The discussion about political correctness seems to be everywhere today, raging on Facebook through shared memes and articles and even at home where easily-misconstrued or insensitive phrases are sometimes uttered, causing those present to cringe. Are we as a society bettering ourselves and trying to be considerate of other people and their feelings, or are we being too sensitive? Where is the line between what we are and are not “allowed” to say?
Many colleges across the nation are holding seminars teaching students how to be more politically correct and to avoid microaggressions, comments that convey negative connotations and, intentionally or not, target people based on a marginalized group to which they may belong. More often than not these microaggressions are the sort of phrases that one says and then spends the rest of the week regretting. In other instances, such microaggressions can be the result of a society that is focused on labeling and stereotyping all kinds of people.
Other universities, such as the University of Chicago, have begun which some describe as a fight against political correctness. In their welcoming letter to incoming freshmen this year, the University of Chicago’s dean of students, John Ellison, took a strong stance, stating, “Our commitment to academic freedom means that we do not support so-called trigger warnings, we do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial, and we do not condone the creation of intellectual ‘safe spaces’ where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own.” Some have said that the university merely did it as a publicity stunt; others commented that they did not believe the letter carried a very welcoming message. For many, it is a question of freedom of speech, of not being “allowed” to say what they think.
Where is the place for political correctness on a Seventh-day Adventist campus, especially one that takes such pride in being so international that it flies the flags of the countries represented by our students in front of our church? Does it really matter if people are being too sensitive? Most children are raised to be kind to one another, to take the feelings of other people into account when they speak, to have an open mind to other viewpoints, and to admit when they’re wrong. I would imagine these lessons could be carried on into adulthood.
I believe that as followers of Christ, we would do well to avoid comments that could be interpreted as negative to a particular group. If we do happen to make some comment to which someone takes offence, we should recognize it and have a discussion with that person about it. I also believe there is a line between being politically correct and restricting speech. If someone respectfully expresses a viewpoint that is different from our own, we shouldn’t shut them down but rather hear them out. After all, aren’t we here to learn? The world is a fascinating place full of fascinating people, but miscommunications are inevitable; when they happen, I suggest we be forgiving and understanding.