There is a massive amount of difference in the ways in which “political correctness” is viewed on social media, as opposed to in real life.
On social media, the country seems to divide into two neat camps: Call them the woke and the resentful. Team Resentment is manned—pun very much intended—by people who are predominantly old and almost exclusively white. Team Woke is young, likely to be female, and predominantly black, brown, or Asian (though white “allies” do their dutiful part). These teams are roughly equal in number, and they disagree most vehemently, as well as most routinely, about the catchall known as political correctness
Reality is nothing like this. As scholars Stephen Hawkins, Daniel Yudkin, Miriam Juan-Torres, and Tim Dixon argue in a report published Wednesday, “Hidden Tribes: A Study of America’s Polarized Landscape,” most Americans don’t fit into either of these camps. They also share more common ground than the daily fights on social media might suggest—including a general aversion to PC culture.
If you look at what Americans have to say on issues such as immigration, the extent of white privilege, and the prevalence of sexual harassment, the authors argue, seven distinct clusters emerge: progressive activists, traditional liberals, passive liberals, the politically disengaged, moderates, traditional conservatives, and devoted conservatives.
In breaking down the concept of “political correctness” there is even more debate as to who is in support, and what this construct means.
Youth isn’t a good proxy for support of political correctness—and it turns out race isn’t, either.
Whites are ever so slightly less likely than average to believe that political correctness is a problem in the country: 79 percent of them share this sentiment. Instead, it is Asians (82 percent), Hispanics (87percent), and American Indians (88 percent) who are most likely to oppose political correctness.
These findings make sense to me. “Political correctness” or “social justice” may mean different things to different individuals within groups. These differences may also be informed by the individual’s awareness and understanding of aspects of systemic racism and discrimination.
As indicated in the post, it is understandable when an individual may be confused about what terminology to use when the labels and names are currently so fluid.
It seems like everyday you wake up something has changed … Do you say Jew? Or Jewish? Is it a black guy? African-American? … You are on your toes because you never know what to say. So political correctness in that sense is scary.
This still leaves an open interpretation of what is meant by “political correctness.” There seems to be an indication that “political correctness” is just people telling others that they cannot use a certain term.
One obvious question is what people mean by “political correctness.” In the extended interviews and focus groups, participants made clear that they were concerned about their day-to-day ability to express themselves: They worry that a lack of familiarity with a topic, or an unthinking word choice, could lead to serious social sanctions for them. But since the survey question did not define political correctness for respondents, we cannot be sure what, exactly, the 80 percent of Americans who regard it as a problem have in mind.
The one differentiator in this may be income and education. Age and race are not good predictors for awareness or understanding of political correctness.
While 83 percent of respondents who make less than $50,000 dislike political correctness, just 70 percent of those who make more than $100,000 are skeptical about it. And while 87 percent who have never attended college think that political correctness has grown to be a problem, only 66 percent of those with a postgraduate degree share that sentiment.
An even better differentiator of these elements is “political tribe.”
Political tribe—as defined by the authors—is an even better predictor of views on political correctness. Among devoted conservatives, 97 percent believe that political correctness is a problem. Among traditional liberals, 61 percent do. Progressive activists are the only group that strongly backs political correctness: Only 30 percent see it as a problem.
The “truth” in this matter may be in the middle in real life as opinions aren’t as polarized as they seem online.
So the fact that we are so widely off the mark in our perception of how most people feel about political correctness should probably also make us rethink some of our other basic assumptions about the country.
It is obvious that certain elements on the right mock instances in which political correctness goes awry in order to win the license to spew outright racial hatred. And it is understandable that, in the eyes of some progressives, this makes anybody who dares to criticize political correctness a witting tool of—or a useful idiot for—the right. But that’s not fair to the Americans who feel deeply alienated by woke culture. Indeed, while 80 percent of Americans believe that political correctness has become a problem in the country, even more, 82 percent, believe that hate speech is also a problem.
Perhaps in real life, we need to show more empathy for others, and ignore the polarization that we see online. Consider the human being living next to you and their struggles to understand your perspectives…as you struggle to understand theirs.
Consider the quote from a 57 year old woman in Mississippi:
The way you have to term everything just right. And if you don’t term it right you discriminate them. It’s like everybody is going to be in the know of what people call themselves now and some of us just don’t know. But if you don’t know then there is something seriously wrong with you.