Barack Obama criticized people on the left who use political correctness to shut down debate over legitimate issues.
During an hour-long interview with NPR, the president said that too often “our political discourse becomes like walking on eggshells.”
“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,” Obama said.
“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 Obama stopped short of agreeing with Donald Trump — claiming his definition of “politically correct” might be different than the president-elect’s.
“I suspect the president-elect’s definition of political correctness would be different than mine,” he said.
“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 — who surprised people when he said “Merry Christmas” during his new conference Friday — added that conservatives are too quick to criticize “progressives” for being “politically correct.” (RELATED: People Are Freaking Out Because Obama Just Said ‘Merry Christmas’)
“The thing that I want to emphasize here though is, the irony in this debate is often-times you’ll hear somebody like a Rush Limbaugh, or other conservative commentators, or you know, radio shock jocks, or some conservative politicians, who are very quick to jump on any evidence of progressives being ‘politically correct,’ but who are constantly aggrieved and hypersensitive about the things they care about, and are continually feeding this sense of victimization, and that they are being subject to reverse discrimination.
“Although I happen to approve of affirmative action, but I think that I can have a polite dialogue with somebody who differs from me on that issue,” he said.
“And so, on the one hand, my advice to progressives like myself, and this is advice I give my own daughters who are about to head off to college, is don’t go around just looking for insults. You’re tough.”
“If somebody says something you don’t agree with, just engage them on their ideas. But you don’t have to feel that somehow because you’re a black woman that you’re being assaulted. But speak up for yourself, and if you hear somebody saying something that’s insulting, feel free to say to that guy, ‘You know what? You’re rude’ or ‘you’re ignorant’ and take them on.” (RELATED: Why Barack Obama Thinks Hillary Clinton Lost The Election)