The paradox of political correctness

March 8, 2017 — by David Koh

Political correctness. Avoidance? Escapism? Liberal lying? With the rise of the Trump movement and the protests that have followed, political correctness has been referenced in countless news articles and angry tweets.

Political correctness is defined as the avoidance of actions or expression that are perceived to exclude or marginalize groups who are socially disadvantaged. Of course, the controversy surrounding political correctness is the large gray area surrounding what is considered “exclusionary” or not — a gray area that reveals political correctness to be truly intolerant.

First, the concept of political correctness is inherently paradoxical, in that by trying to foster tolerance and respect, political correctness excludes other groups. Political correctness allows the majority viewpoint to criticize and censor the “politically incorrect” minority.

Another issue is that we simply don’t have and shouldn’t have the right to not be offended. Realistically, the world is filled with people who couldn’t care less about other people’s feelings. At some point political correctness just becomes escapism from a real world filled with “politically incorrect” dialogue and viewpoints. In reality, something branded with that term is nothing more than a minority opinion that should be evaluated by a standard that’s not just whether or not it alienates others.

The real problem with political correctness lies in its power to exclude meaningful dialogue. While things like acute racism or hate speech don’t add much to dialogue or debate and should be restricted, issues such as differing viewpoints or beliefs should always be included in public forums otherwise we end up with echo chambers in which there is only one viewpoint.

Instead of hiding or turning away from controversial viewpoints, people should face them head on. The extent taken doesn’t need to be the point of provocation — in fact, it shouldn’t be — but this is the only way to learn how to cope or deal with viewpoints that may be exclusionary or offensive to any group of people. Only then can debate can be fostered.