With tensions already high amid this COVID-19 pandemic, many more issues have surfaced in society—threats against press freedom, cases of sexual assault, and racial discrimination—and discussions of these have made their way online. I have seen many infographics and posts all over social media that promote different ways by which one can make a difference toward addressing these salient concerns. As I try to apply these in my life, I struggle to have conversations about these unfolding societal injustices with the people around me.
Conversations about socio-political issues and controversial, potentially polarizing topics are oftentimes avoided among friends and family because of the possibility of sparking conflict, uncomfortable tension, or dismissive and prejudiced gazes. In spite of these inconveniences, it seems ignorant and irresponsible to abstain from talking about these issues, especially during this time of crisis.
On social media, it is very evident how people are quick to judge and react based on what they see online. This kind of culture can also be reflected when assuming that someone who does not necessarily agree with your stand is against you. As the saying goes, “you’re either with us or against us.” However, this sense of false dichotomy oversimplifies the diverse perspectives people have on politics and socio-cultural matters.
An individual’s stand on issues will always be influenced by multiple factors—their values, upbringing, immediate environment, and experiences. However, these are aspects that are frequently overlooked during discussions about sensitive matters, potentially making it difficult and unpleasant to have these conversations if they devolve into personal arguments, with feelings of being attacked possibly arising from disagreements.
Therefore, instead of being quick to judge, we should practice listening to understand and opening our minds to other perspectives. This goes hand in hand with our willingness to educate ourselves and others in light of addressing these issues. Creating this kind of dialogue also opens up avenues for accountability and self-correction.
Through understanding where the other is coming from, we are able to move forward toward more holistic and constructive discourse; our worldviews are often limited, and gaining insight into aspects we may have overlooked can help us broaden the way we think about different issues as well as the interventions we consider most effective for these concerns.
However, not everyone will be open to listen to views opposing their own. Sometimes when disagreements arise, it does not always lead to something productive. As such, we also need to know when to create boundaries and vary our approach, recognizing that how we tackle the discussion may no longer be conducive to finding the solutions we seek. We do have a tendency to become apprehensive about defending our stances, but instead, we should take on a mindset of being open to change our perspectives if we encounter compelling factual evidence and logical reason to do so.
It is definitely still a learning curve for me to get past the fear of being judged and the feeling of being uncomfortable when having these conversations with my friends and family. But at the end of the day, I come to have more realizations and a deeper understanding of societal issues, facilitated by these views that can strengthen or even challenge my stand.
It is important that we do not just scroll through our feeds and let these causes remain trends, but take steps toward change, starting with ourselves and within our own circles. Taking that first step to bring up current affairs with a sibling or a group of friends can lead to deeper discussions and being comfortable with the uncomfortable. With the many injustices occurring in our country and around the world, we need to unlearn the ways we knowingly and unknowingly perpetuate ignorance and instead learn to address the elephant in the room.