It’s easy to care about an issue when it directly affects you. I care about financial aid packages in college because I am a direct recipient of financial aid that allows me to attend this institution. Similarly, it is easy for me to care about preventing and eradicating anti-Semitism because I am Jewish. It is easy for me to care about drug abuse and alcoholism awareness because people whom I love struggle with these issues every day. But the social issues I educate myself about and care about shouldn’t stop with the ones that directly affect me.
Penn’s campus is full of students who are in privileged enough positions to have access to a plethora of resources. We can educate ourselves and others about basically any subject. It is extremely disheartening to hear ignorance in the halls of this school or unwillingness to care about social issues that don’t directly affect the majority of students when we have so much at our fingertips. We are lucky to be living in a major city where news happens and is easy to read about every day. Some communities don’t have this ease of access.
In the era of wokeness, it isn’t cool to only be woke on Twitter or on social media. Posting your proclamations of support for Penn dining hall workers while simultaneously refusing to bus your own table in a dining hall isn’t being woke; it’s being insensitive. Posting about the importance of funding for the arts while refusing to attend theatre shows isn’t woke; it’s fake. Posting about the need to diversify college campuses while only accepting certain types of people into a club isn’t woke; it’s discriminatory. If you only care about the plight of the less fortunate people because it gets you retweets, then your charade of compassion is worse than the truth of the matter.
The other day, my friend overheard a cluster of people discussing poverty in one of their classes, where a girl mentioned that talking about poverty was exhausting for her. One of Philadelphia’s poorest neighborhoods is Fairhill in North Philadelphia, where the median annual household income is $15,979. One full year at Penn costs nearly five times that amount. If poverty is so exhausting for that student to talk about, how about she imagines living in it?
To feel guilty about the circumstances into which you were born is futile. Some people simply have more. But in order to show proper support, you can’t pick and choose which issues you actually support and which ones you post about online to garner fame. There is so much injustice in this world that we need to care about. My generation needs to care about climate change. Not to get famous for making a meme out of the hurricanes and fires ravaging the earth, but because it is the right thing to do in order to make a difference.
As a columnist, I am acutely aware that I choose different issues to write about each week, and there is no way I can write about them all. But what I write is motivated by a belief in what I’m saying. In fact, I often get angry emails because of my articles, where some people call me names, say I’m probably living in my mother’s basement smoking cannabis and eating mac and cheese all day, or something equally unproductive to the conversations I am trying to instigate. But that doesn’t deter me from trying to open discussions about both issues that directly affect me and ones that don’t.
Basically, if you’re going to truly be woke, you can’t pick and choose which issues to care about based on which issues affect you, and you can’t just do it because everyone else is. Genuine effort can reap genuine results, but only when someone is truly driven. I should also care about supporting the suppressed voices of marginalized ethnicities, the rights of transgender individuals, disability disputes, ageist rhetoric, and other hot topics that perhaps don’t affect me, but do affect the world I live in. Not because it will make me popular, but because it’s the right thing to do.
SOPHIA DUROSE is a College junior from Orlando, Fla. studying English. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.