“What’s the problem if I say the n-word? It’s just a word.” It’s not like it was once used as a stand-in for subhuman. If black people can “reclaim” the word and make it positive, so can I.
“If I say that women are property, it doesn’t mean I don’t respect women.” Just because people make racist or sexist jokes, it doesn’t mean they’re racist or sexist. Why are people so sensitive nowadays?
Yes. We’ve heard these points of view—often in in formal conversations and away from the academic banter of the SAS debate. However, in a world where marginalized groups no longer have to sit quietly when people say things that are blatantly unkind, the mentality that words don’t matter breeds a culture ripe with artifice. If no one means what they say, then what is the point of saying anything? Why is being “sensitive” an insult? Why is empathy scorned? Allowing people to make jokes that are masquerading as insults may result in a laugh, but at the end of the day, it may just be prejudice disguised as humor.
Disparagement humor consists of jokes, usually racist or sexist, that degrade a marginalized group. This type of humor is known to be a vessel for prejudiced people to express their true beliefs in an accepted manner; if prejudice is disguised as harmless fun, then there is no issue with it. Disparagement humor fuels an environment full of hostility and discrimination, and it increases tolerance of harmful jokes. This is proven in a study done by the European Journal of Social Psychology: the results concluded that people exposed to sexist humor were more likely to view the tolerance of sexism as a norm.
“We live in an age where it is important to be politically correct, but our generation is the most politically incorrect of them all.”– Sanya Lokur
Despite these apparent truths, many Americans are deeply opposed to this rhetoric, claiming that it takes away their right to free speech; this has given rise to the term “politically correct.” Collins dictionary defines a politically incorrect person as someone who does not care if they offend or upset other people in society, especially with their attitudes toward sex, race, or disability. According to a study done in the United States, 80% of Americans believe that political correctness is a problem. This mentality has picked up traction due to a new wave of conservative politics which centers around the idea that the younger generation is unable to voice their opinion without ruthless rejection.
Although this belief is somewhat warranted, the truth is that people aren’t being jailed or physically attacked for this type of speech. Rather, they are being corrected by those who are affected by the negative speech. Ultimately, it comes down to being respectful of others’ requests – if something is said once and corrected, there is no issue. However, if something is said multiple times following a request to stop, serious harm can be done.
The issue doesn’t end there. In fact, it has become a hot topic here at SAS, where increased efforts were made throughout this school year to combat the casual use of offensive slurs. When interviewing two SAS students on the topic, these students used the term “sensitivity gang” to categorize people who enforce political correctness, putting a humorous spin on the issue.
“If it’s just a joke, and I don’t actually believe in racism, then it’s fine. If it’s not directed to you, it doesn’t really affect you.”– Alex Guinot
Matias Nordenstahl noted that “people of privileged groups nominate themselves to be offended on behalf of marginalized groups. This creates a tense environment because most of the time those groups don’t need someone to stand up for them, and by doing this you are assuming that they are weaker than you.”
“If it’s just a joke, and I don’t actually believe in racism, then it’s fine. If it’s not directed to you, it doesn’t really affect you, and oftentimes I make racist jokes to the person of that race and they say it’s fine. Sometimes people take it too seriously, but I’ve changed my mindset about these things over time. If a person says not to say something, then people should be respectful and not say it,” stated Alex Guinot.
This topic will continue to be heavily debated, especially as we enter an era of increased partisanship in American politics. No matter where you stand on the issue, it ultimately comes down to respect. The more respectfully we can have these controversial conversations, the better the outcome will be.