Combatting the “Political Correctness”​ Myth

Corey Ponder
9 min readSep 7, 2019
Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Are we becoming too politically correct?

I read an article in The Economist a couple of weeks ago that seemed to espouse the belief that, yes, in America, we were. On both sides of the political spectrum, the article argued, people are assaulting the “fundamental liberty of saying what you think”. This, above all, is the defining characteristic of democracies and a key to progress.

And while this article did not use the term “political correctness”, I feel like the right to speak your mind and inclusive language has become interlocked in a spiraling, destructive battle for supremacy. If we live in a world where we think about the impact of our words, free speech dies with a whimper; if we have the freedom to speak our mind, inclusion is tossed out the window to lighten the intellectual burden so our beliefs and opinions can soar above all.

However, I think the focus on finding a balance between these two poles misses the real issue — that “politically correct” is even a thing, to begin with. The existence of the phrase alone almost acknowledges that whatever opinions or statements follow or precede that phrase is offensive by design. Like someone saying “with all due respect” before telling you they didn’t care for your potato salad. Somehow that utterance doesn’t instill confidence in me that your intentions and idea-sharing was meant to “challenge me” and help my “potato salad” game grow stronger.

“Politically correct” has become synonymous with “sharing unpopular opinions”; however, I think it always has been and always will be just a prelude to “insensitivity”. Like every corporate class or training I have been in about effective communication, if your goal is to share an idea or give feedback, you don’t get a pass for good intent coupled with poor language. A manager telling their report “hey, you are dumb” doesn’t get style points for being succinct and clear. Likewise, if a person’s true intent in sharing an unpopular opinion is to challenge a status quo belief and help someone else grow, being “politically incorrect” in the process won’t make that unpopular opinion any easier to swallow.

I believe the idea of freedom of speech has become wildly romanticized, making it hard for people to see its imperfections. Even if it is the best for…

Corey Ponder

Tech policy professional by day, wannabe superhero by night. Passionate about building communities, spaces, and platforms focused on inclusion and empathy.