Immigration Rhetoric and Political Correctness

In 1980... (see video below)

I have grown frustrated with the improper entanglement of being pro-American and anti-immigration. This applies to both ends of the political spectrum. Life is too complex and nuanced to reduce down to a one-size-fits-all-bumper-sticker answer. I think the over simplification and subsequent tribal chest pounding does a disservice to all involved after either side picks which outrage to use to ignite their base as opposed to presenting real solutions to problems.

The way we talk about immigration is a great case-study of this. Immigration is both a timeless and contemporary issue. I was shocked by the reasonableness of Mr. Reagan and Mr. Bush in this video, which seems to be the response reasonableness is generally trying to avoid. It was a battle of who could treat the people affected by immigration with the most respect. Compassionate conservatism shined through. 

What happened to this respect for humanity? Political correctness becomes a non-issue when you act and speak in a respectful manner to the people you are talking to and/or about. Respecting people for who they are, what they look like, and who and what they care about. Respect is an important part of being emotionally intelligent

Now, I’m not the first one to articulate this idea. Martie Sirois said of being PC “It’s about not oppressing a group of marginalized people... But it’s mostly about not being a jerk.” Someone has even developed a Chrome extension that replaces “political correctness” with “treating people with respect.” 


Being “politically correct” is absolutely taken to the extreme, sometimes to the point of being absurd. When it is, it is easy to see why the natural reaction is to be disrespectfully un-PC. As Jerry Seinfeld (one of my heroes) opined, being PC can hurt good-natured comedy. Regarding employment, the Harvard Business Review shard the following observation:

“Despite this obvious progress, we believe that political correctness is a double-edged sword. While it has helped many traditionally underrepresented employees to experience their workplace as more inclusive, the PC rule book can hinder employees’ ability to develop effective relationships across potentially divisive group differences.”

The same article identified five principles that can help to overcome tensions the PC movement has tried to correct. Regardless of your thoughts on being PC, the principles can transform superficial communication into “learning oriented interaction.” They are as follows:

  • Pause to short-circuit the emotion and reflect.
  • Connect with others in ways that affirm the importance of relationships.
  • Question yourself to help identify your blind spots and discover what makes you defensive.
  • Get genuine support that doesn’t necessarily validate your point of view but, rather, helps you gain a broader perspective.
  • Shift your mind-set from “You need to change” to “What can I change?”

Ultimately, I believe that being respectful to those around us would make being PC obsolete. It is about really caring when we insult someone and reacting introspectively instead of passing judgment that the insulted party is somehow at fault for merely listing to the words we ourselves chose. As with anything, demonizing either side will not get us anywhere. Like Mr. Reagan and Bush in the video, reasonableness shockingly standouts in our world. Use it.