Difficult conversations are an important part of the political and social changes we’re experiencing right now in this country — full-throttle, infuriating, demanding, and complex conversations. The work that activists are doing to propel the current situation for Black people in America into a new age of truer freedom is necessary and amazing. We aren’t all a vital part of organizations that do this kind of work. However, we are all complicit in allowing systemic racism to remain alive if we do not do the necessary, dirty work of calling out microaggressions, dismantling harmful generalizations, and ridding our personal conversations of stereotypes.
We can all have those angry, tense, but productive conversations with our families, and work towards a more universal understanding of the necessity for change. If you don’t have the disposable income to donate to activist organizations right now, donate your time and energy to speaking with people you know. Many of us are complicit in not actively pushing against a system designed to make those in power stay in power, those with money to keep making money, and those who had a head start in this country from its inception remain ahead.
Last week I visited my mother’s new home in Brooklyn. My Twitter feed was a hodgepodge blend of petitions, artwork commemorating Black victims of police brutality, videos from protests, and accusations of sexual assault from many of my high school friends. Overnight, tens of girls were tweeting stories about their assaults, naming tens of boys as their assaulters and demanding my high school do a better job at listening to victims and carrying out justice. This sparked a rather heated conversation.
I was standing on the couch, I’ll admit, screaming, because I needed her to understand that voicing grievances and demanding attention from a negligent administrative system through Twitter was a way of gaining support. My mother, at 60 years old, felt like going to Twitter was a call for attention. Had our conversation stopped when we reached an impasse, it would have been a useless and counterproductive waste of energy, and we both would have walked away annoyed and even more resolute in our independent theories. But we sat down and heard each other out. It was uncomfortable to disagree with the person who raised me and taught me right from wrong. However, as the anger slowly fizzled out of the red skin on our faces, and we melted into an understanding and a compromise of beliefs, we were both more engaged participants in a conversation about social media and accusations.
It is not enough to simply "be aware"of the political climate and social issues whipping around this country. We must thoughtfully engage with one another. Disagreement is a natural part of sentience. But to disagree about another human’s right to freedom, life, and speech is oppression, not a difference in perspective. We can weed out these destructive attitudes and cause tangible change in our world if we have difficult and uncomfortable conversations with those closest to us.
SOPHIA DUROSE is a rising College senior from Orlando, Fla. studying English. Her email address is email@example.com.
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