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Missing the point about political correctness (what a surprise)

This past week, Washington Post columnist Steven Petrow’s article attempted to argue what many progressives do — that political correctness is merely about civility … not being rude to others.

Is that so.

“‘Political correctness,’ he writes, “has long been considered a pejorative, an accusation hurled at those of us who choose our words carefully so as not to insult others. ‘It is invoked as a justification for some of the coarsest expressions of hatred and intolerance,’ Daniel Letwin, an associate professor of history at Pennsylvania State University, told me.”

But this analysis is, of course, severely limited. His examples deal merely with the use of correct gender pronouns, the name someone prefers used, and preferred titles of address.

He also mentions the utilization of more “cordial” terms, meaning labels like “mentally challenged”/”physically challenged” instead of “retarded” and “handicapped” … as well as not using terms like “gay” to mean “stupid” or “dumb” (like “That’s so gay!”).

And I totally get the courteous aspect of using positive terminology (“mentally challenged”) over negative (“retarded”). And I’d argue so do most people.

However, can Petrow really blame folks for some occasional eye-rolling when they read about stuff like this? Given the seemingly innumerable contemporary titles and pronouns, and the expressed indignity when someone may “get it wrong” when addressing another, this is when your average joe throws up his hands and says “whatever.”

Likewise with the (supposed) preferences of “formerly marginalized groups.” Again, I doubt most people have an issue with actually using a preferred term; however, when there is debate (or indifference) within a group about the term, how can someone get angry at another if they use the “wrong” one?

To most people, political correctness signifies something beyond Petrow’s analysis. It means the shutting down of legitimate debate because something is supposedly “offensive.”

Agree with his politics or not (and personally, I do not for what it’s worth), Donald Trump’s popularity exists, in part, because of his penchant for “telling it like it is.” He recently was chided for using the term “anchor baby” instead of a PC alternative, and he responded “I’ll use the word ‘anchor baby.’” (The reporter, when asked what Trump should use, suggested the term “American-born [children] of undocumented immigrants.”)

Speaking of which, take “illegal alien.” Unlike, say, “mentally challenged” over “retarded,” people have an issue with being “corrected” about the former because, after all, it involves a violation of the law. Folks can weigh the obvious difference between being a victim of fate … and making a conscious choice.

Would Petrow argue that not mentioning the race of crime suspects is merely “being polite,” or a stupid omission of a descriptor which might assist with public safety?

How about using the term “American”? Is that offensive?

“America is the Land of Opportunity.” Is that offensive?

How about “I believe the most qualified person should get the job”?

And on and on.

This is what has people fed up, Mr. Petrow.

And this week we saw the controversy surrounding Ahmed Mohammed, a 9th grader at a Texas high school who was handcuffed and questioned by police after bringing in a homemade clock to school … which sort of looked like an explosive device.

Immediately — and unsurprisingly — the mainstream and social media went to work, dubbing the situation an act of “Islamophobia” and intolerance … “further evidence” that America, oops, er, the United States is incorrigibly bigoted.

Except what all those screaming about discrimination forgot is that Ahmed’s case is merely the latest example of public school officials overreacting to a situation.

Little kids have been disciplined for possessing toy guns, making “finger gun” gestures, and most hilariously, chewing a Pop Tart into the “shape” of a gun. But a device that looks like this should receive what — a collective shrug of the shoulders?

And there’s even more to Ahmed’s story.

Nevertheless, the boy has received an offer to visit the White House, and personal words of support from none other than Hillary Clinton and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, among many other things.

Where was all this for the Pop Tart chewer? Or the 11 year-old who dared utter the word “gun” on a school bus?

People may, just may, suspect that since those many other examples of over-the-top school discipline involve the dastardly mechanisms known as “guns,” our president and other progressives couldn’t care less.

On the other hand, since Ahmed is Muslim — not to mention that his lives in Texas — well, you can figure it out.

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Dave has been writing about education, politics, and entertainment for over 20 years, including a stint at the popular media bias site Newsbusters. He is a retired educator with over 25 years of service and is a member of the National Association of Scholars. Dave holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Delaware.