Before I rub anyone the wrong way, let me say that as active members of society we need to constantly question the systems or practices that are in place. Not to sound overly dramatic, but it’s the way to move forward. To grow and learn from what’s working and what isn’t. So, please just bear with me until the end of this piece.
Political correctness has done wonderful things, from creating a safe space, to empowering the disenfranchised and just simply putting things into perspective to people that were sheltered or in positions of privilege. But it also completely shut down a space for dialogue.
We’ve all witnessed this at least once. The second the conversation lands in a taboo topic everyone avoids it and no one wants to say anything that could potentially hurt someone else's feelings. Which is good, being mindful of others and understanding everyone has a different experience is a good milestone to be in. How do we fix this then?
I was born and raised in Monterrey, Mexico, and what I’ve had the privilege of witnessing is that Mexicans address these types of issues with a very crude sense of humor. So, people have been conditioned since they were born to not take things too seriously and be as lax as possible.
In the awkward months of me finding my way around UP I would be bombarded with questions about my culture and country. I began to notice people would hold back due to the current political climate. People seemed highly stressed when I would be asked about my culture. Even if it was a comment that had anything to do with Mexico I would get a nervous side glance before said comment, since people didn’t know where my “line” was and if it was being crossed or not by said comment/question.
I won’t say I’m immune to this. I’ve gotten defensive over the smallest things. A few days ago in class I heard someone talk about Mexico and I was ready to fight. Regardless I waited, took a deep breath and heard them out. Nothing insulting was said, and I was overreacting. It’s hard to hear people talk about things that are special to you.
No one has the same experiences as you, not even your siblings. Shutting people down for not being on the same page as you is one of the most counterintuitive things you could do. Dumb questions are dumb (do not get me wrong, I’ve had to put people in their place because certain questions or comments were completely out of line), but they are essential.
So, when receiving questions you might think are obvious, be more open minded. I’m not saying to stomach things that are out of line but as I said before, dialogue is key for growth and empathy. You can’t assume everyone is on the same page as you regardless if you ended up in the same place, which in this case would be UP.
Everyone has taken a different road and has a different background than you, so what might seem obvious to some is extremely alien to others. The fact that they even have the courage to ask a question, means they’re willing to learn and understand. Reaching a middle with the other side is the way to move forward and even create some sort of compromise where both parties can learn something from each other. Creating healthy dialogue that is respectful is what everyone needs, especially right now.
Paula Ortiz Cazaubon is a Junior at UP and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org