Political correctness infected politics, discussion forums and academia this year, leaving little space to free speech and debate. Unfortunately 2016 left of us a series of examples on how freedom of speech was betrayed: from Clinton and Trump’s crusade on political correctness, infinite Internet discussions on cultural appropriation to college activists and academia censoring anything that may hurt someone’s feelings.
Most of us have accused president-elect Donald Trump of being a racist misogynist bigot – yeah, in that order, just like any other media outlet – but truth is I’ve learned something valuable from him. After this year’s campaign I learned that political correctness will no longer help anyone win an election. Hillary’s strategic mistake to pay far more attention to minority groups such as African-American, women, L.G.B.T. and Latino voters cost her the election. If you don’t mention every group in America, those left out will surely notice and feel excluded. Which is exactly what happened with the white working class (almost two thirds of white voters with no college degree and over 55% of the white vote went to Trump).
I also learnt that political correctness in 2016 is slowly killing free speech. PC refers to the avoidance of certain forms of expression or actions that may be perceived to marginalize or insult vulnerable groups of people. Freedom of speech is granted as a right in the entire western world, but advocates of PC have shattered it. Hypersensitivity has reached a boiling point for our society. Political correctness is a “new brand of censorship” like Bill Maher from HBO has called it. People are frightened to state the facts about a certain topic because it will somehow be interpreted as offensive or insensitive. It is extremely difficult to speak your mind without offending someone; since we all have different opinions, why can’t we intellectually debate conflicting views?
I’ve also noticed a series of articles about colleges in the US struggling with student activists that are pro PC. It may seem far fetched but there have been crazy demands of college students this year such as: getting rid of grades and tests, abolishing English classes that only feature white male poets, implementing segregated safe spaces and stopping cross-ethnic food and songs. Segregated safe places not only perpetuate separatism but they also go against the core values of the diversity safe haven the US has been. Teachers are not at fault that white male poets like T.S Eliot or Alexander Pope where outstanding in English literature. Opening a crappy sushi restaurant is not cultural appropriation, and it does not make the owner a racist either.
By sheltering young adults, our society is contributing in increasing intolerance and sensitivity, consequently killing freedom of speech. It seems like “the modern college student thinks he or she (or xe)” is struggling with unpleasant, unsafe and hostile situations. –Sorry, not sorry- but sugar coating everything won’t make you learn what life is all about. While some opinions out there are purely based on racism and other awful things that merit coercive responses, others are simply “victims of an ideologically motivated campaign of silencing”.