My last post on political correctness examined the effects of herd mentality and discussed examples of political correctness and its intrusion on critical thinking. This is the second part to that post, but this one focuses on political correctness done in moderation where it isn’t an impediment to critical thinking.
An instance of political correctness undertaken in moderation is when Obama explained to a gold-star mother why he won’t use the phrase ‘Islamic terrorism’—a phrase that carries a lot of baggage behind it. He argued that the phrase implicates millions of peaceful Muslims both in the United States and abroad who “are our fellow troops, and police officers, and firefighters, and teachers, and neighbors, and friends.” Obama referenced conversations he had with Muslims who feel “under attack” from the phrase. In a conference on combating violent extremism in February, Obama observed that, “We are not at war with Islam. We are at war with people who have perverted Islam…These terrorists are desperate for legitimacy. And all of us have a responsibility to refute the notion that groups like ISIL somehow represent Islam, because that is a falsehood that embraces the terrorist narrative.”
He also added that he has no problem if people use that phrase as groups like ISIL do claim that they are speaking for Islam but Obama, himself, does not want to validate what they do. This demonstrates that Obama has considered both viewpoints; his politically correct explanation of not using the phrase “Islamic terrorism” has not hindered his critical thinking. He has gathered his reasons for why it is harmful to use that phrase, evaluated them, and after reflection has come to the conclusion that he does not want to use the phrase.
Ultimately, whether or not political correctness is appropriate depends upon the context. If a speaker is being malicious and accusatory especially without any supportive reasoning, then he or she is just being unkind and perhaps acting without thinking. Either way, their speech is protected under the First Amendment. Yet, as Neil Gaiman has said,
“I started imagining a world in which we replaced the phrase ‘politically correct’ wherever we could with ‘treating other people with respect’, and it made me smile.“
Hence, being politically correct equates to being nice and that makes a lot of difference in terms of peace in our society.