We live in a world where integration between diverse groups, whether religious or race or whatever base these groups were built, is needed more than ever. These days are not like early in the century when a few groups were dominating the discourse. These dominant groups used terms that are relevant to them and only them, terms that can be offensive to others. Today’s discourses are more inclusive and diverse. For these discourses to be fair and just, political correctness must be attained. Training is not different from what happened in our world in the last few decades. Groups have become more diverse and more multicultural than ever. New multiple-identity generations are participants with different backgrounds and representing multiple groups in the discourse.
I choose it because it is sensitive and it can get us into a debate. The line between what is politically correct and what is not is vague due to differences of perspective. But I expect trainers to be more understanding of its importance than politicians or media celebrity. I expect trainers to appreciate the inclusiveness we have reached in youth work and try to maintain the participation of all groups indefinitely.
Our training circles is a mirror of the outside society. It has the same social issues we have out there. Training can be about one of these social issues directly, or it can be about something completely different. Anyhow, a trace of the power dynamics of the outer society comes within the group. It is unavoidable as we live in the outer world, we don’t live in the training. But the training is a good place to set things right and prove that a functioning society is one that takes care of all its groups and includes all perspectives in the discussion. The difference in our training circles and that of society is that we talk about power dynamics and balance it. One way to balance it is to make sure that the trainer is neutral and multiparty. And being politically correct is a demonstration of that position.
“For one side it is political correctness, but for the other, it is a sign of progress”. That is how I heard it in a documentary about the rise of political correctness and the multiple views of how this can be limiting freedom of speech. It is a clear statement that puts political correctness into practice. Why do we bother using these words and not these words? Why do we care, it is just a “word” and I don’t mean any offense!
Well, here is a very simple answer. Because we progressed from these times when some words were used because it was okay. We are a better civilization because of that. Because dominant groups have listened to marginalized groups, heard their calls and answered them. Let’s live up to this better version of societies and just be aware of what is politically correct and what isn’t. And if we are not sure, we can ask. Accepting that we don’t know, is a good practice in being politically correct.
Political correctness is defined somehow as: the avoidance of forms of expression or action that are perceived to exclude, marginalize, or insult groups of people who are socially disadvantaged or discriminated against. It is not clear and is very vague and indeed it can be misused to undermine freedom of speech. This is the global debate about it. It is complicated. But our training rooms can be easier to handle. It is easier to be a politically correct trainer than to be a politically correct person. However, certainly the first can lead to the second. It is one step towards the progress and inclusion of all.
Language is a decisive element in this. Most trainings are in English, which is not the first language for a lot of trainers, that is when it can get tricky. Stick to what you know to be acceptable and politically correct and refrain from what is provocative or debatable. That does not mean to avoid serious deep conversations, but choose words carefully and ask questions more than making statements. Accept that you are not aware and ask the help of the group, they will gladly give to you. And always apologize if someone feels offended. If not apologizing for your actions (in case you truly feel that you want to stand your ground on this), apologize that the situation left him/her offended and ask if you can do something about it.
How to apply it in everyday life:
- List of words you use to describe different groups and ask someone you know (preferably if they belong to these social groups) to check its political correctness.
- Stand in front of the mirror and practice using the politically correct ones.
- When feeling confused about English words, research it and see what people online say about it.
- What offends me?
- When did it happen and what emotions it triggered inside me?
- Which social groups do I belong to? What stigma or other negative stereotypes surround them? Do I feel offended if I hear it in any way? Why, Why not?
- What are the words I most use to describe different social, racial, religious (or any other) groups? Am I sure that all of them are politically correct?
- What jokes am I used to saying? Are they politically correct?