The debate about political correctness is often misunderstood. While many individuals across generations dislike the pejorative use of political correctness to represent censorship, a closer investigation reveals generational differences in the desire to use inclusive language.heated
Millennials know that using appropriate language invites rather than restricts productive conversation. Creating a supportive environment makes space for all individuals to feel welcome in sharing their opinions, rather than fearing that people will demonize their personhood and attack their character based on their identities. Thanks to the internet, Millennials are citizens of the globe and ambassadors of social justice. Unfortunately, not all generations understand how using certain words or phrases prohibits dialogue and hurts other people.
To discover five things that all millennials want older generations to know about political correctness that they don't understand, read the list below.
1. There is a major difference between "being honest" and spewing prejudice.
You have the right to share your opinion, but you don't have the right to make people feel threatened. Using emotionally charged words that make others feel frightened for their mental, physical, and emotional wellbeing--even if it does not impact you in the same way--is morally wrong.
Prejudice means possessing strong unfavorable opinions about a person based on their demographics and cultural affiliations. While we all have varying degrees of prejudice, using yours to purposefully harm others, or refusing to stop saying words that others find hurtful, is bullying. Just as you want a teacher to intervene and protect your child from a bully, it's okay for others to give you the opportunity to correct your behavior when your words are offensive.
2. Political correctness is not about censorship, it's about showing respect.
Censorship is a coercive attempt to hide something from people. Asking people to use more inclusive language is not silencing their voice, it's inviting them to use language in a way that promotes productive conversation.
The purpose of political correctness is to treat all people with the love and respect they deserve. This means calling people by the pronouns they use, and avoiding words and phrases that stereotype and demonize entire groups of people. You can still possess whatever ideology you follow and you can still share your opinion, you're just being asked to do so in a way that is not hurtful to others.
3. Millennials feel more connected to global citizenship and human rights than nationalism.
Not only do Millennials have conversations with people around the world, they are also seeing inhumane acts of violence against marginalized people live streamed on social media. This increased visibility and exposure leads to a desire to ensure equality for all individuals, regardless of their race, gender, sexuality, socioeconomic status, or religion.
Nationalism, or the belief that your country and its laws, culture, and government is superior and beyond critique, is not appealing to Millennials. Seeing firsthand pictures and videos on their smartphones of discrimination and unequal rights for people of color, Muslims, immigrants, women, and LGBTQ individuals has increased Millennials desire for social justice.
4. Inclusive language creates space for meaningful conversations to take place, offensive language makes people feel unsafe.
If you were trying to have a difficult conversation with someone and they opened the discussion using words that were aimed at hurting your feelings, making you feel unsafe, or undermining your personhood, would you want to keep talking?
No, and that's why everyone should use more inclusive language. When you create space for other people instead of shutting them out, it creates opportunities for honest dialogue to emerge. You're not being ask to silence yourself, you're being asked to use different words and phrases to express your thoughts. That subtle difference is not a big deal--you do it all the time. You don't speak the same way to your partner as you do your grandmother or your newborn infant. Adjusting your dialogue isn't a momentous task, and doing so might allow you to have more meaningful conversations with people from all walks of life.
5. Millennials are not being sensitive, they're being morally minded and ethically informed global citizens.
Many individuals in older generations think that Millennials are overly sensitive, but it may be the other way around. If Millennials are simply asking older generations to be respectful of others by using more inclusive language, and older generations respond with hostility--a common response to feeling threatened--perhaps older generations are dealing with an underlying fear of being unable to adapt to a changing world.
Making mistakes is part of learning. Most people occasionally say things that hurt other people's feelings. But the mature individuals are the ones that apologize and then adjust. Continuing to use hurtful language only prevents meaningful and necessary conversations.