Rethinking “Political Correctness”

You know how people dislike “political correctness”?  Or at least some people do.  [Note: Our current president was elected because some appreciated that he was never “politically correct.”]

So here’s the thing:

Imagine that you’re at a dinner party sitting around a table with several young female friends and the lighthearted topic is about having babies.  One person shares that she’s so fertile, she gets pregnant when her husband simply looks at her.  Another person comments on how wonderful it is to have a newborn.  You happen to know that one of the women present is having fertility issues and this is a tender topic for her.  You change the subject out of respect and care for her.

Imagine that you are on the board of an organization that’s planning a scholarship fundraiser for high school students and someone suggests having the event at The Plantation Club which 1) has no people of color as members and 2) is called The Plantation Club.  You suggest that celebrating at a place called The Plantation Club will make some people uncomfortable – especially the black and brown students.  Plantation = house with slaves, especially in the Southern United States.  It would be like having a Jewish School fundraiser at the historic home of a Nazi.

Imagine that you invite your new neighbors over and you forget to ask them if they have any food restrictions.  You cook up a feast of pork ribs and bacon-laced beans but when the neighbors come over, you learn that they are Muslim vegetarians.

Maybe it’s not always about political correctness.  Maybe it’s about hospitality.  The purpose of good manners is not to show off how poised and fancy we are; it’s about making others feel comfortable and welcomed.  It’s about putting other people at ease.

So, say “Merry Christmas” to your Christian friends and “Happy Hanukkah” to your Jewish friends and “Happy Holidays” if you aren’t sure.  If somebody tells you that using the word “Jew” as a verb is offensive, believe them.  If people tell you that “picnic” is what Christians used to call the gatherings at lynchings in the Jim Crow South when white folks would bring baskets of food to watch someone get tortured, don’t say, “We can’t say anything any more!”  Instead acknowledge that every day’s a school day and thank them for enlightening you.

Maybe political correctness is not about politics at all.  Maybe it’s simply about being human beings who treat other human beings with respect.

Image from 2017 story about Dairy Queen restaurants posting these signs last Christmas.  Again, this looks less like “political incorrectness” than hospitality and respect for country and those who serve.

4 responses to “Rethinking “Political Correctness”

  1. Thank you for the post. I graduated from Plantation HS in Plantation, Florida. The school mascot was the “Colonel” – a slave-holder charged with subduing rebellions by force. One-third of the student body was African-American. Of course, the African-Americans were blamed for the racial issues at the school. They have since retired the Colonel mascot but retain the name “the Plantation Colonels,” despite the school now being majority African-American and West Indian Americans of Afro-Caribbean descent. When I raised the mascot/name issue on an alumni website, the backlash was intense in its denunciation of “political correctness.”


  2. Ah! Reminds me of what St. Benedict said: “We live every day in the school of Christ.” Thanks, Jan. This really hits home.


  3. This is one of the most brilliant posts I’ve seen on the topic of political correctness. Thank you.

    In particular, this quote stands out: “Maybe it’s not always about political correctness. Maybe it’s about hospitality.”


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