The Myth that Won’t Die: Political Correctness as Outrage Culture

Recently several high-profile individuals have spoken out against what they perceive as a “creepy PC culture” infecting the nation.  These individuals believe that millennials, particularly college-going individuals, can no longer take a joke and are always looking to be offended.   Critics of PC culture feel that in the desire of younger generations to not offend anybody, they have limited critical thinking and discussion.

The argument on the surface seems compelling.   If we try to limit offensive language, are we not censoring free speech?  Are we not narrowing important discourse?  How can we grow as people if we do not hear all perspectives?  After all, isn’t surrounding yourself with like-minded thinkers not conducive to critical thinking?

This notion is actually pretty insulting.  It stereotypes everyone who supports political correctness as the same.  Obviously we must all think alike if we all feel the same way about using language that is inclusive rather than exclusive.  The thing is, we don’t all feel the same way about race or gender a lot of the time.  Each of us carries with us our own experiences and identities.  I, for example as a heterosexual Asian male from a privileged upbringing, have a lot to learn about both race and gender from the literally millions of people in this country who do not share my small cluster of identities.  When a significant portion of us can come together and as a group say “this is wrong,” it’s pretty significant accomplishment.  Suggesting that we are just looking to get outraged suggests we lack substance and real conviction.

This couldn’t be further from the truth.  There are literally thousands of articles that show the detrimental effects of racism and misogyny on racial minorities and women. There are too many to cite here but I highly recommend a google scholar search if you haven’t already.  Scholarly articles stating the opposite, that using sexist or racist language actually contributes to critical thinking, are just not there.  We are not limiting the discourse by censoring individuals who perpetuate injustice.  Discarding discourse that we know is not helpful is a hallmark of progress in society.

Politically incorrect language is also highly selective and targets every group but the one in power: heterosexual White men.  That most of the critics of political correctness are White men is not a coincidence. Political correctness clashes with their privilege; they are used to saying whatever they want whenever they want. This is the appeal of Donald Trump to parts of conservative America.  He, due to his position, can say the things they want to say but no longer can in a PC culture.  He still exudes the unlimited White heterosexual male privilege they want but no longer have.  This is what “outrage culture” and political correctness took away from them.

We as a society need to stop pitying the spoiled White boy on the playground told to share for the first time.


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