To PC or Not to PC

PC Comic

Dear Reader,

A few weeks ago, Assistant Dean Jason Broadwater and our team of bloggers gathered for our first meeting. In going around the table and introducing ourselves, we began discussing what topics interested us and what content we intended to produce. I have a difficult time narrowing what I enjoy writing about because I just plain like writing, but I especially enjoy contemporary issues, events and some “social-justice-y” stuff, as Jason would put it.

Often when I’m at the restaurant at which I work, I catch a ton of not-so-okay phrases and jokes(amid some grammatically questionable statements like ending sentences with prepositions… sigh). But one of the most egregious errors came from a place I least expected it: my church.

Granted, it’s not that uncommon for a church to produce a statement or sentiment that makes one squirm a little. But in light of the recent NFL scandals, I was not about to let a casual comment about domestic abuse slide.

Just to give you the full picture, we arrived at the portion of the service during which the congregation submits concerns and joys to share. The pastor shared a concern of an elderly woman who had fallen and cracked her cheekbone. He added “She didn’t ask me to say this, but don’t worry, her husband didn’t hit her.” My eyes immediately widened and I glanced over at my mom to see if she had caught this off-hand comment. Sure, the congregation chuckled, but this isn’t a humorous situation. We laugh because something like a husband striking his wife should be uncommon. “Of course he didn’t hit her! What a ridiculous suggestion.” But that’s not the case for all families.

Domestic abuse is not something that has affected me personally or my family, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t care or that I shouldn’t speak up. I decided I needed to tell our pastor that a phrase like that will not sit well with many people. It’s just not OK. Another member of our church, a young girl, recently received a black eye from an unfortunate softball to the face. People were joking to make her feel better, saying “Tell people – you should see the other guy!” Um, NO. We shouldn’t promote or suggest violence in any way is a laughing matter.

KermitBut it isn’t easy being PC. You’ll be antagonized by countless individuals that you can’t please everyone, that you’re missing the point, that you’re just being annoying. Personally, I’d rather fight for using better language that passively allow a slight to be made. I’d even say it’s similar to being a bystander when you see someone being bullied. If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. When you allow someone to say something offensive, you have tacitly agreed that you are OK with the language they’ve used, or that you agree. Sure, it’s annoying to constantly correct someone’s language(see my eventual memoir, Confessions of a Grammar Nazi), but you’re guiding them toward making better, more conscious and considerate choices. But to be politically correct all the time is exhausting, and nearly impossible. Even saying ‘grammar Nazi’ isn’t that nice. So many phrases have become a part of everyday language that we no longer know of their hurtful origins. We understand that if someone’s been gypped, that they’ve been cheated of something. What not many of us understand is that ‘gyp’ stems from gypsy culture, and to slight them all as thieves is inconsiderate.

I’ll admit that I’m guilty of a double standard. I use phrases like ‘grammar Nazi’ or ‘gyp,’ but the word ‘retarded’ offends me. My brother has autism, and the use of that word has always bothered me. People counter my sensitivity by saying ‘Oh, I don’t mean it like that,’ or ‘it doesn’t mean that anymore!’ Here’s the problem: I’m still sensitive, and you could use a better word.

There are a few morals to this tale, but let’s just focus on these two:

1. Language matters.

Manners Matter2. Practice sensitivity, and think before you speak.

Thanks for reading,
Ellen

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