Thursday, June 9, 2016

Lessons for Social Justice: Political Correctness and the Rise of Donald Trump

Donald Trump may just be the most divisive presidential candidate in our times. Countless number of celebrities have spoken about him recently, some very strongly (Jennifer Lawrence comes to mind here). Whilst he would not have my vote if I could vote in the US, and many of my friends outrightly hate him (I would not go that far), I am indeed interested in his growing appeal to so many people out there.

And so I did my research. What I found was that a substantial portion of his supporters support him mainly because he is anti political correctness. Whilst I would think that's an inadequate reason to support someone to be the president, I understand their frustrations. I have personally had my fair share of frustrations with the increasing political correctness in our culture, for example as a staunch supporter of marriage equality who really couldn't agree with some of the ways fellow equality supporters have automatically labelled as homophobic those who don't agree with us (I believe they have an equal right of conscience), or as a dedicated feminist who nevertheless couldn't bring herself to agree with affirmative action. And it's not just conservatives who are concerned about political correctness anymore. Even Barack Obama, the most progressive US President in history, has spoken out against political correctness. The fact is that political correctness operates to deny people of their freedom of speech and conscience, and this is simply illiberal and unacceptable.

Real social justice is also harmed by political correctness. It means that we don't have the opportunity to discuss issues important to each of us. Free speech has always been the friend of the oppressed in history, from women denied even the right to vote, to LGBT people whose stories were shut out by the mainstream, to scientists whose new discoveries challenged the establishment at the time. History has shown clearly that we cannot give up, or compromise even a tiny bit, on the sanctity of free speech. So whether we like or hate Donald Trump, whether we are progressive, liberal, moderate or conservative, I believe we should all unite to defeat political correctness, once and for all.