As an academic, a Pacific Northwest Yankee and a newcomer to these parts, I read with interest a letter to the editor opining that instructing students in PC correctness leaves them “less prepared to meet common life experiences out in the everyday world.” [Campuses should drop political correctness,” Aug. 22]
The author advocated that “colleges should get out of the practice of policing speech altogether” since it fortifies “the misplaced belief that the First Amendment should have limits.”
The author claimed that politically correct speech corrects “boorish excess”; in fact it seeks to do much more. Words have power — and the power to denigrate the weak and marginalized by the powerful is, indeed, a “long-in-place societal norm.”
Putting a woman in her place by referring to her as a “girl” joins oppressing black men with the term “boy” and other various slur terms.
Political correctness calls out these practices, exposing them as the tools of masculine hegemony and white privilege.
I argue that rather than leaving students less prepared to deal with the real world, learning about the power of language to enforce unacceptable social norms and learning how to respect culturally different others by avoiding terms that debase them are highly valuable skills that all college students should master.
Political correctness translates into respect. Dodging political correctness on the basis that it is just “careless” enactment of First Amendment rights is a proxy for rationalizing sexism, racism, homophobia, ageism, ableism and all the rest of the injustices that we should face and change.