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LETTER: Political correctness inhibits discussions about important issues


To the Editor:

I am responding to Liz Kantor’s Feb. 4 letter to the editor, "Political correctness reveals basic level of kindness, respect." Ms. Kantor says, “In simple terms, political correctness is treating others with the same respect we would expect for ourselves.”

That is the Golden Rule — it is not political correctness. Google returns the following definition: "The avoidance, often considered as taken to extremes, of forms of expression or action that are perceived to exclude, marginalize or insult groups of people who are socially disadvantaged or discriminated against."

Consider the following examples of political correctness “taken to extremes.”

In 2002, the Transportation Security Admission (TSA) randomly chose Al Gore, the former Vice President of the United States, for enhanced screening at an airport. Everyone knew who he was, but the TSA felt obliged to frisk him to avoid criticism that it was “profiling.”

Islamic terrorism is often in the news these days. But we routinely hear people protest that “99 percent” or “the vast majority” of Muslims are law-abiding, tolerant people. How do we know that to be true? We don't, but political correctness obliges us to say it reflexively.

The tragedy of political correctness at universities is that it renders the discussion of important issues taboo. Who at Rutgers would dare to jeopardize his GPA or his personal safety by mentioning, during a political science or sociology class, that black people have higher rates of illegitimacy than white people? In 1965, professor and former Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.) said that in his report, "The Negro Family: The Case For National Action." These days, the mere utterance of the word, “negro” would cause hundreds of students to swoon. Moreover, anyone who suggests that having children out of wedlock is anything other than a lifestyle choice, no less appropriate than bearing children only during marriage, would be vilified as insensitive to single mothers.

One final example. In the second sentence of the previous paragraph, I used the male pronoun, "his" to refer to people generally. The usage is grammatically correct, but politically incorrect. A politically correct writer would have said ”her GPA”, “his or her GPA” or, worst of all, “their GPA.”

Bart Greene an Rutgers College Class of 1967 alumnus.

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