It is a shame that our society and, more importantly, our campus have arrived at a point where political correctness is demanded and, unfortunately, necessary. Being PC appears almost necessary nowadays because the consequences of a politically incorrect statement or action are so great. Radical political correctness maniacs will not hesitate to exploit a minor breach of PC and make an issue out of it. Too many people take themselves way too seriously and ultimately stir up unnecessary controversy.
Many argue that maintaining a perfect standard of political correctness is essential to providing an open and accepting society -- politically incorrect statements could be seen as offensive and perhaps even alienate a particular person or group. In reality, this perspective is patently false. Requiring one to walk on eggshells in his actions or when expressing his opinion creates a closed and unwelcoming culture.
Although it is important to respect others, it is equally important to give someone the benefit of the doubt. We tend to read too far into statements and actions and misconstrue them as politically incorrect and offensive. We create controversy when it should not exist. It is one thing to disagree with an opinion or action and argue against it; it is another thing to ignorantly and lazily dismiss something simply because it was not PC. Take things for what they are worth and nothing more.
Much to my dismay, this nearly self-evident principle is often missing at Dartmouth. Sara del Nido's op-ed ("Our Classless Campus," Nov. 1) is evidence of this point. She claims that a Greek house's decision to host a party with a "white trash" theme demonstrates a bias against low-income white families and is borderline racism.
Come again? I highly doubt that the house social chair was attempting to make a statement that low-income families are considered trash at this Ivy League institution. Rather, he or she was most likely trying to think of a theme that would allow guests to dress up (or down) and have a good time. It is a costume: no more, no less.
This harkens back to the legend of a fraternity's Hawaiian party being cancelled and changed because it allegedly was disrespectful and made mockery of the Hawaiian students at Dartmouth. If you do not think that this was at least a tiny bit ridiculous, I suggest you stop reading.
Should we no longer be allowed to have formal champagne parties because they mock the arrogant and stuck-up upper class? Should ninja costumes be outlawed because they exploit part of the martial arts culture in Asia? Granted, these examples might be extreme, but hyperbole in moderation might make my point a little clearer.
It is also important for me to say that, for the most part, I agree with del Nido's argument. It is certainly true that class is often lost amidst the PC juggernauts of race and gender. Educating students on these topics is undoubtedly very important and we ought to be sensitized to the challenges that each and every one of us faces.
Do not think that I, and most Dartmouth students for that matter, am not grateful for the opportunities afforded to me in the past and the present. I also admit that there is a slightly blurred line that separates the unintentional political incorrectness that has become a part of pop culture from offensive and derogatory statements or actions.
The term "white trash" has become a part of our generation's rhetoric and is even used on television in shows such as MTV's "Trailer Fabulous." It should not be deemed derogatory towards low-income families just as the brave and proud Indian mascot should not be interpreted as insulting to Native Americans.
As I stated earlier, the solution to this situation is to stop taking ourselves so seriously. I admit that someone who is offended by an action has the right to be, but he or she still ought to give thought to the actor's intentions and choose the right battles to fight.