Political Correctness in a Global Culture

Amaya Mikolič-Berrios ‘21
EE Editor-in-Chief

A revolution in communication has recently taken hold of the world. As every statement becomes increasingly politicized, the global conversation has shied away from painful truths and focused its attention on inane yet safe topics. Political correctness: the phenomenon where even ordinary citizens translate their thoughts into undeniably uncontroversial statements sure to protect every group from offense, has provided a mask behind which true crises can hide. 

With the past presidential election, this term has entered the spotlight, though its meaning has greatly evolved since it was first introduced by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964. Originally used to describe the correct way to enact policies, it has recently become synonymous with ‘hypersensitivity’. Once seen as a benevolent acknowledgement of human differences, it is now perceived as an affront on the First Amendment right to freedom of speech. 

Yet, ultimately, the debate over whether political correctness inhibits or protects people is trivial when it is used to conceal urgent issues. And the hyperbolized need to address every minority group sensitively encourages prescribers to political correctness to deliberately parse for differences between people, often irrelevant to the subject at hand. The ‘squad’ in Congress, as they have come to be called, are identified first by their ethnicities and gender before the liberal policy they support. It is as though their opposition feels a need to preeminently refute any claims that their criticisms stem from the squad’s membership in minority groups rather than simply debating on real time issues in a factual and concise manner. 

The concern to be politically correct has silenced the conversation around diverse cultures being replaced by a single, global culture. Our society has become so focused on sparing others’ feelings that the only discussions considered are on bland, worn-out, unquestioned topics, leaving urgent arguments neglected. This overwhelming sensitivity to infinitesimal differences between people and groups ignores the growing trend of traditional cultures being engulfed by western ones. Globalization, where the same ideas, people, and goods are present throughout the world, has become interchangeable with westernization or americanization because the ideas, people, and goods being globally accepted are American ones.

Still, a person’s unique culture—the language they speak, the food they eat, the music they listen to—forms an immeasurable part of their identity. It is both irresponsible and impossible to brush away an individual’s culture in the discussion of them as a person, meaning it is also rash to disregard the impact of culture on global society. While the importance of culture on identity cannot be ignored, the evolution of culture also cannot be neglected.

An alarming trend is occurring where western nations, notably the United States, are conquering the world as cultural imperialists. The exportation of TV, movies, music, food, corporations, and language has created a competition between mass and traditional cultures. According to The New York Times it is estimated that one language goes extinct every two weeks, and with it about half of the world’s cultures by 2100. The inescapable prevalence of American culture, even in as seemingly insignificant areas such as music, has an overwhelming impact on folk cultures already on the verge of death from an aging population and threatened way of life. This distressing loss of diversity and identity is, though often unintentionally, disregarded by the masses who focus more on their obsession to avoid conflict with the large minorities. 

As people ignore the decline of cultural diversity in the world, a growing homogeneity between individuals is emerging. The melting pot of America, once displaying a kaleidoscope of colors and ethnicities has quickly become a mixture of greyish sludge. More people are being raised with the same values, same toys, same family dynamics, and same traditions but less people are realizing that the world is swiftly becoming a medium for the singular western culture to spread. 

As the need to be  inoffensive and hypersensitive grows, the discussion surrounding culture is diminishing. While a large part of being politically correct is grounded in acknowledging all different groups of people, this creates a fixation on superficial differences between individuals and constructs new categories for people to squeeze into instead of allowing people to form identities for themselves and worrying less on how the public responds to labels. Abandon the debate on whether it’s Latino, Hispanic, Latina, or Latinx and address the nearly hundred isolated tribes in the Amazon Rainforest being threatened by loggers and forest fire.

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