Words Can Hurt

Why is saying “that’s so gay” and “you’re retarded” normalized in everyday society? Gay, as defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, “is relating to, or characterized by sexual or romantic attraction to people of one’s same sex”. How has the word itself come to degrade others? Take the word retarded;  it was once used to describe someone with a mental illness until “mental retardation” was changed to “intellectual disability” by the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. Calling someone “retarded” was relooked upon, as it was insulting to those who had mental illnesses. So why is it still being used today to inflict harm? In being more linguistically sensitive, many could feel more widely accepted. By using terms that are more politically correct, communities could become more connected with other groups. Conducting oneself with linguistic sensitivity is key to helping bridge the gap between different groups, as well as destigmatizing topics. In addition, it is also important to realize that everyone is human and should be treated equally while also helping groups gain recognition.

Creating Connections

Using words that are politically correct can help bridge gaps that have been created between groups. What many do not understand is that these words were once used commonly, but have now evolved into insults to others. Because of the Coronavirus, Asian Americans have been a large targeted group during the pandemic. With people calling them depreciating names, it singles them out and keeps them from feeling safe in society. And since these terms have been used more on the media and in person, there has been a rise in the number of reported harassment incidents towards Asian Americans, detailing how words can promote hate. These incidents have hindered Asian Americans from feeling accepted in society, seeing that other fellow members of their community have been abused. This keeps everyone from being able to create a connection and become unified under today’s circumstances. In order to help some groups feel less inferior, increasing knowledge of words that can be hurtful is a good beginning step. Learning more about terms that wouldn’t be hurtful towards others is a great way to deepen the connection between people. 

More Welcoming

The LGBTQ+ community is more accepted in society today than in the past. Many groups have fought for their places in society, to feel recognized and welcomed, but still don’t feel as though they are as appreciated as others. Being more aware of terms that are used every day can help reduce the stigma surrounding certain topics and will help others feel like they have a better place in society. Speaking in a certain way may push other groups to feel targeted and not “normal”. In a survey done by the Pew Research Center, 81% of LGBT adults don’t feel accepted in their own community, and with that, they say there is also a lot of discrimination. To help combat the discrimination, using words that are politically correct could change society’s views. 

Being Equal

Every person living is human… are they not? Everyone is allowed to make mistakes, and everyone should be treated fairly. This idea is stemmed from the fundamental right that everyone deserves to be happy, that everyone has the right to happiness. Every person should be allowed to have happiness in their life, however, the line would have to be drawn when an individual’s happiness prioritizes another. Harming another to find that happiness would not only be morally incorrect, but also disturbing the other person’s right to happiness, and would be unfair. In being treated fairly, a person shouldn’t have to feel belittled by another. A group could be ostracized when offensive words are used against them. Movies and TV shows could portray these terms differently, so others could realize the impact. The Teaching Tolerance Organization explains how the n-word has since evolved to become a derogatory term from another phrase. People still use the word today, not knowing that it is dehumanizing towards the African-American community. It is hard for the African American community to feel wanted in society when this word is being used to target them specifically. 

Coming Out of the Shadows

Political incorrectness could often be mistaken as racism or discrimination. Words may not seem like they could have a huge impact on society, but they have powerful meanings and connotations behind them. Refraining from using words like these help make society more inclusive. Oppressed groups could then become more dominant in the community. Minority groups could feel safer in society when less people make them feel unwanted. No one should have to be worried about who they are and what other people might think of them. It isn’t right to call other groups words that hurt. The media, the people, and the way people are portrayed needs to be changed for others to feel included in society.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and/or student and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of United 4 Social Change Inc., its board members, or officers.
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