Over the past couple of months I have observed a community of intelligent, (mostly) well-meaning, progressive people tear each other and themselves (as a community) apart over what I previously viewed as a very basic concept most of us share…social justice. Extreme sides have developed and so many people are caught in the middle unsure of how to best proceed. It appears you have to pick a side…if you don’t you’re a Nazi (even when you aren’t), deplorable, a rape apologist (whether you’ve defended rape or not), or a white supremacist (whether you’re white or not). Or you’re a piece of shit, a retard, or an asshole. Or you could be a snowflake, a fascist, ridiculous, an embarrassment, dense, a bully, dumb, dishonest, incapable of conversation, irrational, disingenuous, emotional, a robot…plug and play any generic insult…and you should definitely be ashamed of yourself.
We’ve come to a point at which words are flung around with such ease that they’ve come to mean nothing. And they certainly don’t represent the people at which they are being directed. I’ve been called every single thing listed above in the past two months and so much more. I’ve been told that I should sit down, stop talking, shut the fuck up, that I’m not worth someone’s time…all because I’ve challenged ideas, questioned behaviors, or simply respectfully disagreed with someone’s position. Honestly, people…what the hell is wrong with us? When did we become incapable of discussing our disagreements civilly and like adults? And why?
Social Justice Warriors and the Bad Guys
Equality and fair treatment for all without regard to race, sexuality, gender, class, religion, age, nationality, etc. Seems great, right? An ideal to strive for and incredibly difficult to attain. The important thing is that we recognize our problems and work together to try to do better. Right? Wrong. At least that’s not how it works anymore. Out of this movement has grown a superiority complex on behalf of some individuals who demonstrate not only a disregard for actual problems, but also a complete lack of humanism and decency when it comes to cooperating and conversing with people who happen to disagree about some things…anything…even just one thing. It’s really baffling how this radical sect of the social justice movement justifies behavior that mirrors the behavior that they claim to be against. But it’s okay when they do it because they are fighting the “bad guys.”
Who are the “bad guys?”
Me. You. Anyone who asks a question. Anyone who disagrees. It’s really crazy to watch it unfold. For example, I don’t believe that violence is the proper course of action when dealing with a person with whom you disagree, even when those disagreements are fundamental. If someone were to say to me that they think that gay people should not be allowed to marry, that immigrants are animals and we should oppose them, that minorities aren’t as well suited for something simply because of their race, or that opposing ideas should be oppressed because someone doesn’t like them, I would strongly oppose those things. But what do I gain by punching them in the face? What will change from me doing so? By simply asking these questions, I’m labeled a sympathizer or apologist of whatever the ideological difference may be or I’m defending them, no matter what my stance is on it or whether or not I ACTUALLY defended them. Instead the radicals make assumptions, tell me what my position is, spread misinformation, sling personal insults, treat me like I’m stupid, etc.
Look…I WANT to be able to stand with other social justice advocates because that is what I am. But I don’t agree with the tactics of the radical portion of the community (who happen to also be the loudest), so I’m out of the club…what kind of shit is that? We agree on so many things but because I think some behaviors are extreme and unacceptable, I’m dismissed as (insert whatever ridiculous accusation here)?! They can’t be serious!! But they ARE. And it is exhausting.
So who are the REAL “bad guys?”
Are you ready for this? There are no bad guys, as a collective, and social justice advocates aren’t good guys, as a collective. There are people. We are people. We are vastly diverse in backgrounds and views and that really is okay. What we have, as social justice advocates, are opportunities. There are so many reasons why people hold the beliefs and positions they do and until you actually LISTEN to someone, you don’t have any idea what they are. Maybe someone is simply uninformed because they were taught something their whole life by people they trust and all they need is someone to explain a new perspective to them. Maybe someone really needs to be educated (and we can certainly do that). Maybe all someone needs is a spark or for al light bulb to go off. Instead we, as a community, have resorted to childish behavior. We denigrate each other and feign superiority over others. We prance around all high and mighty and treat anyone who doesn’t subscribe to the groupthink like shit because we are “better” that they are. I have news for all of you. We aren’t.
Bullying and harassing people on social media has become a normal behavior within our community. This is not only how we have treated perceived outsiders, but how we are treating EACH OTHER! It makes other people in the community afraid to join the conversation, afraid to agree or disagree with anyone, afraid to participate. Listen…this is unacceptable and it is not an effective way to influence or teach people. It is not how we learn and grow as individuals or as a community. And it certainly will not create any kind of environment through which the positive message of actual social justice can spread.
So…this is my plea to you…my call to action, if you will. If you think someone’s ideas are dangerous or you simply disagree with someone, put in the effort to change their minds and their hearts. And listen closely now because this is important…we will never promote positive change behaving as we currently do. Reach out to someone you disagree with. Listen. Talk. Learn. Build a bridge. Actually BE the better people we think we are. Stop all the petty nonsense that is tearing us apart. Maybe if we do this, we can grow as a community and refocus on our missions. Maybe then we can truly provide an example for respectful interaction and discourse with each other. Maybe then we can help society progress to and grow into a world we all want to be a part of.
Thank you for taking the time to read my message and please feel free to follow me on Twitter @ge_kaitlyn if you’d like to talk more.