Debates, Resources

Political correctness and Safe spaces, a frivolous impediment of free expression? By Nwagbara Izuchukwu 

Political correctness and Safe spaces, a frivolous impediment of free expression?

[Supporting speaker for Dynamite squad at the 2019 Armoury of Words (AOW)]

Ladies and gentlemen, advocates of political correctness claim all they seek is to simply protect marginalized people from hurtful speech. However, this simple task is not as simple as they paint it, for they have become a censor police, like the Nigerian police, brutalizing harmless citizens for speaking when told to shut up. For instance, according to Washingtonpost.com on August 10, 2017 an engineer at Google shared a memo on his thoughts about women participation in tech and leadership. His reason for sharing the memo was to make Google improve the coding skills of women. However, due to the interpretation of a few narrow minded people, he was fired for being sexist. So you see, the current culture of political correctness is one which goes to any length to bully people into quietness which is a frivolous impediment to free speech.

Impartial judges, please do not get me wrong, the right to freedom of expression isn’t absolute. In other words, there are certain legal impediments based on rationality some of which are the law of defamation which seeks to prevent individuals from destroying the image of others in the eyes of the public through words and the law of sedition which seeks to prevent individuals from inciting others to rebel against the government. As such, calling a black skinned person a negro in public is defamatory as it reduces the image of a black skinned person due to the age long common usage of the word and not a matter of political correctness.

In addition, distinguished audience, we have only been able to progressively make laws to address societal issues because we debated them; for instance, on the issue of rape in Nigeria, previously only women could be raped under the law and only penetration by a man’s genital could constitute rape but a free debate on the topic led to the enactment of the Violence against Persons Prohibition Act 2015 which grounded the susceptibility of males to rape. Whereas, as reported by telegraph.co.uk on 28 November, 2015, in preparation for class on sexual assault, a harvard law lecturer received a mail imploring her not to set an exam question on sexual assault as a student victim of sexual assault might be traumatized facing such a question in the exam hall, likewise, other University lecturers are being told not to use certain words in class as they might trigger distress;  haba, my team mate and I have suffered societal problems, my opponents might have, the judges could have, members of the audience might have suffered such, so should we then because of that not discuss such problems?

My opponents may say being politically correct is treating other people with respect, however, one doesn’t have to suppress his opinions on societal matters in order to show respect; that’s pampering and we are not all nannies.

In conclusion, ladies and gentlemen, we own this society together and as such we are each entitled to contribute to societal issues; and it is with this tool of free speech that our developmental ideas have come to fruition, and we should not surrender this valuable tool because we do not want to offend the subjective perceptions of some people.