Why, you may ask, is a person born and raised in America called an African-American, but another such person not called a European-American? The word substitution game of political correctness is a puzzling one, but the ultimate goal is obvious: no one being offended.
This goal is, of course, on its face unobtainable. No matter how many words we substitute, the meaning remains the same. Eventually, the substituted word becomes the same as the word it replaced, and a new word is needed. All we can say at that point is, “dang.”
Take the example of crippled. This word became handicapped, and then physically challenged. Disabled was also deemed unacceptable along the way. To an extent the very meaning of language has been lost in the process. I’m sure a man running a marathon would also consider himself physically challenged.
There are elements of political correctness that are less innocuous than deciding what to call a spade, however. The offensive part of a slur is not the word itself, but the meaning put behind it. To be sure, people say things that are intended to degrade and marginalize others. This is an unfortunate price we pay to be able to speak our true opinions.
Imagine for a moment if an employee was lazy, and you wanted to point that out to a supervisor. The supervisor wants honest feedback to best run the organization, and you have the goal of the organization flourishing (and not having to pick up the slack yourself). However, let’s say that the in-fact lazy employee happens to belong to an ethnicity that has been stereotyped for being lazy.
There is now an incentive for you withhold the information from the supervisor: your reputation. No one wants to be considered a bigot, and such perception may impact a variety of things in your future. The chance that the supervisor will believe you are telling the truth about the lazy employee is also diminished. So the organization suffers because of the decision to be politically correct rather than voice the truth. Substitute society for organization and you begin to see the scope of the damage political correctness can do.
Newsday, Political Correctness on Campus Chills Debate: http://www.newsday.com/opinion/columnists/cathy-young/young-political-correctness-on-campus-chills-debate-1.4262227
Accuracy in Academia, The Origins of Political Correctness: http://www.academia.org/the-origins-of-political-correctness/
Yale, Political Correctness: http://dido.wss.yale.edu/P/cp/p10a/p1017.pdf
National Review, Politically Correct Checklist for Those Praying at Inauguration? http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/337446/politically-correct-checklist-those-praying-inauguration-jordan-lorence#
The American, The Politically Correct Calendar: http://www.american.com/archive/2012/december/the-politically-correct-calendar
The New York Times, The Word Police: http://www.nytimes.com/1993/01/31/style/the-word-police.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm