I’ve always thought the phrase “political correctness” was weird when it was used to complain that no one can say “retarded” anymore, or no one can dress as Indigenous Americans anymore without being accused of cultural appropriation. Because it had nothing to do with politics! Why was it called political correctness? I thought it was more like “cultural empathy” or something – a change of language that recognizes other people’s feelings and experiences in our culture.
But in the last year? I’ve learned that the phrase “political correctness” DOES actually have an application. And it’s when you change your language to improve your chances of getting research money or budget money approved from legislators. THAT is all about politics. You know certain legislators have to appeal to their base and their donors and their base and their donors hates certain words so you avoid using those words so your changes are better of getting grant money or budget money for the research or projects or programs you are trying to fund.
THAT is political correctness.
And lately? I’m seeing it more and more caused by the party who purportedly HATES political correctness.
I started thinking about it when I first heard this story on NPR about the drop of the phrase “Climate Change” in grant summaries.
An NPR analysis of grants awarded by the National Science Foundation found a steadily decreasing number with the phrase “climate change” in the title or summary, resulting in a sharp drop in the term’s use in 2017. At the same time, the use of alternative terms such as “extreme weather” appears to be rising slightly.
And then this weekend the uproar about the CDC banning words, which I felt like had more to do with this type of self-censoring than any official ban. And it seems I might have been right according to this article by NYT.
The Times confirmed some details of the report with several officials, although a few suggested that the proposal was not so much a ban on words but recommendations to avoid some language to ease the path toward budget approval by Republicans.
Now these things are BOTH examples of political correctness way more than asking your employees to say “Happy Holidays” so that you can make sure you honor all winter traditions your customers might be celebrating. Avoiding using the phrase “climate change” or avoiding the word “transgender” to try to get funding for research or programs from Congress? THAT is changing your language for politics. THAT is political correctness.