Guest column by Danielle Shorr, senior creative writing major
Political correctness is a term I’ve been grappling to fully comprehend since its resurrection back into popular culture. Perhaps its contention came with the term’s inception, although it has arguably been made relevant again with the country’s rising tensions.
In his opinion piece for The Panther Oct. 16, sophomore business administration major Ryan Marhoefer used “political correctness” to assist his opposition to the strive for diversity. His disdain for the idea is apparent as he writes, “The obsession with multiculturalism and political correctness, in a vain attempt to create ‘inclusion,’ has created an environment where students only hear one side.” How does a move toward political correctness imply a goal for one-sidedness? And how do the topics of diversity and inclusion relate to the term?
It seems like those opposed to critical conversation and analysis seek refuge in the proclamation of political correctness. Like Marhoefer, many conservatives blame political correctness to avoid productive conversation. Marhoefer argued multiple times that radicalism breeds silencing and produces an echo chamber. However, I would argue that radicalism challenges what many avoid because they’re afraid of changing their beliefs. Conservatives often view themselves as open-minded, but it is narrow-minded to dismiss other perspectives. If radicalism is an echo chamber, then why do many conservatives choose to counter argue instead of understand different views?
The argument that radicalism silences is curious. The institutionally racist structures of this country do more to silence people than radicalism does. As shown by President Donald Trump’s election, radical ideology is in fact not the majority in America, and as a result, its supporters must consistently and actively fight for its platform to speak.
Political correctness, although a hot button term, may actually have no relevance to the conversation. Diversity and inclusion have less to do with being politically correct and more to do with simply creating space for those who have been institutionally blocked from having it. The term needs updating or complete abandonment for these conversations to progress. Political correctness, while necessary for basic decency, has gotten lost in divisiveness. Political progressiveness gives a much better representation of radicalism and its goals. Political correctness, on the other hand, frequently claimed as a weapon of anti-free speech, has become a buffer to prevent political progressiveness.
Marhoefer is persistent that radicalism has become a method of silencing, “This radicalism has hushed numerous individuals who were merely presenting legitimate questions and critiques,” he wrote. But he doesn’t acknowledge that silence is a choice that many choose to avoid having critical conversations.
Claiming that an opposing side silences opinions implies that one doesn’t want to engage in deeper conversation. A political majority’s claim of silencing, unlike the silencing caused by institutional power systems, exists because of a lack of engagement in dialogue rather than force. Marhoefer’s ability to succeed, unlike that of his marginalized peers, is not infringed upon by issues of race. He’s not being forcibly silenced. It’s his privilege that allows him to succeed. His insistence that opposing political views silences opinions, and his disdain for political correctness stems from a privilege to separate political views from identity. Diversity and inclusion are not just matters of appeasing standards, but they are necessary for a more equitable society. Perhaps privilege shows itself most when someone is able to view both as unnecessary.