Being Politically Correct

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Being Politically Correct
Being politically correct ranges from using preferred gender pronouns for transgender people to boycotting certain clothing stores because of their ties to sweatshops, as depicted in the illustration (Doug Griswold/San Jose Mercury News, 1996).

By AISHEE DAS
Staff Writer

Just a few weeks ago, my friend and I got into an argument about the consequences of Blackfish, a documentary that revealed SeaWorld’s mistreatment of its famous killer whales. Although we both loved SeaWorld before, watching Blackfish made us uncomfortable with supporting an organization that mistreats animals to the extent that the documentary revealed. We reminisced about a time when we had not known about the mistreatment and could love and appreciate our childhood memories at the park and silently wished that the mistreatment did not matter and hence the “boycott” of our beloved SeaWorld. Likewise, political correctness is something everyone wishes were gone so life could be simpler.

Political correctness is avoiding expressions or actions that exclude or discriminate against oppressed or marginalized groups. When people are not politically correct, they often receive criticism, whether it is justified or not. One example of justified criticism was when the parents of Leelah Alcorn, a transgender teenager, refused to recognize her as a female. The media continued to refer to Leelah as a male, even after her death, and was justly criticized for doing so.  The media using Leelah’s birth name, Josh, not only was offensive but also set a bad example for the treatment of other transgender individuals.

While avoiding certain behaviors like that might seem easy, societal norms and culture often make it difficult to remember to be politically correct or take the extra step to do so. As a result, being politically correct has infamously become tedious and unnecessary. Just as I secretly still wish to visit SeaWorld and ignore the mistreatment, it is restrictive to boycott certain clothing stores, like American Apparel or Abercrombie, because of their ties to sweatshops.

However, the only reason I can debate whether I want to support a clearly problematic organization is because I am so far removed from the situation. The treatment of killer whales or child workers in Vietnam does not affect me directly and, as a result, I can feel less immoral by supporting such organizations. When someone complains about how tedious being politically correct is, it is because that individual has not received the prejudice or discrimination that continually marginalizes these groups. Therefore, it is unfair to refuse to be politically correct for being tedious and ineffective when its effects make a large difference.

A lack of political correctness seriously hurts marginalized groups. Halloween constantly exploits different cultures and turns them into costumes. While dressing up as a Native America by wearing a headdress and loincloths or as a Mexican by wearing a sombrero and poncho may be a simple costume, it hurts the individuals within those cultures whose lives have become a costume for others to wear for fun. This cultural appropriation is so common that both the marginalized group and the rest become accustomed to it and do not fight against the normalcy.

While it may be tedious, political correctness empowers minority groups. There are so many stories of young girls and boys of color who are inspired to reach for their goals by other people of color in the media. While it is often a conscious decision to add diversity to TV shows and movies, the outcomes of these decisions are rewarded and praised by audiences and critics.

Furthermore, when documentaries like Blackfish show the mistreatment at SeaWorld, they teach thousands of potential SeaWorld visitors about the sort of organizations they would be supporting. While the treatment of killer whales does not affect me, making some effort to not support SeaWorld and spreading the word is all just out of courtesy and respect. And in the end, that is what being politically correct is about: appreciating and welcoming changes that oppressed groups request out of the wish for a better and kinder world.

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