Our campus addresses numerous issues, from race to gender to class. As the student body continues to participate in sensitive discussion, we at the Wheel feel it’s worth a moment to reflect on how we discuss these issues. There is a conflict we have observed within the community’s methods of conversation.
Many of us on campus hope to engage in productive discussions about privilege and oppression and yet, sometimes-stringent rules of “political correctness” can shut out some from even participating, as the price of getting the appropriate terminology wrong or coming off as ignorant is too high.
[quote_colored name=”” icon_quote=”no”]So, within an inclusive space, how tolerant must we be to those who come off as being intolerant? We need to strike a better balance.[/quote_colored]
We, at the Wheel, encourage our student body to seek as much education as possible, in order to have discussions that don’t unintentionally offend, from referring to someone who has experienced sexual assault as a survivor (not a victim) or avoiding heteronormative rhetoric in order to be inclusive toward different identities. This language isn’t arbitrarily used to force “political correctness.” The language we use is charged, a single word can carry a loaded meaning with a history of ideas, and these ideas are often a Google search away.
It can be exhausting for people experiencing any form of oppression to constantly be put in situations where they are compelled to educate others, sometimes forced to become a spokesperson for their identity — on top of facing the oppression itself. While many people want to educate others about their own experiences and issues, this is not the case for everyone.
But, there is a sentiment on campus that espouses that political correctness leads to so-called liberals shooting themselves in the foot.
The Wheel does see instances in which, in the activists’ attempt to educate, their forceful reactions to outsider opinions shut down honest discussion. They can lose potential allies to their cause and are left with silence when people become afraid to disagree. Pre-constructed notions of appropriate terminology can lead to hesitant and nervous interactions regarding sensitive topics.
So, within an inclusive space, how tolerant must we be to those who come off as being intolerant? We need to strike a better balance.
And, of course, these situations are often circumstantial. Each side is right or wrong depending on the relationships between the people having the conversation and depending on the topic at hand.
We applaud Emory’s vibrant array of discussion groups that facilitate safe spaces for these topics and urge students to attend these events, including the Multicultural discussion groups led by the Office of Multicultural Programs and Services, the Inter-Religious Council, Feminists in Action, the numerous LGBTQ discussion groups and many others.
We should engage with others about this very topic — allow one another to express why we are reluctant to participate and feel comfortable in urging others to find more knowledge. While we should educate ourselves as much as possible about these debates even if we are in disagreement with perceived accepted views on campus, we, at the Wheel, see situations in which students unknowingly and unnecessarily halt conversation in the name of political correctness.
The above staff editorial represents the majority opinion of the Wheel’s editorial board.