Being politically correct has long been viewed as a drain on free speech, as a promotion of hypersensitivity or as a form of social censorship.
But it is not any of these things.
Political correctness is not a way for us to harshly admonish. It is also not a way to put down others for speech that may have been the product of misunderstanding or lack of education.
Being politically correct is a two-way street.
The best way to think about being politically correct is to simply think about being politically or socially empathetic.
Or as Sally Kohn puts it, being “emotionally correct.”
For instance, if someone tells you not to call them something or to refer to them in a certain way, there is no reason to get huffy about them policing your words or some such nonsense.
These things only set us back by preventing communication.
Just listen to what they have to say and try to apply it. They are not being oversensitive, they simply do not want to feel uncomfortable or offended.
Taking offense when someone calls you out on your own offensive words keeps up a cycle of distress.
It’s inefficient and it goes nowhere.
However, if you communicate in a way that shows you are willing to learn, progress can be made on all fronts.
But again, political correctness cannot work as a just system if one party uses it to disrespect another.
If someone becomes scathing every time someone uses speech that may in some way offend them, then it is harder for people to learn from their mistakes.
They may feel discouraged by an unforgiving or inconsiderate correction and give up trying.
This often happens when we react with hostility.
Fair and polite communication is the best way to gain respect in battles over free speech.
Arguments about what is and is not P.C. take away from the core of the issue.
The core here is that people have the right to feel respected.
Sure, respect means different things to different people.
The threshold for what is offensive can vary from person to person. We should pay attention to these thresholds.
However, communication and a will to understand can help us adapt socially when speaking with one another.
Honestly, political correctness was not put in place to make anyone feel policed or censored.
It exists to give everyone a set of semi-guidelines to help treat everyone with respect and decency.
All of this requires a lot of balance, but one rule of thumb remains the same: we deserve respect.
When in doubt, just do not do or say anything that seems like it could even be construed as rude.
Just be good people.