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Too sensitive or too ignorant? The rise of political correctness in the US

A positive shift in cultural sensitivity is leading some to believe that Americans are becoming too sensitive.
Photo Credit: Pew Research Center
A positive shift in cultural sensitivity is leading some to believe that American’s are becoming too sensitive.

   People are beginning to call out racism, sexist and insensitive comments, and cultural appropriation, leading some people to believe that society is becoming too sensitive.

   If you truly believe that society is becoming too sensitive, ask yourself why. Is it because people are choosing to question things more, rather than blindly following societal norms? Are people being sensitive or have you not educated yourself enough on cultures other than your own?

   In 2015, during a rally in South Carolina, presidential candidate Donald Trump mocked disabled reporter Serge Kovaleski on live TV, by mimicking Kovaleski’s small hand, a common side effect of his Arthrogryposis, a condition that affects the joints. If a man who is running for President of the United States is comfortable enough to behave that way, we as a country need to look inward and see where we’ve gone wrong.

   It was clear that the main reason people believed the world was becoming overly sensitive was because their ideas of humor, the way they talked about others, and their belief systems was being challenged. It is important to recognize that America is not far removed from a very oppressive time in its history. We have not reached some utopic, peaceful place in time where the idea of oppression, and racism is so far-fetched, that people can look back and laugh about it.

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   Let’s talk about jokes. Society is not becoming soft because people can’t take a joke anymore. People are now beginning to consider the implications, and underlying message of these so-called jokes. In 2014, Fox News host Eric Bolling was crucified after making a “boobs on the ground” remark, a poorly done wordplay for “boots on the ground,” in reference to Mariam Al Mansouri, the first female Emirati Air Force fighter pilot. Not only does that comment reek of misogyny, but it sexualizes her and reduces her accomplishments to nothing. So of course women are not dying to hear more oppressive, sexist “jokes” that set them back. Of course, people could laugh at these jokes and “not take them too seriously,” but no longer are the days where we accept ignorance and misogyny as the norm.

   Some people in this country fail to realize that racism and ignorance about racism has, and will continue to have considerable negative implications in society. Blackface, for example, is completely unacceptable. Jimmy Kimmel and several other comedians learned this the hard way, as they ended up on the chopping block in 2020, for using blackface as a comedic tool. Let me tell you, I know a good joke when I see one, and that doesn’t hit the mark. Insensitivity and plain stupidity put these people in the spotlight for incidents like this. Calling these celebrities out and watching them squirm as they have to explain themselves, is 100% necessary in creating a cultural change.

   A math teacher in Riverside, CA came under fire when she was caught on camera wearing a makeshift headdress and jumping around her classroom, pretending to pray to the “rock god,” and doing tomahawk chops, a reference to scalping, in front of her high school class. She clearly did not see anything wrong with what she did, and that’s exactly the problem. It was insensitive, it was ridiculous, it was unnecessary and mostly it was profoundly ignorant. She made a mockery of a group of people who have suffered tremendously on this very land we stand on today, and a rich history that should be respected.

   Another major reason for the divide between people who believe the world is becoming sensitive, and everyone else, is education, or lack thereof. People are seeing this cultural shift as a personal attack on them and their beliefs, which in some cases it may be. There is an unspoken social contract among people, and everyone has the responsibility to want to do better. We are all cohabitating on this planet, and in this country specifically, and the key to harmony is respect. The goal of this social movement is to ensure that everyone, especially ones who have suffered through oppression, prejudice and systemic disadvantages, are being treated equally and with respect and dignity. 

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About the Contributor
Asia Ryan
Asia Ryan, Editor-in-Chief
Asia Ryan is the Co-Editor-in-Chief for The Mesa Press as a second-year transfer student at Mesa College. Her plan is to transfer to San Diego State University next year to complete her Journalism degree and ultimately become a sports Broadcaster/Analyst, focusing mostly on mixed martial arts. In her free time, she enjoys doing jiu-jitsu, visiting museums, traveling, and working on her MMA blog.  
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  • T

    Tom LeightonJul 3, 2023 at 2:34 am

    I’ve had some experiences I think bear on this.

    I want to say first that you’re right when you say America is “not far removed” from an oppressive time in terms of race, etc. Older folks do need to realize that it seems like that for many people of my generation, who were raised in a time of tolerance and just don’t get where this **** is coming from. My mother was (briefly) alive at the same time as the last few civil war vets – that’s how recent it was. She remembers “colored only” buses, restaurants, water fountains, the whole nine yards. My grandmother’s parents ran the Homestead Labor camp, where her dad would pick up “his darkies” to drive them out for their daily work, she’d help make lunch for everybody, and her mom would keep a shotgun leaned against the door at night in case they came across the fields.

    Those people are still alive. It is incredibly bizarre to me to hear those stories. I wasn’t raised in a world that had any of that stuff, and when people come at me with a chip on their shoulder – some of whom remember it, or the younger set who were inoculated with that hateful memory – it is weirdly offensive to me. “What world do you live in?” I want to ask. I wasn’t part of that. That stuff was never in my world.

