The past decade has seen a rise of social consciousness and cultural awareness. Global social movements, social media and an increasingly diversified society have made our generation more aware than ever. The rise of such movements and the strive for inclusivity is purely positive. However, being overly offended is actually harming public discourse, and we, in our quest to be inclusive, are becoming rather exclusive.
Don’t get me wrong – I am thrilled these movements have emerged, that the general public has become more aware, and that those who aren’t are being taught to be. But we need to draw a line between what is cultural appropriation, and what is cultural appreciation. What is misogynist and what is unawareness. What is hate speech and what is critique.
Most of us heard about the prom dress controversy, in which a teenager wearing a cheongsam caused a Twitter storm for choosing a non-Western dress to her prom – a dress she simply thought was beautiful. Crushing a teenage girl on Twitter was not going to silence the actual racism that exists in society. If anything, these cases add fuel to the fire to the likes of Trump, who sincerely believe the media is spluttering out left-wing propaganda. Labelling anyone who disagrees with you a sexist, racist or neo-Nazi, is harming freedom of expression and the public debate as much as actual sexism, racism and neo-Nazism are.
In our quest to be inclusive and socially conscious, we have become too quick to brand those who disagree with terms that are disagreeable, excluding them from public discourse. The result is that more people are reluctant to speak out and critique what is considered politically correct, and we miss out on valuable debates in the process.
Last year, our university experienced a situation of sorts, when the Antifa attacked a debate hosted by the KCL Libertarian Society, in which speakers with derogatory opinions were invited. Without agreeing with any of the speaker’s opinions, I certainly do not agree that attacking them with smoke bombs was an appropriate way to respond. Not giving the speakers a platform, would, however, have been even worse. Non-platforming is a harmful practice, where we silence those whose opinion differs from ours, leaving them in their echo-chambers while maintaining our own. The politically correct risks being as non-inclusive as the racists, misogynists and xenophobes are.
The focus should be on educating and debating rather than on scolding, should we bring society forward. By staying in our bubble and silencing everyone who disagrees with us through labelling, we are harming the very pillars our society was founded on.
In our race for a better world, we fail to bring everyone along by alienating them from ourselves, which can prove fatal to society as we know it. 2018 has been the year of the offended – let us make 2019 the year of progressive discourse.