I’m PC. So what?

On numerous occasions (usually on the Ubuntu Forums, but sometimes in person as well), I’ve been accused of being “PC” (politically correct), as if that’s a bad thing. As if the mere fact of being PC is something to be ashamed of. Why? What’s so bad about it?

Seriously.

PC has gotten a bad name of the past decade and a half. But simply being PC shouldn’t be anything to be ashamed of. The only behaviors related to PC that one should be ashamed of are

  • Policing others’ speech without explaining why the speech is inappropriate
  • Using “political correctness” as an excuse for indulging in euphemisms

For the most part, I am PC only for myself. I do not dictate that others use the same terminology I do. I’ll make rare exceptions for extremely outdated / offensive terms such as nigger or chink. I’ll also frown upon people under fifty using the term negro when not speaking Spanish, or using the term oriental to refer to people. I do find it ridiculous to call short people “horizontally challenged,” as the term “short” is not offensive so much as it is descriptive.

But I also believe that language is political. And if you have to be political about language, might as well be “correctly” political… in whatever sense “correct” means to you. Your politics do not have to agree with my politics, but I refuse to believe there exist people who are non-political with their speech. Everyone—whether she is aware of it or not—is political with her speech. Your choice of words reflects your values and views. Be deliberate. Own it. I do. I’m PC. So what?

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14 Comments

  1. I work at 911, and I find it really annoying when I ask a caller “is s/he white, black, hispanic or asian?” and the caller replies “oh he’s an african american gentleman,” as if because they are referring to skin color they must make up for it by phrasing it in some ridiculous manner.

    Same applies when they “Caucasian fellow.” It’s just silly. If you’re calling 911 cause you just caught someone trying to steal your car, it’s OKAY to refer to them as a “black guy.” It’s just a color.

  2. Well, the funny thing is that I find myself sometimes saying Black and other times saying African-American. I haven’t done a full analysis on any patterns yet, though.

  3. Totally funny that I thought your post was going to be about PC/Mac issues ;-)

    You should read “The Culture of Fear” that talks about the what the “PC” thing started. The term can be traced back to a single media episode.

    I also think labeling something “PC” tries to devalue core issues that are trying to be addressed. Call something PC and the concern is not longer valid.

    If being PC is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

  4. For me, being PC means being unnecessarily false in one’s speech. To cover up one’s true feelings or thoughts with a word that is a circumlocution on the idea behind it.

    Using “black” instead of “negro” is not PC, it is being considerate and inoffensive. Saying “hortizontally challenged” instead of “short” is a ridiculous roudabout way of saying short, yet it affords a false air of good posture, of respect. this is what it means to be PC.

    UbuntuCat, from your examples, you are not PC. You are a careful speaker, one who understands social graces.

    Being “Politically Correct,” using more words to explain a simple fact, is just mocking the idea at hand.

  5. Well, this is where we differ, edmundo.

    In your mind, you disagree with my accusers about my need to be accused, but you agree with them that being PC is a shameful thing to be accused of.

    In my mind, being PC is fine and is not the same as being ridiculous or unnecessarily euphemistic.

  6. Look, as long as people are reasonable, I don’t mind… Political correctness is irrelevant because no matter what, you’ll always be incorrect in the eyes of some people.

  7. And there’s no such thing as “PC” if you really think about it. It’s a term invented by one set of people to denigrate another set of people for the views they hold. The same terminology can be used in either sense.

    So I think the term itself is devoid of any meaning or sense.

  8. I think political correctness only becomes something reprehensible when the user goes to extremes in order to avoid offending anyone, and in doing so brings more attention to the issue than would have been there before. For example, by branding someone as “horizontally challenged” rather than “short”, more attention is focused on height since everyone listening/reading gets stuck on that mouthful of words for a while. I do think, Ubuntucat, that you are guilty of this when using “her” instead of “his” or some other substitute, although I am not sure there is a good substitute in our language. However, all it does is draw attention to that part of the post that normally would be focused on the main subject matter; even you say that is the purpose. I personally don’t mind, but others may.

  9. Hey, at least you own it ;-)

    We all should, I guess. It’s a good point you make, that we’re all political (to a degree) in our speech whether we know it or not.

  10. Being an Australian and a Christian I find I’m particularly sensitive to Political Correctness in Churches. For instance I have no problem using the word “bastard” when I’m with close friends, as in “Don’t worry. I’m just another bastard”, or “I spoke this bastard about things”. Of course the word “bastard” is still used as a swear word but we Australians tend to be casual with out meaning.

    But I wouldn’t dare speak that way with some Christians I know. With most of my fellow Christians I really have to watch what I say. And this has lead to me cut myself off from some of them. Of course you can’t swear in church but I just find the constant state of self control even outside of church to be just too much.

    Political Correctness does have it’s place but don’t let in stop you from being an honest member of Humanity.

  11. So you would rather be in a church where everyone swore? Of course you cannot use ‘bastard’ in church – it would be absurd if you could.

    What next? Telling the priest to ‘fuck off’ if you don’t like his sermon?

    If some people want to go around using terms like ‘nigger’ and ‘chink’ then, for me, that is entirely up to their own sociopathic nature – there should not be laws and punishments (at Government level) against such things.

  12. Jim

    I would not consider it proper to swear in church. Although I have met some Church Ministers who, shall we say, don’t deserve my full respect.

    My point is you can go too far in either direction. Terms like “nigger” and “chink” are disrespectful. But over correcting in the name of political correctness can be offensive in itself.

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