Like many of you, I am shocked and horrified by what our country voted for this week (although it’s looking like Hillary Clinton might actually win the popular vote by almost two points). I know that after such a devastating election, the following is not what a lot of you want to hear.
I imagine that a lot of the people who will read this are like me, in that they come from pretty liberal places (my home state just legalized marijuana!) and go to a university where they are surrounded by like-minded people with progressive ideas. The social circles in which we run contribute to a sense that everyone in the country shares these same ideals and values.
As we saw this week, however, that’s not the case.
Whether or not they’re actually justified in their feelings, there are a lot of reasons for many lower-class, white voters in places like Pennsylvania and Michigan to feel disenfranchised enough to vote for a demagogue.
One thing that contributes to their feelings is the contemptuous attitude displayed by a startling number of people on the left. That’s not to say everyone with liberal leanings acts in this way, but it’s common enough that I see it all the time on social media, as well as in person.
Using phrases like “check your privilege” or “white feminist” might be ideologically sound, but they can come across as incredibly passive-aggressive. The idea behind “checking one’s privilege” is extremely helpful, and doing so has allowed me to gain a lot of perspective. However, I don’t think using this kind of language toward those who disagree with you is helpful, because it only serves to alienate them.
While racists, xenophobes, sexists, and the like most certainly do exist in our country, there are also many people who are confused, and on a path to understanding these ideas, even if they aren’t quite there yet.
We will never get them to join our cause if we act like we are better than them because we are farther along on our journey than they. And that’s a problem. We will continue to lose elections if we don’t try harder to include those who are working to understand ideas that are different from their own.
This opinion isn’t just my own. I know incredible people—who may or may not have voted for Donald Trump—who have expressed frustration with liberals regarding their lack of “tolerance” for opinions other than their own. They are tired of being told that they’re not “woke,” that they’re “privileged,” that they’re “white feminists.”
I’m not at all saying that we should simply accept xenophobia, racism, or sexism. But we shouldn’t automatically dismiss people who express these ideas, either. Instead, we need to plead our case to them respectfully and give them time to come to terms with it.
Challenge opposing ideas, but don’t insult people and use phrases that will trigger them. While, unfortunately, not everyone will come around, I would bet that far more people will come around through respectful discussion than if we continue to gang up on them, attack them, and tell them how ignorant and privileged they are.
To those who rightfully point out that a lot of language and attitudes displayed by some of those on the right are far more hurtful—I actually don’t know if this publication would even be allowed to print some of the words they use—you are correct.
But when they go low, we go high.
It may be cliché to say that we’re “stronger together,” but it’s true. The only way to effect lasting, meaningful change in policy and social convention is to rally the masses, and that will only occur when we’re united.
I know this might not be a popular opinion. I’m not trying to assign blame for whatever mess we have gotten ourselves into, but after such a startling loss, we need to take stock of what went so terribly wrong, and what we can do to ensure this does not happen again.