A few days ago I had a conversation with a friend which raised many striking and, I believe, important questions. These were questions that I really don’t have answers to, and they concern a topic which I find can often be very confusing and scary. However, as this conversation has since stayed at the foreground of my thoughts, I felt that it could be a good idea, for me as well as for anyone else who is interested in reading this, to formulate my questions here into a blog post, in the hope of gaining some clarity and perspective.
I should probably start by stating the obvious (or what I think is obvious anyway!); I am an educated white person, I grew up in a (relatively!) financially stable household, with a supportive family who have always taken an interest in politics, current/social affairs and international news, and who uphold liberal left-wing views. I grew up with an open outlook on the world and was taught the value of equality and acceptance. In short, I am in a position of privilege, and I feel incredibly lucky, outrageously lucky in fact, to have had the opportunities and quality of life that I have had so far.
When I look around the world today, I find it very easy to get completely baffled by social injustice. It is hard to understand how some can have so much, have won the golden ticket of life, while others have nothing. But it is even more difficult to understand how the few lucky ones can be so discriminatory against those who already suffer because of their social standing. I see racism, sexism, homophobia, prejudice against people with disabilities, prejudice against particular sexual orientations and others on a daily basis, and I can’t understand what misguided, ‘fake’ information or simple lack of humanity led those people to act in those ways.
My comfy bubble of privilege is overwhelming, I don’t know what to do with it or how I should use it. Going about my own daily life can sometimes feel incredibly trivial… practising Paganini Caprices seems pointless when I could be using my voice to fight those bigots. My question to all you folk out there who are in the same boat as me is: how do we use our privilege to fight social injustice for a better future for our world?
I have seen the fight, I have watched people engage in debates in real life and on social media but it doesn’t seem to be working. From my personal experience, when you try to argue with someone on Facebook or Twitter, someone who is a devout Trump supporter and in favour of the immigration ban, the transgender military ban etc. etc. it only makes them dig their heels into their beliefs more! Sometimes it seems to me that the more criticism and backlash Trump himself gets, the harder he goes in for whatever new disastrous event he has planned next. So, how can we, with our positions of white educated privilege, talk to these kinds of people? How can we discuss these important issues and show them, without insulting them or angering them, that they are so wrong? Perhaps it doesn’t have to be an argument, but rather a patient and firm education of its own? After all, isn’t the goal in the end to break down all this social division and bring people together?
I am connected to certain people on social media which mean that I see any amount of bullshit that fits into those categories of prejudice that I mentioned above and I want to know what to do; should I just ignore it, let it slide and un-follow them – I know those people aren’t going to change their beliefs because of what I have to say to them and it most likely won’t make any difference at all – or should I try to intervene, engage in discussion/argument? Even if it means those people want nothing more to do with me because I am a disgusting liberal to them, I have stayed true to my own beliefs and integrity so I could at least feel better within myself, right? Do we have a duty to act when we see such nonsense? And if so, how do we even begin, what do we say?
If I am being completely honest, I think I have even felt too scared to ask these questions until now. Somehow, in the political and social climate of today, alienation and polarisation of people feels like the biggest battle and I think this often makes us too scared to say anything at all, even if it is just to ask questions which could make us vulnerable or susceptible to criticism.
If you have any thoughts or ideas about any of the questions I have asked here, I would love to read them in the comments below. This is a safe place where discussion is most appreciated and valued!