Right now, most of us feel an overload of news about racist, sexist, anti-LGBT, Islamophobic, anti-immigrant actions in both the public and private sectors. Turn on the television or scroll down your Facebook feed and you’ll probably see discouraging headlines that ruin your entire day.
Since white supremacists came out of hiding during last year’s election, people who used to be silent and apathetic to political issues have become much more active in speaking up against hate on social media. Kellyanne Conway, Donald Trump, Tomi Lahren, and Jeff Sessions (among others) have become both headlines and symbols – symbols of hate that have given many people a sense that they must stand up against them and use social media to call out: “Hey what this person is doing is wrong and hurting people.”
james charles: im not racist 😩‼️
also james charles: um we’re going to south africa?? i dont want ebola what
— safaa 💀 (@folieaemos) November 22, 2017
And while we must continue to do this, it’s not enough. People like James Charles aren’t the only agents of hate that contribute to the unfortunate division in this country. We interact with agents of hate every day — in our homes, our apartment buildings, our workplace, our group of friends, and in our social network. Unfortunately, many of us turn a blind eye to the hate that’s directly in front of us, staying silent when the people around or close to us say things we would otherwise speak out about when a public symbol like Donald Trump says them.
Here’s an example:
A friend of mine recently sent me a screenshot of this Facebook post by one of his best friends.
When asked if he told the poster that 1) it is an offensive post, and 2) that he shouldn’t use that word to describe folks in the LGBTQ community, he said it was none of his business and that the poster was simply being funny.
“I hear the poster is a good-hearted guy, ‘pretty woke’, and meant no harm.”
While I completely adore my friend, saying nothing was wrong, especially in a public platform. His Facebook wall is filled with videos that explain racial relations and LGBTQ rights in the United States, but he failed to speak out and stand up to someone he could have affected directly.
That’s the problem.
We easily share videos that talk about “being woke,” but many of us don’t practice it beyond feeling validated by clicking “share.” We need to do better. When it comes to injustice, we must speak out every time, even if the person behind that injustice is someone we hang out with a lot.
Injustice isn’t just an explicit attack on someone’s identity; injustice can manifest in the form of jokes, generalizations, and untruths about some of our neighbors. Words matter and hurt, and can turn into actions that hurt and kill.
Injustice should be a public concern, and injustice close to us – from macroaggressions to microaggressions at home and in our circles – should be a personal concern. Our families and friends shouldn’t get a pass in saying hurtful things about any identity because we’re close to them or because we know they don’t have malicious intent. Now more than ever, we should have zero tolerance for any isms and speech that perpetuate them. You don’t have to mean to hurt to cause hurt. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere, even if it comes from people you hang out with. If you love them, say something and help them be a better person for a better world.
It’s easy to get mad at Trump or a random social media user who posts hateful things but hate is closer to us than we think. You’re woke? Let’s start with the people around us.
Conrad is Greenlining’s Communications Manager. Follow him on Twitter.