It does not take long when watching Fox News to realize how much some people hate political correctness. Especially among the right, there seems to be a consensus that it is harming the fabric of American identity. Arguments of free speech, hurt feelings and even national security are constantly used to attack political correctness. Ted Cruz has even suggested on national television that political correctness “is killing people.”
“Lying Ted’s” sweeping remarks on the dangers of political correctness are, of course, wrong. The conversation on political correctness has no place in a news outlet, and much less in a presidential debate. After all, is a debate really needed? Political correctness is not an infectious disease. It is a standard that those who deal in public affairs should adhere to.
But, what about all other parts of life? To what extent is political correctness more than a political issue?
Oddly enough, the spread of a politically correct culture has offended people all around. Even Lawrence, a very politically correct (PC) institution, is often split on questions of how PC we should be. It is my opinion that by its nature, political correctness should only be demanded in political, public or safe forums. Art forms, for example, constantly make politically incorrect remarks. But there is value to this. Art and expression are methods of challenging our understanding of culture, and as such, we must expect them to be incorrect, even if they are problematic.
Take comedy as the first case. Comedians all over have rallied against political correctness and this seems to be the consensus among them. Even clean comedians that usually refrain from controversy have voiced concern with political correctness. Jerry Seinfeld characterized the movement towards correctness as a “creepy PC thing.”
Frankly ,I do not see PC culture as creepy nor complex, but there is validity in being concerned by it as a comedian. Comedy is an oratory art that relies on challenging stereotypes and beliefs. Presenting widely conceived notions of someone’s identity is key to maintaining comedy.
As a Hispanic man, I know well that comedy constantly reinforces stereotypes. However, I do not think that it is done in a malicious way. Nor do I think that comedy influences culture enough to cement prejudices. George Lopez fans might assume that drive-through workers have funny accents, but that does not make them hate immigrants, nor does it persuade them to vote for Donald Trump. When you decide to consume comedy, you do it with already prescribed notions of how people act. If, as an adult, you blame comedy for your education in culture and society, then you are not a well-informed or even a good person overall.
But, comedy is not the only place where a non-PC culture should be allowed to flourish. Take music as another example. Thanks to a more informed generation, black culture is becoming better preserved in hip-hop. If rappers had not been allowed to demean women, offend LGBT+ people and hammer in racial prejudice, we would not have the “real” culture that we have today.
Music, film, literature and many other art forms all thrive because we are able to challenge and expose prejudice. Who we are is expressed as much in what we do as in what we say. If we are to truly become informed of others’ identity, we must allow them to express freely, even if it offends us.
Realistically, insensitive material will always exist in the arts—feeling uncomfortable with it is as much a part of being politically correct as attempting to not be insensitive.