By NINA CARLSON, senior
Only one place could inspire fear in every comedian: the college campus, where poorly-worded joke elicit organized protests instead of laughter. Many complain that college students are overreacting, crying over spilled milk. By by doing so, these people recognize the power of these actions. Racial profiling and slurs must be dealt with in regards to the racism they promote. By encouraging political correctness, we are encouraging conversation, and we are taking one more step toward equality. Political correctness is refusing maltreatment based on race, gender, or other features irrelevant to the temperament of a person and the rightful demanding of equal consideration for every culture. As a modern and growing nation that houses cultures from all over the world, it is time that we address and erase stereotypes. We must wipe away the traces of discrimination that linger in our society, and that begins with our words. Political correctness should not be demonized; rather, it should be welcomed as a forward-thinking measure.
Although political correctness has been mislabeled as oversensitivity, it is, in reality, a commendable effort to eradicate the subliminal oppression and discrimination present in society. Minorities have the right to to promote images that best represent who they are and rid society of representations that don’t. This entitlement is rightfully exercised by marginalized students in the recent controversies surrounding Yale University, who feel that the competitive environment of Yale is unwelcoming for students of color. Racial tensions reached a tipping point Halloween last year, when Yale President Peter Salovey sent out an email to the student body refusing to address Halloween costumes that were potentially offensive and racist. Already under fire for allowing an alleged “All-White” frat party, Yale faced even larger backlash from their student body after their refusal to acknowledge the issue at hand, with accusations of on-campus oppression and discrimination. Yale’s staff was negligent in recognizing the needs of their minority students and condemning racist activity. Most notably, Professor Erika Christakis downplayed the incident as another situation where “there is no room anymore for a child or young person to be a little bit obnoxious.” In response, crowds of students, predominantly composed of minorities, gathered to hold protests and even sent a letter to the top leaders of the university demanding better treatment from the offenders and higher-ups.
The students’ response was not only an act of political correctness, but it was also an intrinsic right. In fostering a healthy learning environment, creating a “safe space” for students should be one of the primary goals of educators, but in their refusal to take any sort of action Yale’s leaders were only elevating tensions further. As the future of America, it is the right of these students to determine what is socially acceptable and appropriate, even if these beliefs don’t align with those of previous generations.
When racial tensions erupted at the University of Missouri last fall as well, black students protested the President’s lackadaisical approach to fixing racial problems on campus and demanded his resignation. The protesters were then terrorized by racist white students and given death threats via anonymous app YikYak. If anyone is having his or her right to free speech infringed upon, it’s proponents of political correctness like Mizzou students. Ironically, many antagonists of political correctness claim that it mitigates freedom of speech. However, political correctness is an extension of free speech; it is endowing freedom of speech to those who are marginalized by society. It gives those who are the victims of stereotypes, discrimination, and both subtle and overt racism the power to speak out against the societal dangers and discrimination they face on a daily basis.
Obviously, if words could not evoke emotions, it would be much easier to converse without the fear of offending anyone. But unfortunately, words such as “fat” and “black”, although perhaps factually and literally correct, could never be considered politically correct or inoffensive without carrying the hefty weights of negativity. Therefore, as the regulators and creators of these connotations, we are the ones responsible for creating a net, managed by the minorities, to catch and block these negativities from creating unsafe spaces.
Unfortunately, no one wants to believe that racism and prejudice still persist in an “advanced” nation, free of discrimination and racial tension. However, this country is not where we want it to be. If our country is to embody progress, it must first accept and support movements that speak out for those heard the least.