Anyone who’s ever met me knows that I’m a fairly quiet person. In contrast, I’m comparatively outspoken on social media. I don’t shy away from talking about politics and social issues; I try to call things out as I see necessary. Some people, I’m sure, find this annoying or overly antagonistic. It’s likely that I’ve been unfollowed and unfriended as a result. The reason I vocalize on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram is because I feel a certain responsibility to do so. I’m by no means the most qualified or knowledgeable person, though I try to make my assertions as informed and logically sound as possible. But I feel that voicing one’s opinion is the only way to incite change.
A lot of people are upset about the results of the election, myself included. And that’s warranted. What we need to realize is that a large part of what enabled such a dire situation of hate and of bigotry is insularity and homogeneity. The environment in which one is raised matters a great deal. It can be easy to write people off as “bad” or “evil” or “stupid”, but that’s very reductionist. Their lack of respect and empathy and open-mindedness likely stems from the fact that the people who raised them, who educated them, who instilled in them their sense of identity and morality lacked those very same aspects. Ignorance is not inherent but inherited. Hate is learned. And it grows and festers and consumes when unchecked. When you live and breathe hate and are surrounded by other people who do the same, it infects you. When all you know is pollution, you become a pollutant.
The only way to solve a problem is by getting to the root of it. The way to extinguish this hate which threatens the very fabric of our society is not by shooting down the infected but by clearing the air itself. Perhaps if these people were brought up in a more open, diverse, loving environ, they would’ve turned out much differently. Perhaps if they were raised surrounded by people who looked different, and who sounded different, and who held different perspectives, they too would turn out “different”. And perhaps if you were raised in the uniform ignorance they were raised in, you would’ve turned out like them.
While I did grow up in the liberal bastion of California, I did it in the notoriously conservative region of the Central Valley. Most of the people I grew up with held bigoted views. And it always made me uncomfortable because, fortunately, I was raised by an incredibly tolerant and open-minded mother. I was taught to show respect to all other people regardless of their background. I owe it to her that the intolerant world I walked through as a child did not shape me in the way it shaped those around me. As I moved to LA for college, that sense of open-mindedness only grew, but in those crucial formative years, she was my glimpse, my window into love, compassion, and acceptance.
And that’s why I post on social media and encourage you to do the same: to be that window for someone else. If we are truly going to change our nation for the better, we need to speak up. We need to let our intentions – our thoughts, feelings, and dreams – be known. People with archaic views see in black and white. It’s the only way they can see unless someone else injects color into their worldview. They need to be exposed to new ideas. They need to be challenged. When there is no objection to their intolerance, they assume that you are complicit in their madness. Silence is death. We must be proactive. We must be unafraid, unflinching. Sure, it can be massively uncomfortable to speak up and confront others, and you might worry that it could ruin relationships. But what is even more uncomfortable is living in a world ruled by bigotry and hate, where we fear for the well-beings of our friends and family. And those relationships you don’t want to risk straining? They are already broken. Because transparency and honesty and communication are vital to the success of any true human connection.
Maybe what I say on social media won’t change anything. It likely hasn’t. It’s very probable that I have changed no one’s mind. But I have to try. We have to try. It’s the only way things can get better. If we don’t try, there is no hope, only the status quo. We cannot be afraid of failure because we have already failed. If we don’t try, loss is a foregone conclusion. We cannot be scared to have an opinion. We cannot be scared to have an identity because if we are, someone else will provide it for us. We must use our voices and our platforms, however small, to create a dialogue. We must make it known that there are many voices in this conversation. We must make them realize the diversity and strength of our conviction. We must disrupt insularity and homogeneity: in pockets of the South, where there isn’t a person-of-color around for miles as well as in California, where our own liberal brand of insularity blinded us from the reality of a Trump presidency. America lost because of the uneducated. We are all uneducated.