By: Evelina Silveira, President, Diversity at Work
“Evelina, I don’t know how to say it, because I don’t want to sound bad or offend anyone but…” “Just say it!” I declare. “You don’t have to be politically correct with me, if I don’t know what the problem is, I can’t help you!” The tension automatically dissipates; and a looser more relaxed tone settles in and then the client begins to tell me an uncensored version of what is happening.
This happens regularly to me when I receive a call from a client. Usually they are stressed about a situation and they want answers but they don’t want to be judged. They have learned they cannot criticize certain groups because they will have a label hurled at them or get slapped with a human rights complaint –-the biggest threat and silencer of all.
I am writing this article because I believe in truth and fairness. I believe in a balanced approach to diversity and workplace inclusion. Political correctness is not always “correct” when it comes to truth and fairness.
Politically correct language is not a bad thing. I don’t want to be referred to as a “girl” “chick” or “bitch” but a woman. Using the “right words” is positive. It demonstrates the progress we have made in our understanding of the equality of human beings. I like that! Perhaps we should have left it at that.
Political correctness is responsible for:
Creating animosity amongst different groups and perpetuating all of the “isms” where none have existed.
Suppressing the truth.
Removing ourselves from our moral obligations to help marginalized groups.
Perpetuating a double-standard when it comes to acceptable behaviour.
Preventing us from talking to one another.
How Political Correctness Creates Animosity Amongst Groups
The Christmas holidays are a prime example. I have never met a Jew or a Muslim in Canada who was “offended” by celebrating Christmas in the workplace. Yet, each year there is a rush to plan a holiday festivity which sounds like a Christmas one – but it isn’t supposed to be. Or the gathering is cancelled altogether because the organization has just hired a Jew or a Muslim, or any other non-Christian. The end result: dislike for those of minority faiths and the cancellation of a celebration which would have otherwise brought employees together. In our effort to please everyone –we please no one. Instead, “well-meaning”, “religiously-sensitive” gestures spring into micro-aggressions in the workplace where none has previously existed.
How Political Correctness Suppresses the Truth
It’s seems like it wasn’t that long ago when CBC’s Marketplace made a formal apology for publishing inaccurate test results about vitamin supplements. But I am unaware of any such apology with the Fifth Estates’ problematic reporting of the incidents which lead to the death of little Aylan Kurdi. His precious life could have been saved. Instead, they aired a report which infers that the Canadian government was responsible for Aylan’s death since his family’s application wasn’t approved in time to immigrate to Canada! Around the same time, European and Turkish papers had reported about Aylan’s father’s disregard for his own son’s life (did not give him a life jacket but wore one himself) and that he was actually a human smuggler who was trying to get to Germany to get the State to pay for very expensive dental work. And to make matters worse, Aylan wasn’t the only member of his family who perished as a result of his father’s negligence it was also his mother and siblings. The last I read his father was going to prison. I don’t recall a correction notice on the Fifth Estate or any other media sources for that matter. It’s not politically correct and it certainly wouldn’t fit in with Liberal politics.
Canadians have been led to believe that we are saving thousands of people from Syrian refugee camps, but sadly we are not. According to the April 13, 2016 edition of Hill Times confirms that “very few are coming from refugee camps”. Rushing to bring in thousands of people into the country without a good plan and then saying we are saving lives is deceptive. Stop leading Canadians to believe that we are helping more people than we actually are — we are not!
My friends from former communist countries have noted that the CBC is no different than the propaganda they had to put up with back in their country of origin. It seems that our media on the whole has a disdain for simultaneously broadcasting opposing points of view. There’s a name for that: media bias.
Internationally and at home, journalists, police officers, and government officials are not allowed to report what is going on because they are afraid of an uprising and backlash against refugees and migrants. Since when is censorship a part of living in a democratic country? I ask myself: What must it be like to be a muzzled journalist these days?
Yet the sexual abuse of children at the hands of Catholic priests seems to be okay to broadcast around the world. Christian-bashing has becoming so acceptable in our modern society that we hardly notice it. Rarely do you ever hear anyone sticking up for Christians. So who makes the decision of what truths can be disclosed and which will be suppressed? Political correctness does.
Political correctness slaps a “xenophobe” or “racist” label whenever you disagree with a leftist mentality. Very strong words, improperly used when citizens start asking questions about the politics of their country. I would argue by using these words so regularly actually takes away from the experiences of those who truly live them each day.
How Political Correctness Removes Us From Our Moral Responsibility
Where are the voices of Western feminists when it comes to advocating for the rights of women globally? In some ways, today’s feminists haven’t evolved much from the 1960’s. Female genital mutilation, child marriage and honour killings are off-bounds. I would encourage any feminist who thinks it is culturally insensitive to challenge the violent practices of other cultures to meet the women who have endured them. In my work with immigrant women, I have met those who have suffered these horrendous, traumatic practices and who have been marred physically and psychologically for the rest of their lives. If we don’t try to help our sisters globally we are making the statement that their lives are less valuable. Is the life of a Yemenite, Sudanese, Indian girl or other any less than a Western life? Of course not. It is not racist to advocate for the rights of people who are often voiceless. It is the right thing to do!
How Political Correctness Makes Us Accept Intolerable Behaviour
When we accept poor work performance or belligerent behaviour from a person of a designated group we are being unjust. We are telling ourselves that we cannot expect better behaviour because of “x” number of reasons and consequently we reduce them to a lower level of expectations. Translation: we don’t feel they can attain our standards. Isn’t this kind of like the “racism of lower expectations”?
What would happen if you walked naked down the street? There is a good chance the police would be called and you would be arrested for violating the public decency laws. Most people I say don’t really care if there is a Pride Parade, but they do care if there is nudity involved. Why do the Toronto police turn a blind eye to nudity at the Pride Parade when it is unlawful? Since when does one group of people get to break the law without consequence and others can’t? No one can argue that the LGBT community has a lot to celebrate and they have had a long history of oppression but that does not give them the right to be naked on the street. One law for everyone, please! No exceptions.
Political Correctness Prevents Us From Talking To One Another
Many years ago, I had a wonderful opportunity to bring Jewish and Arab-Muslim women together for a dialogue group. These forward-thinking women through mutual learning wanted to “create a pocket of peace” in the city they lived in, by reducing hate and stereotypes. It was one of the most difficult and rewarding groups I have ever facilitated as it was so emotionally charged. At the outset, these women denounced “terminal politeness”. We all understood what it meant: no phoniness and no political correctness. Consequently, these women spent many weeks together, shared meals and prayers of peace. As the facilitator, I can recount how the women expressed similar feelings about the impact on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It was interesting to know how each group felt the newspapers were biased against them. Did long-lasting friendships happen? Not really, but respect did. These were bold woman who were willing to ask and speak without judgment and fear and consequently they got the answers they were seeking. This wouldn’t have happened if they had been politically correct.
What can we do as individuals?
1. Accept diversity of opinion. With embracing diversity comes the expectation of accepting differences of opinion, even when it doesn’t suit you. . You cannot have one without the other.
2. Don’t accept one truth only. There are different sides to every story. Challenge bias when you see it. Whether it’s the media, the authors of your children’s textbooks, or institutions and even yourself.
3. Stop the silence and take a chance and speak out against political correctness. I can guarantee that you’ll be a hero. You won’t be alone.