Section: Opinion

“Political correctness” exists to build respect for the oppressed

Dear Griffin,

My name’s Isabella. I am Latinx, brown, queer, genderqueer and I’m writing to you not in anger, but in concern that your piece (“Political correctness silences vital discourse”) in the last issue of the Collegian (1/26) is irresponsible and reflects a lot of the dangerous mental “slippery slopes” white people can sometimes get themselves into.

“Political correctness” isn’t a term used by the liberals you condemn in your article. We just call it respect. But if you need an explanation as to why we ask for certain things, here it is: What you call “PC culture” did not rise out of collective over-sensitivity and inability to discuss issues that are difficult or contentious. What you condemn is actually just a call for respecting people’s identities and how they intersect with each other. It’s a way to protect marginalized peoples from the very real dangers they face every moment of their lives.

Example: Have you ever hesitated to respond to the professor in class because racism, sexism, queerphobia or transphobia, colonialism, etc. have made you believe that you cannot take up the intellectual space that straight, cis, white people always have access to?

Have white men ever yelled the n-word at you as they celebrate Trump’s victory?

Have you ever been called a spik twice in two weeks for speaking your native tongue? Once in front of dozens of students in Ascension while you were on the phone with your mother? Is your family living under a colonial dictatorship in Puerto Rico?

Have you ever been afraid of speaking your native tongue?

Have you ever had to live in a world that was not built for you? Had to plan every move because you are not able-bodied? Have you ever been laughed at, gawked at, torn apart for your disability or neurodiversity?

Have you ever had to wonder when your next meal would be? Have you ever had to give up your medication because you can no longer afford it?

Have you ever wondered if you’ll be able to finish your degree? 

Have you been walking and feared someone attacking you for your race, for being a woman, for your gender identity, for being with your same‐sex partner or for wearing a hijab? Do you see your friends and family being brutalized in the news by police, white supremacists, etc., and then see the news blame your community for “making” people want to hurt you?

Do you have to constantly remind yourself that you don’t deserve to be hurt?

Has someone ever told you that you’re making up your gender? That your pronouns are wrong when they are a radical act of self-love? Of letting yourself be the person, the gender, you are?

Have you ever feared deportation? Have you ever stayed up at night wondering if the life you have built is going to be taken away from you by immigration forces that storm into your house and take you and your family away?

This is why marginalized people need “PC culture.” “PC culture” is us reminding ourselves that we matter. That we’re worth as much as straight, cis, white people are. That we don’t deserve to be beaten down every day. So when we identify ourselves as Latinx, as queer, as trans, as brown or black, as immigrants, as Muslims, as disabled, etc., and ask other people to respect us, it is not from a place of fear. We’re not afraid to talk about difficult topics. We live those “difficult topics” every day. When we identify ourselves, we’re telling the world that, in spite of it all, we love ourselves and demand the same love and respect everyone else gets everyday.

If we survive fighting everyday against a system that wants us dead, alone, mangled or converted, sick and tired and still succeed in this school, then it’s time we reevaluate who the “fragile” one is.

As a fellow Kenyon student, if I can take the time to educate myself and respect your identity, you can take the time to educate yourself about our identities. And maybe, if you learned something in the process, you would understand why we’re angry.

With respect,

Isabella Bird-Muñoz ’18

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