Recently, I read an article by National Geographic about biracial twins. One is white and one is black, yet they are as closely related as related can get. It has been no hidden fact that while we all have different backgrounds, we are all people living on this planet in search of meaning. So this begs the question of why we are so divided on issues as simple as human rights awareness and activism.
I decided to interview people on the opposite sides of the spectrum to see how they perceived the same events and where the disconnect is.
The first person I talked to (Chris) is a libertarian who believes that with a drastic reduction in government, social issues will resolve themselves through true competition in a capitalist market.
In response to individual events and movements, Chris believes generally that entitlement has plagued our nation. Specifically, he thinks this is happening in the spectrum of Democrats and leftist movements. When asked to compare Woman’s Suffrage to Modern Feminism, and The Civil Rights Movement to Black Lives Matter (BLM), Chris had many things to say.
First and foremost is that in past movements there was a real problem, and they were acting on a basis to change policy. Now he believes there are no clear lines as to what these activist groups and individuals are fighting for, and lead way to discrimination of other people.
In the context of Modern Feminism, Chris views the movement as a group of women who wish to cherry pick the forms of equality that they wish. He brought up that today, women are not required to register for selective service, in courts, they have an advantage due to sexist biases in the judicial system, and with affirmative action are given opportunities that others are not.
Chris expressed that the women in this movement expect these advantages to remain on the table, and also be afforded equal treatment in areas where the inequalities are in existence.
The events and protests that social activist groups participate in and organize are, in Chris’s opinion, “absolutely pointless! I don’t even know what they are fighting for.”(Chris) Note that he has not been on any of the social justice movement websites, such as the BLM website or the LGBTQ website.
When asked about what they should be doing different, Chris suggested choosing a specific policy to try and change along with selecting specific representatives to bring into the office. When asked about the transgender officials that have been elected in response to social justice movements, Chris had no response and moved onto the next topic of sexual assault.
Asked to compare the cases of Louis Ck and Aziz Ansari, Chris saw them as completely different and was surprised how long they were in the news cycle. The Louis CK case was described as, “gross,” but in addition, Chris showed a confusing contempt for the women who came forward.
The women in the case will always be branded as those who were sexually assaulted, and in turn are, “damaged goods.” According to Chris, they become less enticing once they are labeled as being sexually assaulted, and it will be difficult for them to find a husband or partner after that. He is confused why they might come forward in the first place knowing they might not be as attractive to men once this knowledge is made public.
For the case of Aziz Ansari, Chris does not see anything wrong with what happened. Aziz is innocent and the woman who made claims against him is confusing regret with assault. Chris believes that the organizations that are meant to protect the social rights of women did not support this case because there is no clear goal or leadership. Instead, individuals organized protests and spoke out solely to voice their opinions and did not offer any realistic ideas for change that could prevent these situations.
In moments where an individual does make a stand and activist groups support the stance, like in the Colin Kaepernick debacle, Chris thinks that there is an appropriate way for someone to make known their concerns and that was not it.
In the context of a football game, Chris pointed out that it is a nationalistic American event. It is centered around patriotism, athletics, and how the US is the best country in the world. When Kaepernick took a knee, it was like he was saying America isn’t great. On top of it, Chris noted that many of those who watch football are associated with, or are themselves veterans.
Kneeling for the national anthem brings up memories of those who have fallen or been affected by an affiliate’s time in service. According to Chris this is a direct insult to them and believes that in another context it would have been more widely accepted. When asked what circumstances it would be more accepted, Chris did not have any alternative solutions.
Even if the message was not branded differently but delivered by someone else, Chris admitted that it would have been taken much better by both themselves and the audience. The comparison between Donald Trump’s and Barack Obama’s impact on speech was used. Chris said that if Trump or an associate would have addressed the issue of police brutality as a true epidemic then it would have been better received than Obama or Kaepernick addressing it.
To Chris, the majority of the Kaepernick controversy was with the branding of the action and its progressive ideology.
The second person that I interviewed (Scott) is a socialist and believes that human rights can be most efficiently be satisfied by a singular democratic government.
One of Scott’s biggest concerns about politics today is that of identity politics. Under socialism, it is viewed as a monolithic power structure. While there are two major parties, the friction between the two creates enough controversy where the people will perpetuate the competition between the two parties keeping them both relevant.
In the context of social activism from the 20th century to present day, Scott does not believe there is any real difference between the movements. In both circumstances, it was pointed out that the opposition to BLM and other organizations used the same arguments that are being used now. Most of these oppositional arguments are centered around the slippery slope debates. Phrases like, “if we allow this, then where will it end?” or “supporting this kind of behavior could lead to something worse.”
Scott admits to being in favor of a more radical social change but defines radical as the beliefs to uncover where essentialist claims about identity are rooted in. Classifying people or groups as one set or another is a dangerous thing, and encourages a divide between people. He believes this explains the polarization in politics that we see today.
Along with expunging essentialist mindsets and become accepting of individuals that define themselves with contradictory traits, Scott believes social movements should not be working independently and playing into a system that thrives on categories.
