If I were to say the phrase “peanut butter sandwich,” what would be the first thing that you think of? Maybe something along the lines of “jelly,” or “bread.” I highly doubt that “racist” would come to mind. However, that is exactly what one principal from an elementary school in Portland thought when he heard that a teacher at his school used a peanut butter sandwich as a classroom example. In his opinion, the sandwich apparently alludes to white privilege, since not all cultures eat peanut butter sandwiches. This is an example of political correctness gone way too far.
Political correctness became a widespread phenomenon in the 1980s, when scholars wanted to ensure that no cultural or social groups were excluded or marginalized through language commonly used.
Political correctness definitely has its place in society. The terms that are now considered appropriate to use when referring to people of other races, such as African-American, are much kinder than derogatory terms used in the past.
However, political correctness can be taken too far when it begins to severely hinder free speech. One example I found particularly troublesome involved Juan Williams, an expert who was fired from National Public Radio after some controversial statements, in which he expressed that he feels somewhat nervous when he sees a Muslim on an airplane.
In an article written the day after his termination, Williams stated, “To say the least this is a chilling assault on free speech. The critical importance of honest journalism and a free flowing, respectful national conversation needs to be had in our country. But it is being buried as collateral damage in a war whose battles include political correctness and ideological orthodoxy.” I absolutely agree with this.
Since our founding, Americans have always believed that free speech is necessary for liberty. I believe that we need to continue to honor and uphold that value because it is an essential part of the Bill of Rights. We cannot stifle free speech because a certain word or phrase has the potential to offend someone.
Of course, we should be cautious enough with our words that we are not being blatently offensive to others. However, we cannot become so obsessed with political correctness that we are left with nothing else to say. I don’t know about you, but I want to live in a society where I can talk about peanut butter sandwiches or express an honest feeling without being called a racist or some other derogatory term.
Lindsey Hubbart Columnist
Hubbart is a sophomore majoring in economics. Comments can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.