President Barack Obama tackles the polarizing issue of political correctness in a new interview, addressing how he and Donald Trump differ in their perspective.
In an interview with NPR's "Morning Edition," conducted last Thursday but airing in its entirety on Monday, Obama addressed whether he agrees with his successor that political correctness has gone too far.
Obama told host Steve Inskeep, "If you're narrowly defining political correctness as a hypersensitivity that ends up resulting in people not being able to express their opinions at all, without somebody suggesting they're a victim. You know, if our social discourse and our political discourse becomes like walking on eggshells, so that if somebody says 'You know what, I'm not sure affirmative action is the right way to solve racial problems in this country,' and somebody's immediately accused of being racist, well, then I think you have a point."
But the definition of "politically correct" is "all over the map," Obama said.
"I suspect the president-elect's definition of political correctness would be different than mine," he said of Trump. "If what's meant by political correctness is that there is some broad disapproval that's expressed when somebody uses a racial epithet, or somebody makes a derogatory comment about women, or about the LGBT community, and people say, 'Hey, you shouldn't do that. That's wrong, that's cruel, that's hurtful. Here's the history of that word.' And when you use words like that, you're reinforcing people feeling like they're outsiders, and less than other Americans."
Obama added that he considers expressing distaste for such epithets and comments as being "good manners, sound values and hard-fought gains in the nature of American society and American community."
The president also told Inskeep that there is occasionally a tendency by conservatives to jump on "progressives being 'politically correct,'" citing the usage, for example, of "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas." He suggested such critics are overly sensitive and are "continually feeding this sense of victimization, and that they are being subject to reverse discrimination."
And Obama imparted these words of wisdom on the topic: "My advice to young people, and my advice to all of us as citizens, is to be able to distinguish between being courteous and being thoughtful and thinking about how words affect other people and not demonizing others versus having legitimate political debates and disagreements."