Andover is an intentionally diverse community, and it’s because of our diversity that we need to respect the feelings of others. A pressure to accept, say, LGBT individuals in our community will never be a bad one because it’s a pressure to encourage acceptance of others. There is such a thing as good peer pressure, and Andover has it in the context of LGBT equality.
But recently, the notion of political correctness has been taking a beating.
Dr. Ben Carson, the new Republican “superstar” and Andover’s 2009 Martin Luther King Day speaker, recently compared gay marriage to beastiality or pedophilia. He was criticized for his comments, and rightly so. Comparing consensual marriage between two adults is unquestionably different from relations between a human and an animal.
Commenting on the criticism he received, Carson said, “political correctness is threatening to destroy our nation because it puts a muzzle over honest conversation…the fabric of our nation is changed without the benefit of a conversation,” according to the April 2 Talking Points Memo article.
However, political correctness does not plan to tear up the fabric of any nations. Rather, it encourages respect for different cultures and ideas. Dr. Carson and other conservatives insist that political correctness gets in the way of “honest conversation,” but can it be an honest discussion if it fails to recognize the legitimacy of different ideas?
In addition, if the conversation is filled with obsolete, derogatory terms or comparisons, it is no more “honest” than one using inoffensive language. If the ultimate goal is to facilitate insightful discussion in a civil manner, political correctness prevents harmful or false generalizations about a minority group and allows us to create the most successful, diverse discussion possible. If the ultimate goal is to harm others then the notion of being respectful is irrelevant to the aggressor. But the argument presented by Carson concerns whether political correctness hinders honesty, not emphasis.
Political correctness was what drove the recent successful campaign to stop people from using the word “retarded” to mean stupid. The campaign, called “The R-Word” says that “retarded” is a medical term that defines an illness, not a level of intelligence. It encouraged us to stop using it in any context.
It stopped use of ethnic slurs, like the n-word. If it weren’t for political correctness, it would be acceptable to call me a “feminazi” (Rush Limbaugh’s favorite) every time I debated feminist values with a classmate.
Political correctness helps adjust the lens with which we view others, and it’s our job, as members of a diverse community, to adjust our points of view to make them as accepting and inoffensive as possible.
Rani Iyer is a two-year Lower from West Lafayette, IN.