California Lutheran University Multicultural Programs hosted the first seminar of the Difficult Dialogues series, which took place on Feb. 2, where students and faculty gathered to discuss the issue of political correctness and free speech.
According to the Merriam Webster website, political correctness is defined as approving the notion that people should be cautious to not use language or act in a way that would offend a specific group of individuals.
Haco Hoang, who has a doctorate in political science with an emphasis in international relations, said that political correctness is about constructing and reinforcing a narrative about how people think about something or someone.
“Political correctness is more than saying or using words that don’t offend. Most people only focus on the ‘saying’ part of political correctness but that concept is also about how words may influence how we behave or what we think about certain groups, especially underrepresented or marginalized populations,” Hoang said in an email interview.
Throughout the discussion, these marginalized populations consisting of minorities such as African-Americans, Hispanics and Arabs were often referred to as targets of on-going racism, sexism and bigotry. One example that attending members discussed was Bill Maher’s comments on Halloween costumes in which he said wearing a sombrero and mustache is not offensive.
However, seminar members explained that Bill Maher was speaking from a position of privilege, as he does not have a history of being marginalized since he is Caucasian and that he is merely following consensus bias.
Seminar members also argued that if someone wanted to pay homage to Mexico then that person should dress up as someone like famous Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, rather than wearing a stereotypical outfit of ethnicity.
Russell Stockard, who has a doctorate in communication, said that there is no present millennial activism or interest in these problems due to the younger generation’s perception of an authoritative society.
The term “slacktivism” was used throughout the discussion and appeals to those included in Generation Y today. Slacktivism can range from signing an online petition to being part of a campaign group on Facebook.
“I don’t see it as much as when I was in college. When you don’t use your reason in political process, you end up giving up your reason to people that say ‘I’m stronger than you, I’m louder than you,” Stockard said.
To counter this, Juanita Hall, senior director of multicultural and international student services, said that it is the responsibility of the university to create conditions that make everybody feel that they can be part of the conversation.
“I think it helps people to think through their own ideas and issues. We want to be a society where everybody has a chance, has a voice,” Hall said.
Hall said the rules of civil discourse are applied to Difficult Dialogues in a Divided World, which include being respectful, having an open mind, listening to others and attacking the problem rather than the person.
Published February 10th, 2016