    The other really important part. I went to flight school in south Florida. Flight instruction is a big business here. Countries all over the world send their pilots here for training. As a white American, I found myself – for the first time – as part of a very small minority.

    In one of my first classes, an instructor asked students to come up and point out an airport from their home countries as part of a demonstration. One man, Kyuduck – a Korean who would later be my friend – could not even find South Korea on the map. We were all part of a chat group at that point, and someone sent the text, “The yellow man lost the yellow land.” I just froze, staring at those words on the screen. I expected some kind of uproar over that hateful, hurtful speech.

    It didn’t happen. There was some laughter, a few follow-on comments; the guy went red in the face, eventually located Korea, and sat down. After that it was more or less open season, and the racist comments went flying right and left for the rest of my time there.

    After awhile, I understood it. Pretty much every race was represented there, and you learned to take a joke and dish out your own on whoever had thrown it. If you were an American, I mean; everyone else already seemed to have it down. THEY USED IT AS AN ICEBREAKER. Because they have a healthy concept of race and not whatever our culture keeps perpetuating.

    I – an ignorant, cheeseburger-eating redneck American Southerner – lived with a stingy Jew, a beaner, and a nice Sudanese guy everyone pretended to have trouble seeing when it got dark out. AND IT WAS GOOD.

    I graduated eventually and moved back to normal America, where people go apeshit at the slightest hint of anything racial, and blackface is ALWAYS wrong because it’s understood that there’s no way you’re not trying to drag up some 200-year-old minstrel show or humiliate people of color.

    And it makes me rage, that we’re not better than that. Having experienced a place where race is viewed in a normal and healthy way, and people just joke about it as a means of getting to know you – and living in a place where people are still alive who experienced the true Jim Crow south – I find these two completely alien worlds impossible to reconcile.

    It seems obvious to me that people should let bygones be bygones and ****ing get along with each other and make some harmless jokes and laugh it off. Other people – especially older people – have never lived in that world and will never feel that way, and will hold onto that hate forever. Perhaps justifiably, for those who had it directed at them, but still.

    I understand whites like me that race doesn’t mean anything to, who are increasingly pissed off at having “our” race called out as racist. At being the only race it’s acceptable to make fun of. Also as a single man who feels uncomfortable around small children because I’m automatically viewed with suspicion (it’s off-topic, but I HATE that). And I see people putting that feeling into action, and backlashing against all the people who keep crying racist (even where that is justified). This is how hate goes around and around and around. Now you have “woke” and BLM, and you have “critical race theory.” It’s just the same **** again.

    I don’t have any racist thoughts personally, except for some aggravation, feeling a little hated as a single white male. Willing to deal with that. Would love to put on some blackface, hang out with some dudes wearing whiteface, have a few drinks and make good-natured fun of each other all night long. The people in this country will never let that happen.

    There’s this weird divide between what was and what is, and the hate just keeps going around; I wasn’t born to that twisted **** and I don’t understand it, and I don’t have any idea how to bridge that disconnect that our ****ed-up culture just will not let die.

  • R

    Rick CreightonJan 14, 2023 at 8:14 am

    It’s all over the top where it now has taken our freedoms away etc. And some have run away with it. Actually make money off of erroneous racism and sexism. Women gold diggers etc.

    • M

      Matthew AdamsApr 30, 2023 at 2:46 pm

      Yeah, no. Taking our “freedom”? We still have plenty of freedom to act like immoral people with little to no empathy to anyone else different from ourselves, and this especially goes for minorities. Actual freedom being taken away includes the actions that the right have been pushing for years, such as abortion rights, books being banned in the South just because they have a hint of LGBT, African-American history literally being banned and rewritten within areas such as Florida, etc. Based on this graph, we can clearly see the largest group of people that still have these types of thought processes, and it’s very disappointing to see.

      • T

        Tom LeightonJul 3, 2023 at 4:23 am

        So you ask yourself why. NAACP just issued a travel advisory for the state of Florida, obviously political – advocating against Ron DeSantis – and obviously provoked. The man is a galloping racist, following in the footsteps of Donald Trump. I hate mentioning politics, because you know where that goes now, but I don’t think the racial element can be denied.

        I’m a little older, but imagine being a white millenial – they vote now – trying to understand the hate that’s been levied against them their whole lives. Rage is an understandable reaction when your generation is pretty much race-blind, and you’re trying to reconcile that against an older set who dealt with “colored only” water fountains and the rest of it.

        That’s how hate works, I think. The blame swings around and around. The poster you responded to is an idiot or some kind of troll, but he’s right in the limited sense that responses to racism can easily go over the line, and cause more racism by way of resentment. So on to eternity.

