not the way to eliminate it.

Contradictions that arise among the members of sexual minorities and supporters of traditional relationships, white and black residents and other opposite classes occur often. Despite the propaganda of political correctness, these issues remain acute. In general, the danger of trying to regulate relationships through legislative adjustments and ideological courses may be explained by deep-rooted convictions, which are the background for contradictions. Therefore, political correctness as a social course cannot have a good reason for unconditional promotion if no additional measures are taken to eliminate inequalities and prejudices.

Political correctness places the victims of insults in a position in which they cannot defend themselves comprehensively if they are humiliated in relation to a particular marginalized status. As a result, people use the usual forms of repelling any biased views and judgments, resorting to humiliation on the basis of obvious distinctive features, in particular, race, gender, religious affiliation, and other aspects. Therefore, the opposition of bias is more a social than a legislative problem, and standardized thinking serves as one of the key factors that motivate people to display aggression on the basis of inequality towards one another.

Ignoring Oppression

The problem of individuals’ interaction in society from the standpoint of political correctness is also considered by Dr. King, the outstanding figure specializing in protecting the rights of people and promoting equality. In his “Letter from the Birmingham Jail,” Mr. King discusses the issue of “the white moderate” and argues that this class is too concerned with maintaining peace.[28] According to the author of the letter, the majority who advocate peacekeeping and develop the idea of political correctness do not notice the actual oppression that minorities experience.[29]

The demonstration of concern is ineffective, and the PC principle serves as a defense against any disturbances that are caused by those who continue showing bias. Maintaining conformity allows for the white moderate to not only pretend that oppressed communities are not being oppressed but to avoid confronting systems of oppression.

In the case of Dr. King’s “Letter from the Birmingham Jail,” the representatives of the white moderate are minimally impacted by the effects of racial oppression.[210] Therefore, if social norms are maintained, it would make it easier for them to ignore the oppression of the Black minority in the United States at that time. Not only that but also advocating for the principles of order is prioritizing convenience over the immediate needs of others. In his profound letter, Dr. King cites his deep thoughts and outlines the following ideas:

“I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Councillor or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice;… who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom.”[211]

These words have not lost their relevance since, in many cases, officials’ efforts aimed at maintaining law and order and adhering to the principles of political correctness are based on an undeniable majority opinion. It allows for those not affected by gender-based bias, LGBT issues, and the oppression of ethnic minorities to ignore the struggles of these groups to maintain a peaceful tension. As a result, there are no significant benefits to society, and the PC principle not only has few merits but even harms, stirring up additional conflicts on different backgrounds.

PC culture allows those perpetuating oppression to hide behind the “status quo.” To take this argument further by advocating against the work of activists under the reasoning of maintaining any form of order or social norms is a form of gaslighting and shaming the oppressed into silence. Thus, the argument that Dr. King also makes is that those religious leaders who wrote to him did the work of oppressors politely. By advocating for the principle of order and going through courts that mainly protected these systems of oppression from obtaining equal rights, they unintentionally ignored his cause.[212] This approach may be condemned for its outright neglect of obvious social rights.

Conclusion

Political correctness as an attempt to protect minorities may be not only useless but also dangerous. In accordance with the considered ideas of different authors, this phenomenon cannot be relevant if people have no choice but to advocate their rights by resorting to mutual humiliations. Political correctness gives the left a false sense of harmony and does not identify biases within minorities’ marginalized communities. Therefore, concerning the issue of PC, more attention should be paid to the real implications of this aspect in modern society.

Bibliography

Anzaldúa, Gloria. “La Prieta” Bridge Call My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color. Berkeley: Third Woman Press, 1981.

King, Martin Luther. Letter from Birmingham Jail. 1963.

Young, Iris Marion. Inclusion and Democracy. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.

Footnotes

  1. Iris Marion Young, Inclusion and Democracy (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002), 80.
  2. Iris Marion Young, Inclusion and Democracy (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002), 82.
  3. Ibid., 85.
  4. Ibid., 103.
  5. Ibid., 104.
  6. Gloria Anzaldúa, “La Prieta” Bridge Call My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color (Berkeley: Third Woman Press, 1981), 221.
  7. Ibid., 224.
  8. Martin Luther King, Letter from Birmingham Jail, 1963.
  9. Ibid.
  10. Martin Luther King, Letter from Birmingham Jail, 1963.
  11. Ibid.
  12. Martin Luther King, Letter from Birmingham Jail, 1963.
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IvyPanda. "Political Correctness and Its Limitations." June 4, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/political-correctness-and-its-limitations/.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "Political Correctness and Its Limitations." June 4, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/political-correctness-and-its-limitations/.

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IvyPanda. (2021) 'Political Correctness and Its Limitations'. 4 June.

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