Is showing respect for others as simple as avoiding certain words?
Today, many people feel out of control in the face of too much change. This leads to frustration, anger and fear. Unfortunately, the media uses this fear and anger to attract consumers and increase the power and influence of populist politicians. This diet of fear perpetuates negative stereotypes, normalises the abuse of people on the edges of our society and forms a vicious circle.
There is no doubt that so-called political correctness (or as I like to call it, ‘common decency and respect’) has made us and our society a better place. But people have had to fight for equal rights, and still are. Language is a living thing and constantly changes to represent groups who are throwing off centuries of discrimination. What has changed with it is our reliance on politeness to question the world around us by rejecting the doctrine of using the ‘correct’ words. Increasingly the approach now is to actually question why the words we can choose can hurt others. It is uncomfortable and forces us to confront ourselves and our accepted History. Members of minority groups reclaim language that has oppressed them, those words belong to them now and we should not use them. Knowingly using words that have a negative meaning for a specific person or group of people is disrespectful. Unknowing use of such language shows our ignorance.
Political Correctness also draws attention to the inherent lack of respect for others that politicians on the right have. Dealing with minorities conflicts with the structure that has served their interests for hundreds of years. They now have to cloak this discrimination and lash out when doing so. They grossly simplify the principle by saying things like ‘you can’t say anything anymore.’ or ‘it’s political correctness gone mad.’ Health and Safety is another example of something that has made our lives infinitely better but is used as a scapegoat by those whose attempts to exploit people are frustrated by it. This sense of outrage has been picked up by the media and is used to vilify minority groups and spills over into our everyday interactions.
So, if we hear something that make us feel uncomfortable, we should challenge it. To make an appropriate challenge, always look at the intention, ‘what is this person trying to say?’ Is something being presumed? How has this word developed? You have to consider the context of the word and use your judgement. We try, it is not difficult. That is how we learn.
If someone refers to me as a ‘person with disabilities’, I politely and discreetly challenge this. I’d say I prefer ‘disabled person’ and explain the former implies that the disability is not a part of you, it is something extra added to a person. However, some disabled people prefer to be called people with disabilities. You never know, if you’re not sure, ask. Surely if you ask someone’s name, you remember it and don’t keep getting it wrong.
Political Correctness is about talking to and about other people with respect and showing empathy. Not about arbitrarily avoiding certain terms or words.
You cannot choose your Family, but you should expect them to treat yourself and others with respect. If you do not challenge either ignorance or hate, you are colluding in it. Prejudices can be very deeply held, and people do not appreciate being challenged. If you try to help and they just cannot understand, you do not need them in your life; let them go. I make mistakes, but I am willing to learn from them. I will not accept hate or ignorance from my friends or from public figures.