"Because the language we use to talk about problems shapes the way we approach those problems, being sensitive to "political correctness" is actually crucial in the fight to solve real problems." -Rich Smith, The Stranger. (2015)
In the 1950s The Red Skelton T.V. show sometimes featured a skit in which Skelton staggered around the stage in a condition once referred to as "spastic." Jerry Lewis used to do the same thing. All both wanted to do was make us laugh in a time when America was less sensitive to the way labels could hurt. Every caregiver knows that spastic paraplegia is an agonizing condition. Mocking it is hardly funny to the parents of people so afflicted not to mention the sufferer.
In the 1950s the infamous "N" word was still widely used to describe African Americans. That word has never been "correct" and now anyone who uses such language is engaging in racism.
In the 1950s California of my youth I often heard Mexican immigrants referred to by a variety of demeaning insults. It was a way to justify condescension.
When we demean another we demean ourselves.
What is this "political correctness" Donald Trump says we cannot afford? Does he imply it is okay to go backwards to an America where degrading language was tolerated if not approved? Do we want a culture in which it is okay to refer to women as bimbos and sluts and by other terms Trump has used?
Caregiving is gritty as well as grace-filled. Language shapes thinking. Hospitalized patients degraded by labels may find their call lights going unanswered. The person lying on the gurney outside the X-Ray department may suffer out there a lot longer if she becomes "that demented old lady." After all, if she does not know where she is maybe it will not matter if we ignore her for awhile.
Caregivers are under enormous pressure. It is so much easier to default to labels than to engage the language of respect. If we say "we cannot afford to be politically correct" are we saying we cannot afford to be loving?
How much harder is it to be a Good Samaritan to the wounded man beside the road if he is just "one of those damn Muslims?"