During this school year, unlike during others I’ve spent as a student at the University, I’ve found campus sentiment to be overwhelmingly shrouded in politically correct rhetoric. In an article regarding my connection to Judaism and Israel I wrote last October, I received two comments in which readers accused me of justifying the killing of 1,400 Palestinians during Israel’s incursion in Gaza. This was in no way what I’d been arguing, and I believed the comments had been completely taken out of context, in order to confirm the readers’ biases that a Jewish student commenting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would always side with Israel.

In order to avoid any more misconceptions, and frankly, in order to cover my ass, I rewrote the sentence that had prompted any accusations against my social consciousness. On a larger scale, this was a disturbing reality to me. People reading a politically charged article oftentimes take a somewhat ambiguous line from a piece and morph it into what they want it to mean in order to display their moral superiority.

In this day and age, social awareness seems to have become a status symbol. All over the Internet, people post comments on media platforms that attempt to highlight an author’s lack of political correctness. But are these comments really attempting to educate the writer, or are they purely assuaging the commenter by publicly exposing what might seem to be evidence of moral superiority?

This is an omnipresent issue not only online, but also in conversations held on campus regarding racism, sexism, cultural appropriation, rape culture, etc. The social issues that hold such a deep significance in contemporary society are spoken about, but in such politically correct terminology that those who are unaware of certain realities are stifled from actually delving into conversation. Being called out is a powerful educational tool. But it should be done tactfully, rather than preached, because exposing someone’s ignorance oftentimes promotes an unnecessary power dynamic between those who are educated about an issue and those who are not.

Let us use Jesse Klein’s article, “Relative Wealth,” as an example. Her piece was uninformed and offensive. However, did readers think that her views were founded upon knowledge of economic disparity in America? If so, they shouldn’t have. An article like hers was founded upon ignorance, and although I originally believed that the piece shouldn’t have been published, it garnered both harmful and beneficial responses. Personal attacks on Klein were made within the slew of 348 comments that she received. These, of course, were unnecessary and perfectly exemplify the use of a comment as a status symbol. A comment demeaning the writer, while highlighting one’s own sensibilities, is done selfishly. On the other hand, a response like Jenny Wang’s was completely appropriate in that it opened a forum for discussion, without admonishing Klein. What Wang offered was perspective, which is truly the only teacher of social awareness.

After Klein read hurtful responses to her piece and experienced what I can only imagine was the inclination to regress into a hole for the rest of eternity, she bravely came out with another article, much more clearly articulating her original point. In her response piece, she wrote, “Online, my naïve perception of wealth was called the ‘Problem with America.’ In the real world, there are a lot of problems with America which, with any luck, can be fixed by learning from a few mistakes.”

So, Klein is an example of positive reformation after having been called out. Although her situation was extreme, the responses proved to be enlightening. But, what about the responses that were purely motivated by negativity and public recognition?

There is a clear argument for political correctness and making the politically incorrect aware of their mistakes. But, as Klein pointed out, problems are fixed by learning from such mistakes. I’m proud of my University that in recent years, students have become much more aware of the social and political issues that maintain inequality. But not everyone is aware of these realities, due to a lack of perspective. Ignorance, however, should not be confronted with judgment.

So, to those who are judgmental of the politically incorrect, be sensitive. To those who are unaware of the depths of social issues in America, educate yourself. A 600-word Daily article written by a student in a social theory class isn’t going to educate you about white privilege. Expanding yourself beyond the familiar is what will.

Political correctness is a Band-Aid — it assuages those who extend it, and it frightens those who don’t understand it. So hopefully the PC trend leaves us, and what replaces it is education, discussion and the search for perspective.

Abby Taskier can be reached at ataskier@umich.edu.

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