The expression of independence within the progressive movement and claiming that each organization deserves equality in a particular order is not progress. Scott expressed that equal rights movements are deserving of equal rights together, not individually. Pressing that when groups like the white supremacy movements are using the same arguments of us vs them as a counter to movements like BLM, then there is something intrinsically wrong with the argument.
Scott believes that each organization is not special, and they should merge together acting as one progressive movement. Elaborating further on this, Scott added that if they work together and call for support amongst themselves to fight for each other’s rights, will, in turn, make them more influential and capable of enacting drastic progressive change.
After encompassing the essence of each social movement into one progressive organization, Scott thinks that we can then dissect individual cases of social injustice. Scott elaborated on the Louis CK and Aziz Ansari cases, where Louis CK case is an example of where someone needed to be, "exposed for their actions." (Scott) In the case of Aziz, the only thing that he appears to be possibly guilty of is not having any manners and being pushy.
In addition, allowing the term sexual assault to be used loosely, encompassing poor male behavior as well as real rape and sexual assault. Giving the term the wrong representations allows a platform for future use of it in a similar fashion.
On another case, Scott credited that Kaepernick’s protest was an example of someone using their platform to express a point in a positive way. Kaepernick used his position, and not utilizing his resources to spread awareness to these social issues would be irresponsible.
Scott also believes that it was the perfect event to demonstrate his beliefs, and considering many conservatives and those who do not share as many socially liberal beliefs watch the games.This is the exact audience that needs to see and understand the reality of what Kaepernick was protesting. Those who define themselves strongly with patriotism and also do not recognize another side reality in the US should be exposed to the expression of another group. Scott followed up with, “Patriots need a lesson in compassion.”
Viewing the protest and future protesters with contempt and taking it as personal attacks is an example of one-sided viewership. Scott expressed that if they acted with compassion and understood it as an act of desperation to provide awareness of police brutality.
It is indisputable that both Scott and Chris want equality amongst people, and each of their beliefs could achieve some form of equality. In some cases they agree, like when asked about different sexual assault cases; however, in many cases, they disagree, like in what should be done about social justice movements.
Scott and Chris both think that the social justice movements currently in existence should be discarded. Where they differ is that Scott believes after getting rid of these advocacy groups, one group should come into existence that supports the rights of all people as one collective instead of many smaller groups.
Chris believes that the problems that these groups are fighting for no longer exist and it has become an attention grab. The only way to provide true equality is to erase affirmative action from the equation and focus on merit alone. In other words, no advocacy groups.
Chris’s plan seems to not be taking racial socioeconomic statuses into consideration. There is an obvious difference in what classes minorities generally are a part of, and removing affirmative action will only further limit access into areas of high school and higher education, jobs, healthcare and other things that would not be readily available.
While I agree with Scott’s plan of combining all of these social justice organizations and creating one progressive lobbyist organization dedicated to equal rights, it is important to recognize and be cautious of the loss of individualism. If the combination of all these organizations was to happen, there would still have to be divisions or departments that represent and can sympathize with different groups of people.
The difference here is that while one conglomerate, each department is represented by people of similar origins to those they represent in the real world. In turn, being able to convey concerns expressive of real-world issues. Together they will be able to discuss injustices and plans of action to advocate and support each other in protests, election sponsorships, and policy reform lobbying. Each department would work together towards a common goal of human rights equality and acknowledge their differences. Looking past it while working together is the element that everyone seems to be missing. Humanity.
One-sided blindness is not a new thing in our world today. Everyone has biases based on their backgrounds, but many are so rooted in their beliefs that they are blind to other perspectives when their knowledge of something is contested.
Shown most explicitly with Chris, and his notion that Kaepernick shouldn’t have reaffirmed nationalistic ideology that may not be true for everyone. The obvious intent of Kaepernick’s stance was that of demonstrating another perspective but was rejected due to an inability by the audiences to see it from another perspective. In turn, the backlash against Kaepernick was reaffirmed amongst themselves as unpatriotic, disrespectful or both.
On the flip side of this, Scott believes in the ability of compassion but expresses a desire to interrogate the beliefs of the people that oppose Kaepernick. He is committed to the immersion of other cultures and expression of beliefs, but with the exception of nationalists whose beliefs can be construed as racist.
The recognition that these ‘patriots’ backgrounds are different, and they perceive the world around them differently is what will allow them to engage in the understanding of an alternate ideology. Becoming more exposed to how the world treats someone else of a different background is a process of figuring out how to convey beliefs and realities to others in a way that they will understand.
Conservative views of female purity and associations surrounding issues of sexual assault is one example of where there is a lack of understanding about how the victims feel.
This was shown when Chris expressed his view of someone who was sexually assaulted as, “less enticing.” Obviously, this is blatantly offensive and shows that he is only looking at it from the perspective of a traditional male. Chris most likely does not understand this, and the conservative values that he grew up with have followed him into this stage of his life.
Explaining how it is offensive in terms that he will understand and expressions that will resonate with him is the humanity and compassion that will lead to true equality and reform. Once those with similar views as Chris are educated in humanity and taught to be able to view things from another perspective, they will find a reason to support more socially liberal activism
The names in this article have been changed for confidentiality purposes.