In defence of political correctness

// 3 January 2006

Political correctness is "harming society" according to a new book written by Anthony Browne for right-wing think-tank Civitas, the BBC reports today.

You might be surprised to learn that discouraging outright racism, sexism and homophobia is harmful. Indeed, it may be that UK readers find this mode of behaviour to their fellow citizens so unfortunately ingrained in their temperament that they can barely understand where Browne is coming from \x96 after all, Political Correctness Watch refers to us as the “Unhinged Kingdom”.

Obviously this is a whole book, and may well be full to the brim of satisfactory examples of societal destruction emanating from a refusal to use the N word, say. But lets look at the actual examples Browne gives the BBC.

"He said the rise in new infections since 1997 was down to increasing levels of HIV infected migrants from sub-Saharan Africa, but that political correctness had stopped the government tailoring public health policy to this."

Well, let\x92s look at the BBC\x92s coverage of HIV then. A quick glance will show that HIV is now absolutely associated with Africa – and the rest of the developing world. So where is the problem? If it’s not that the media is scared to associate Africans with HIV, is the problem that the Government is failing to "tailor public health policy" to stop the spread of HIV in immigrant communities, or is it that Browne doesn\x92t like the current health policy \x96 educating all teenagers on why they should be using condoms?

So-called "political correctness" amounts to nothing more than treating people with the respect they deserve \x96 it means not discriminating against them because of gender, race, age, sexual orientation, religion or any other totally unreasonable factor. It means abstaining from using terms that are considered to be derogatory by the person they are addressed to/concern. It means treating everyone equally, and abstaining from ludicrous stereotypes. How that harms society, I don\x92t know, but without these most basic of considerations our country would be a poor place to live.

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