Political correctness hurts free speech

While political correctness can help people feel accepted, it shuts down dialogue that actually leads to change.

With the Internet and mass media allowing access to a nearly limitless marketplace of ideas, people can now experience other cultures with just a few clicks. This invention has brought about a cultural shift with a general movement towards acceptance of others and political correctness. 

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of    grievances. ”

— Amendment I United States Constitution

While learning about new ideas and cultures is something incredible that everyone should take advantage of, the resulting stress on political correctness has gone too far. This harsh emphasis has gotten to the point where speech—even casual conversations—are subject to merciless ridicule. This shaming of cultural insensitivity shuts down a lot of the necessary dialogue about delicate issues that actually helps lead to change.

While many people who try to be politically correct are only attempting to be inclusive, President George HW Bush believes that the practice can be disenfranchising: “The notion of political correctness…declares certain topics off-limits, certain expressions off-limits, even certain gestures off-limits. What began as a crusade for civility has soured into a cause of conflict and even censorship.”

In a country who dedicates its first amendment to the protection of free speech, it is baffling that the idea of government censorship is even considered—but it is. For example, a Pew Research study found that 40% of American millennials thought that the government should be able to censor people from saying offensive things to minorities, compared with about 20% of their parents, and 12% of their grandparents.

While I don’t agree with the hateful misuse of speech, the freedom to speak it must be protected, so we don’t risk losing all speech.

Political correctness is alive and well in our society today, and unfortunately its progression seems to be tied to the limiting of free speech. Instead of shutting down people who “offend” others, those of us committed to political correctness should try to have more discussions and promote conversations to make change. We all come from different backgrounds that affect how we form our opinions, so sharing the reasoning behind an opinion and then backing it up makes more progress than senseless bickering.

Our society is transitioning to be more global in its reach, and we are going to have to deal with meeting and experiencing countless different peoples and cultures. Consequently, we have to make sure that we can work together, learn from one another, listen to one another, and hopefully get along just a little bit better than we have in the past.