Thanksgiving is around the corner and Mother Nature is preparing for its arrival with colder temperatures, shorter days, and the scattering of leaves all across the ground. With Thanksgiving comes Black Friday, the official start to the holiday shopping season; an extravaganza where Darwin’s “survival-of-the-fittest” rules apply as everyone fights for the best deals. Hallmark has been gearing up for the holiday season with its release of a new sweater that features a twist on the familiar Christmas classic, “Deck the Halls.” The sweater boldly displays, “Don we now our FUN apparel!” Replacing the word “gay” with “fun.” Hallmark’s sweater has gained a lot of controversy and attention. This most recent statement has become another point in the political correctness debate.
Over time, words have evolved by picking up new meanings and changing definitions over the course of history. The word “stupid” originally meant “frozen,” derived from “stupefied.” Now we use it primarily to describe someone who is not intelligent, or to describe a silly mistake. It is a negative word and would not be something that you would call a person upfront without stirring up a problem. The word “gay” means something that is vibrant, happy, and joyous. In today’s society, it is often used to refer to homosexuality or it is also used as a synonym for “stupid.” Both of these “modern” definitions are linked to delicate issues, while the original definition is often lost in the shuffle.
Dialogue today calls for political correctness. Hallmark’s attempt to use “fun” instead of “gay” backfired. In censoring the word, it makes a statement that can be deemed offensive. Is it possible that in trying to be politically correct we stir up more controversy? I’d say yes.
Some schools are banning Santa hats because of the Christian-oriented symbolism behind it. I went to a public school district, and some people did wear Santa hats during the winter season. However, I remember one day in middle school a high school teenager obnoxiously exclaimed “Merry Christmas!” as he went through the halls on the last day of class before winter break. He was pulled aside by a teacher. I remember eavesdropping on the conversation and hearing the teenager be reprimanded not because he was loud, but because he said “Merry Christmas” and not “Happy Holidays.”
Earlier this year Cheerios released a commercial that was the center of a lot of attention. Many comments of outrage fueled with racial slurs and negativity poured out on the commercial’s YouTube page, condemning the portrayal of a multiracial family. A majority of comments thought it was preposterous that a multiracial family was used in a commercial. General Mills did not remove the video from YouTube, but did disable the comments section.
What is the “correct” way to identify a person’s ethnicity and race? Barring racial slurs and epithets, because we can all agree that they are inappropriate and not okay, there’s many different ways to describe other races. Some people cringe at the fact that the words “black” or “white” are used to apply to race. Some people are conscious about what they say in fear of coming across as racist, but in being so conscious about it, doesn’t it reach a point where it’s a little racist itself? Through the need to be politically correct we do not fully immerse ourselves in the differences and cultures of others. It is as if we engage with others from a distance.
Political correctness is another case of “too much of a good thing.” Society is becoming more politically correct, and it is not slowing down. There is a pressure to abide by what is politically correct. Certain words become banned or censored in favor of other “more-acceptable” words. As it tries to be the solution to not offending people, it opens the door for more issues and problems.
By Eugene Rapay ’16