First Amendment

Political Correctness Threatens Free Speech and Dissent

At the recent Fellowship Foundation National Prayer Breakfast, Dr. Benjamin Carson gave a speech that has received tremendous national attention because it critiques President Obama’s handling of the national debt, healthcare, education, taxes, and etc. in ways unfavorable to him.  What should not get lost in the responses to the speech, however, are the powerful comments he makes about America’s current insistence on political correctness.  Political correctness is threatening to diminish one of most important purposes of the First Amendment: protect unpopular speech.  While the First Amendment still protects unpopular speech, many people in positions of power are finding ways to create conditions where dissenting voices will face serious repercussions.  While it was not the politically correct thing to do, Dr. Carson did not allow a burgeoning American penchant for political correctness to keep him from disagreeing with President Obama on substantive issues while at this event that traditionally has not been a place where dissent has been accepted and while being in close proximity to President Obama.

When one elects to defy political correctness, he or she must be ready for backlash.  Many employers will establish a hostile agenda against employees when they voice disagreement with their policies and practices.  Although the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is charged with the responsibility of protecting employees from this type of discrimination, employees are not always safeguarded from this discrimination.  Many employees are too afraid to exercise their First Amendment rights because they fear losing their jobs.  Political correctness informs employees to remain silent and keep their disagreements with their employers private.  Unfortunately, too many people buy into this promotion of silence and end up getting crushed by the misery of their silence.

More lawyers, philanthropists, organizations, and etc. need to be willing to help individuals to combat efforts by powerful employers to mute their employees.

What good is the First Amendment if the American people are afraid to exercise the rights it guarantees?

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and other organizations deserve tremendous appreciation for their offering of free legal representation to individuals to fight against employers’ efforts to abrogate their employees’ First Amendment rights.

America would have never gained her liberation from Great Britain had it not been for the value of dissent the colonists evinced.

Some employers are even arrogant enough to place in writing that they forbid their employees from using their First Amendment rights to speak in opposition to them.  We certainly need more organizations like the ACLU and NAACP to rise up and aid in striking a mighty blow against political correctness and First Amendment violations.  The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission needs to be much more aggressive in defending employees against employers who engender conditions where political correctness is mandated, especially when it comes to employees’ rights and requests to have religious, racial, and viewpoint accommodations.

While this piece has focused primarily on political correctness in the workplace (and a little on political correctness in general), it is crucial to understand that political correctness is present in virtually every space of American life.  We deny the dangers of political correctness and don’t engage in efforts to eradicate it at our own peril.

What did you think about Dr. Benjamin Carson’s statements about political correctness?  What did you think about his critique of President Obama’s handling of the national debt, education, taxes, and healthcare?  Do you agree or disagree that political correctness is a threat to free speech and dissent?

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison


First Amendment For All

The First Amendment helps to keep us free by giving us the right to disagree with anyone in America, including the President of the United States. Through the First Amendment, we have the opportunity to be ourselves. This Amendment gives us the power to hold accountable the most powerful man or woman in the nation. No other Amendment or constitutional safeguard would be important without the ability to speak freely to anyone. During slavery in early America, one of the most vexing problems African-Americans faced was they did not have the legal right to speak freely to White Americans without the fear of serious consequences, including death.

If we are to be really free, then we have to have the right to express ourselves. The First Amendment grants Americans the right to express themselves in all legal ways possible. Although the First Amendment does not give people the right to physically hurt one another, it does give people the right to respond to people who they feel have wronged them in some way, including the President and other powerful and influential people in America.

The First Amendment gives Americans the right to speak out against corruption, injustices, discrimination, racism, white supremacy, Jim and Jane Crow, sexism, bigotry, inequality, and much more. This Amendment allows those who have been historically invisible to be made visible. It has given the voiceless, powerless, and oppressed a reason to live and experience life to its fullest.

This Amendment was powerful enough to provide a man who would have once been considered property the freedom to express that he wanted to become President of the United States of America: Barack H. Obama. This Amendment gave us all a real voice!

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison