When it comes to political correctness, we hear all kinds of commentary :
"People need to grow a thicker skin" or
"Just get over it" or
"Millennials are soft."
But have we taken time to ask the question, "What if being 'softer' is good?" Let's take a moment to consider some of the things political correctness could indicate about our changing society.
Political correctness is an attribute of an increasingly sensitive society.
And depending on your perspective, that's a good thing or a bad thing. I think there are plenty of people who are talking about it being a bad thing, so I'm going to focus on the positives. Here's the first :
Increased sensitivity is one of the effects of wars fought and won.
The world is a pretty safe place today, and that can potentially be in part to wars that have been fought and won. As a result, there is less political oppression and greater peace, leaving space to develop an increasing sensitivity to violence.
When bombs are dropping, not many people are worried about a scrape on their forearm. But
in a place of peace, we have space to tend to the small wounds.
Let's take bullying as an example. When I was growing up in the 80s and 90s, bullying was an accepted part of the American school experience. In the last 15 years or so, there has been a concerted effort to end bullying in schools.
With an increase in peace, violence that was once an accepted part of culture is now seen as something to be eradicated.
And isn't that really great? When we're not experiencing the global terrors of a world war, our society has the opportunity to eradicate the smaller bits of violence in society.
And what if political correctness is a sign of an ever increasing sensitivity to violence – both physical and verbal?
Let's take the n-word as an example. It is a word that represented the oppression of people. It was the word used by whites to refer to blacks in a derogatory way. It is a word with a history, an attachment to slavery. Thankfully we're increasingly sensitive to the history attached to the n-word. And today, it is mostly eradicated from common use.
Political correctness has the ability to lead to language changes that prompt heart changes.
So maybe, on average, people under the age of 30 are more sensitive than people over the age of 60, but isn't that something to be celebrated? Isn't this a potential snowball that is really good for society. And what about this : Isn't it possible that
increasingly sensitive generations will have a lesser propensity toward violence.
So what we're seeing isn't only sensitivity that manifests itself in the lives of individuals everyday, but maybe it's also beginning to shape global politics and policy. This leads us to another positive effect.
Political correctness helps us to begin to consider the lives and stories of other people.
Back to the n-word. There was probably a time in which white people said, "Shoooot, that's just what I call the blacks, and that's what I'm going to continue to call them." But as it became more of a faux pas, not only did the word begin to go away, it was an opportunity to examine the word, the people it represented, and the lives and experiences of those people.
A more sensitive society will be trained to consider the thoughts, feelings, and experiences of others. This leads to less hostility between people groups and more understanding between people from different places, races, and backgrounds.
If we embrace political correctness, our mindset shifts from hostility to curiosity.
By beginning to ask, "why does that person care about that thing?" we can come to an new understanding of someone else's life. And when we get to know someone else's life and perspective, we're much less likely to enact violence against them. And
as we engage in a continually shrinking globalized society, sensitivity to others will be instrumental in promoting healthy and peaceful relationships.
So maybe, on average, the millennial generation is more sensitive than the boomer generation, but isn't that cause for celebration? Does it potentially indicate a positive change in the direction of greater care for others and a more peaceful society?
Let's try embracing political correctness in hopes that it will help us be more curious about others. Instead of reacting with hostility, let's allow our encounters with political correctness to lead us to asking questions about those around us.
A note about/to Christians
There are both Christians and non-Christians who read here. The above information applies to us all, but I also enjoy taking time to challenge and encourage Christians in the context of their faith's texts and traditions.
For years, there has been what the right has titled "a war on Christmas." And, interestingly enough, I have seen and heard Christians use the phrase "Merry Christmas" as a bomb hurled at the world around them.
But I think the Bible paints a very different picture of how we are to handle the concept of political correctness.
There was a war amongst the Corinthians about whether or not they could eat meat sacrificed to idols. Some would say "yes" others would say "no." And the meat eaters were going around flaunting their meat in the faces of the non-idol-meat-eaters.
Paul's thought on the issue, "You know what, it doesn't really matter what meat you eat." BUT... he then put the onus on the meat eaters. "Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble."
Paul puts the weight on the person who has MORE liberty to sacrifice their rights for the sake of others.
The parallel is incredible. In effect... people won't know you (as a follower of Christ) by what meat you eat or don't eat. They won't know you by your holiday greeting. They will know you buy your love. The posture of the Christian should be to lay down his or her perceived rights for the sake of the other.
So, Christians... Conservative Evangelicals... take a page out of the letter to the Corinthians and lay down your rights for the sake of others. Consider how you can adjust your speech and actions to serve and care for those around you everyday.