There is such power in a single act of kindness.
And so much potential when we try to understand.
Why do we use the term ‘political correctness’?
First used in Soviet Russia in the early 20th century – to describe behaviours that toed the Communist party line — it’s morphed into a Western insult.
From reading comments made online and in print articles, and talking to a few friends, I gather it’s a term used by members of any powerful/majority group (e.g. Whites, Christians, Able-bodied, Male, Non-Immigrant, etc.). But it goes beyond those groups.
I also gather that the term gets used when we are about to say something unkind, or pass on a negative generalization about a member or members of a group.
And it’s also used to decry behaviours that we consider too polite, too considerate of others.
Can there be such a thing as being too polite?
If it means rejecting a Christmas tree in your workplace where the majority of people are Christians — even though people of other religions are welcome to bring in artifacts that celebrate their own religious holidays — then that’s not polite. It’s stupefying.
If it means avoiding certain topics or individuals because we are not brave enough to engage — or even to ask questions about their differences from us — then that’s not polite. It’s cowardly.
Think how much we will never learn, because we are too scared of seeming impolite.
But I find that, too often, when someone decries ‘political correctness’, it’s a way of saying:
“I should be free to say anything I want, about any individual or social group that I want, without having to suffer the consequences or even think about the people I’ve hurt.”
Such ideas make people careless, unkind and even hateful. What is worse, that behaviour is often directed to those who are not powerful enough to hurt them back.
We learn it when we’re children: words have power.
Words can comfort, uplift, enlighten, but words can also hurt, damage, devastate.
I have reached the stage in life — after much suffering and reflection — to know that being considerate to others doesn’t mean weakness. It means strength. It is so much easier to generalize, overlook and dismiss people than to try to understand them.