Everything is problematic: On being ‘too PC’

[Columns, letters or cartoons published are the work of the attributed author and do not necessarily represent the official views or opinions of “The Highland Echo.”]

If you can’t tell by the name of my column, I’ve been accused of this sin in the past. “Too PC” was practically my nickname in high school. While other ostentatious young teens were playing sports and making out with people, I was sitting in the back of the classroom, complaining to unwilling listeners about the obviously racist undertones in James Cameron’s “Avatar.“

I still think “Avatar” is terrible, and I’m still a firm believer in the art of political correctness. My angry teenage self would be pleased to know that I will go down fighting for it as a way of life while simultaneously calling you out for that misogynistic thing you said on Twitter last week. Yeah, that’s right. I saw that.

When somebody complains about someone else being politically correct, it’s usually when they’re being called out on saying something offensive. Unable to formulate enough backup for their awful opinions, they then turn to invalidate the person calling them out by praying to the gods of questionable arguing tactics. At that point, they are granted with the apparently universally accepted retort of, “You’re just being too politically correct,” which they say with such authority that you’d think those words were carved into stone tablets like a truly horrifying Ten Commandments.

This opens up the Pandora’s Box of diversion tactics. As soon as you’re labeled “PC,” whatever hurt you were feeling or whatever legitimate critique you might have had of their problematic behavior is immediately squashed under a tidal wave of statements like, “What is our country coming to when you can’t even make a simple joke?” or increasingly desperate versions of, “I have freedom of speech, so I can say what I want.”

Basically, witnessing the reaction to someone being called out on saying something offensive is kind of like being in the middle of the comment section on a YouTube video: embarrassing, kind of confusing and completely devoid of legitimate arguments.

When someone tells a joke that has the potential to offend an entire oppressed group of people, they’re not just telling a simple joke. I wrote in an earlier article last semester that words are important. We use words to construct our reality. When you choose to call someone out for saying or doing something offensive, you’re taking a chance, and it’s a pretty brave one. Me complaining about “Avatar” in high school is not one of those brave chances, because those sketchy white savior undertones don’t ultimately affect my own personhood, but that bravery is most evident when you’re taking on someone who is using your own identity as a plotline or a punch line.

Calling someone “too PC” for doing this is a disservice to people who are just attempting to make the world a less hostile environment for people who are already struggling.

Besides, there would be no reason for the concept to even exist if people weren’t being jerks. In fact, I’d like to argue for a change of terminology. Let’s switch “politically correct” for “not being a jerk” for a while and see how that works out. That way, when you tell that girl who calls you out for jokingly ordering her to go make you a sandwich not to “try to not be a jerk all the time,” maybe it will be a little more clear exactly what you’re saying.

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