        The polarization, and radicalization, of our government is a separate issue, and IMHO the two major parties ought to go to hell and make way for some semblance of genuine democracy, but that’s kind of sort of beside the point.

        One part of what you’re seeing is demagoguery, Trump politics taking all the hate they can find – government gridlock and racial tension supplying most of it – and offering a face for that. Moderates fuel that fire because our political system is so ****ed that they only have two options, whose parties have sealed away any semblance of true democracy. Then you learn about the committee tax, and again IMHO, racism should take a backseat to the destructive politics that help perpetuate it, and allow corporate money to rule in the process.

        The Trump-era conservative backlash is awful, agreed. This comment of mine has gone political, and I think it’s justified as the issues you’ve mentioned are more political, and the blame falls more on those failures than it does on race.

        There is that core of racial dynamics that the demagogues play with, though. They play on white-ish people who are tired of being blamed for things some other generation did, the blue-collar folks who do actually compete with illegals, and of course the ‘good old boys’ who are just racist by heredity or way of thinking.

        The actions your post mentions are part of today’s right wing that does feel a little like the Nazi party. Probably most people don’t agree with most of it, and yet there it is. I remember Trump vs Hillary (voted for Johnson). Most people started out hating both, and yet somehow, by the time of the election (I don’t get this) worked their way around to one viewpoint or another instead of voting for a different party and “wasting” their vote.

        I honestly feel like this country’s political and economic hypocrisies trump (pardon the pun) the existing racial tensions they use to fan the flames. The acts you’ve mentioned are public record, and are shameful.

        History should be taught as it happened. Statues should stand (including Joe Paterno’s and Andrew Jackson’s), with plaques added to explain the facts that history initially omitted. Burying history is not right. Columbus Day should remain. First because whatever you think of him, Columbus was an explorer, and his achievements were not nothing. They were significant. Second because we are not celebrating Columbus. We are remembering – good and bad – his impact on the formation of our country. If you want to burn him in effigy like Guy Fawkes, fine, but he stays.

        This has gone off the rails, sorry; racism exists, but I think the more recent problem is our very strange and corrupt government, and the interests of that power in perpetuating a hatred that in many places is (and in others should be) outdated.

  • B

    BiancaDec 11, 2022 at 9:14 pm

    Hmmm, society is def more sensitive. It’s about extremes. Yes questions are being asked, as they should and some things needed to change, to improve. However, I feel it has shifted too far, to the point that people take advantage of it. Like ambulance chasers do. That’s always the case but too many are on the bandwagon. Oh and you are allowed to question if its in defence of minorities or disabilities but not the other way round. It’s hypocritical. And we are expected to learn from our mistakes and move on , to be better right? Yet society and social media trash celebrities or news worthy people on things they did a decade ago? Yet Will Smith can slap a man on tv in this year and thats ok? That was assault. Why was he not arrested? Women in America have had their bodies and life held to ransom with these archaic laws. The worlds gone mad. You are all messed up, worrying about your feelings over little things yet allowing worse things to happen to others around you. I am in my 50’s and I have never seen so much bullying and judgement of others. Social media was the worst thing that ever happened imo.

  • C

    CallyNov 8, 2022 at 8:38 pm

    Society has definitely become too sensitive now days and the woke PC cancel culture is teaching people that the more they complain about something, the more they get what they want, which leads a vicious cycle of nonstop whining and virtue signaling. It is nice to see that there has been increasing pushback these past couple of years towards political correctness as the so-called “woke” vocal minority shouldn’t be able to dictate what the rest of the population do through threats of censorship and cancelling

  • N

    NRAug 21, 2022 at 10:57 pm

    “Is it because people are choosing to question things more, rather than blindly following societal norms? Are people being sensitive or have you not educated yourself enough on cultures other than your own?”

    Callout culture is a societal norm that many are afraid to stand up against.

    Many different cultures have adequate perspective not to be offended over trivial matters, but the woke like to conveniently deny those ones from their education repertoire.

  • G

    GigiJun 22, 2022 at 1:35 pm

    I donr believe this because black people love to joke, “bully”, aren’t with all the sensitivity because if you are we’ll just talk about you more etc. This isn’t a true representation of the black community, this is propaganda

  • O

    oscarMay 8, 2022 at 5:14 am

    your best reason against jokes was ” Let me tell you, I know a good joke when I see one, and that doesn’t hit the mark”

    that’s pretty funny in itself, that you think your own moral superiority trumps some persons ability to say a joke.

    you are truly the oversensitive one

  • R

    Raa ReyFeb 18, 2022 at 2:43 am

    Great article. Would you say the shift that’s happening is due to the exposure technology allows…helping everyone see and feel others’ views of these “jokes” leading them to be more considerate/thoughtful, not necessarily sensitive?

    But then again, do you think their considerateness/thoughtfulness can be such a habit that they become too cautious of almost any kind of joke making them then seem sensitive?

    Look forward to hearing from you. Your article was helpful. Thanks.