On balance, which does a societal norm of political correctness do more, help or harm?
When forced to go underground, people can get pretty good at hiding who they are. Often, the only way to catch them in time is by way of their own mouths. Diversiphobes can do tremendous damage along the way before they get caught, as their conscious bias simply remains unspoken.
Though the demographics of American Judge Ciavarella’s “Cash for Kids” scheme isn’t publicized, the story lines are that his 4,000 child victims were disproportionately Black and Latino, although perhaps like the most sensational among his victims, many were white as well. One man, 4,000 children and families.
Without ever having uttered a disparaging epithet from the bench, this American judge became a leading member of the Underground Derailroad, politically correct on the surface while destroying young lives underneath, and disrupting their families. The societal cost of jailing 4,000 innocent children (of any ethnic background) in their formative years is immeasurable, let alone the loss of a precious young life.
Some might argue that had he felt comfortable enough to have publicly uttered a racial epithet or ethnic disparagement from the bench early in his career, it might have drawn enough attention to Judge Ciavarella such that he might never have been able to execute Cash for Kids for very long. But the paradox may be that a system of unspoken bias may actually protect its adherents. A focus on politically correct speech rather than on socially deleterious decisions and actions can keep a corrupt system disguised, in this judge’s case, until after his financially comfortable retirement. Is there a balance?
There simply aren’t enough resources to police and monitor everyone’s daily decisions. While it is understandable that we would not want to have rampant insulting speech dominate in polite company, it is often the only signal we get that something is amiss in strategic places.
In retrospect, would Ciavarella’s use of insensitive speech have been a greater societal offense than sending 4,000 children to private prisons? Perhaps you would have been willing to trade the brief indignity that hurtful speech might have caused as a trade off for revealing his thinking and potentially curtailing the collective suffering and exploitation of 4,000 children and their families.
Many are spending money and time wringing their hands over unconscious bias and its hidden dangers. And yet, fully conscious unspoken bias has more likely created far more societal damage over the long term. As a strategy, in your estimation, has political correctness done more harm or more good? Political correctness may have suppressed what may be the most valuable tool for uncovering harsh realities in the ongoing cultural struggle between Diversiphiles and Diversiphobes.
We cannot read what’s in a person’s heart or mind. But we can hear what is said, and see what is done — if we choose to focus on those things, rather than watch only for the presence or absence of politically correct speech. With a balanced point of view, speech can be a useful tool. It might otherwise take decades to see the societal results of an Underground Derailroad in an environment of widespread unspoken bias.
Copyright © 2013 Robert D. Jones – All Rights Reserved
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