Political correctness is free speech

Republicans have pushed out a narrative—based in a fear of change—that political correctness is a symptom of censorship.

Free speech is a right afforded to each citizen in the United States. However, there’s a majority that feels their rights are being infringed upon.

According to an NPR poll, 52 percent of Americans are against the country becoming more politically correct. Nearly half of all Americans say they feel socially obligated to hold their tongue or change their speech to protect the ‘feelings’ of others.

Many believe political correctness infringes upon the right to free speech. However, I’d argue that inclusive language affirms the right to free speech, more than it infringes it.

Conservatives believe political correctness limits what people can and cannot say. They also complain that political correctness — simply, language and behavior intended not to offend — targets conservative values and rhetoric. All over conservative media, the right has a problem with the new culture.

The president has now taken a stand against it.

In his latest attempt to overstep his political power, President Trump signed an executive order to protect the conservative’s right to free speech on college campuses. In March, Trump’s administration penned this executive order to ensure that public universities who protect their students’ First Amendment rights receive federal grants.

Disregarding this order’s effectiveness, some colleges are worried. The executive order doesn’t distinguish what constitutes as ‘protecting free speech’. This ambiguity leaves all the power and funding in the hands of the administration, determining what speech deserves protection.

How ironic. Trump’s order protecting free speech may impede on free speech.

But the president has a point. Conservatives have trouble booking guests at college campuses. Campuses all across the country have barred extreme right-wing speakers from their campuses. One specific example happened earlier this year at Grand Canyon University.

In February, GCU denied Ben Shapiro the opportunity to speak at an event held by the school’s Young Americans for Freedom. A popular right-wing commentator, Shapiro holds some divisive views on sexuality and race that causes many public outrages. Eventually GCU lifted the ban and invited Shapiro to give his presentation.

One of the school’s reasons for initially denying Shapiro was to “maintain its culture of unity, love, respect and having all student voices on campus heard.” The right interpreted this as an attack on Shapiro’s politically incorrect — and, near strategically offensive — style.

Paraphrasing the ideas of Karl Marx, the ideas of the dominant culture become the dominant ideas. Usually, whatever way the dominant culture sees the world becomes how the world envisions itself. In the United States, conservative white men controlled the narrative on social issues.

Political correctness creates an environment where offensive and ignorant language is unacceptable. It makes people change how they address others and their cultures.

This new culture gives voices to minorities. It allows them to determine how society addresses and represents them. It protects and empowers the ideas and speech of the minority. This culture doesn’t infringe on the rights of others, it levels the playing field.

Political correctness is not the problem. It is becoming a sort of social norm, and people can choose to participate or not. However, if one acts outside those social parameters, people around may react.

Shapiro has a history of visiting college campuses and challenging liberal ideas. He uses these encounters as evidence of the intellectual superiority of conservatives, in what Vox reporter Jane Coaston calls, a “hollow bravery.” What he calls superiority, I call insecurity.

The problem isn’t that liberals are afraid of truth. It’s that conservatives are afraid of change.

Conservatism prioritizes nostalgia. Conservatives miss a world where no one challenged them. As they stand athwart history yelling “Stop!”, they miss society growing and changing. They fail to realize that, as people change, society’s norms must change alongside them.

We cannot afford to fight this falsified cultural war. Political correctness can coexist with conservatism, but not with intolerance. Political correctness may not be perfect, but it begins a conversation on establishing true social equality.

I write about culture, both popular and political.

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