In an arena where “political correctness” is debated largely in relationship to college campus microaggressions, an example from across the globe may seem unorthodox, even out of place. Yet the same arguments are brought up on both sides of the debate, even on the international scale. And it raises the same question, should political correctness be legislated?
In South Africa, Apartheid (legal segregation) is not a distant memory. The practice ended only in 1994, and racial tensions are still running high in the country. The most racially offensive word in the country is “Kaffir”. The word originally means, “non-believer” or “non-Muslim”, but after being culturally adapted to racial power dimensions, it now holds a lot of weight and a lot of offense to racial wounds not fully healed. Currently punishable with a hefty fine, and controversial political moments are advocating for more severe punishments for its usage, such as 10 years in jail.
Those in favor of criminalizing the word would help relieve racial tensions, and claim it does not violate freedom of speech because there is no good that can come from the usage of the racist term. Similar claims are made in the US, and there are in fact, controversial words that fall into the category of “unprotected speech” because the insight violence. In the US, (though it’s not common), using words like the “N-word” can result in arrest.
Those in defense of the word call upon freedom of speech, and in some cases, go as far as to say that pretending that eliminating the word will solve racial disparity will only mask the real problems. This is unlike the US, where the argument against political correctness seems to be “people just shouldn’t get offended”.
Across the board, the importance of the historicity of words is being raised. Whether or not limiting speech through the removal of said words allows for more intellectual freedom by creating spaces where people don’t have to worry about derogatory racial slurs, or kills intellectual freedom by narrowing down the scope of what can be discussed.
The question raised is this, what action, if any, should be taken against hateful, violent speech?
MORE AT: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/28/world/africa/south-africa-hate-speech.html?ref=africa