I recently saw a post going around that discussed Daniel Radcliffe’s comments on having very racist friends.
I almost changed my mind and wrote “friends with racist views” which I think illustrates the point of the article nicely. We all have friends or relatives – people we may love – who don’t share the same views as us or even worse, we find their views repugnant or it reduces our level of respect for them. We all have people in our lives who are like this, but due to a variety of social ties, we are silent and may just hope to avoid the topic completely.
Nobody wants to have racist friends – we just have a friend who has racist views. We don’t think of ourselves as racist and we may not think of our friend or loved one’s identity as defined by their one repugnant opinion on PoC, gays, vaccines, or whatever. In reality, they are one and the same.
That article I linked to about Daniel Radcliffe essentially calls people out on this specifically regarding race and says that’s not cool. By being silent, you’re being complicit. I think that’s true in most cases. The question then becomes who and what are we willing to be complicit with and what is important enough to us take a stand on and say, “this isn’t cool, and if we don’t see eye to eye, we shouldn’t be pals.” As the article points out, it’s hard to make that choice.
Activism is generally viewed negatively by people who like the status quo. Asking challenging questions of people is nearly always viewed as being a difficult, sensitive asshole even by people that love you. It’s hard to take a stand when you essentially face being labeled as a troublemaker or unsafe to “be yourself” around because you insist nobody make fat jokes or racist comments around you and you send people private messages to let them know that pro-gun meme they shared is factually inaccurate.
This is especially hard for me, I think, because it’s difficult for me to make friends. I have social anxiety and am very opinionated. I usually give people 2 or 3 strikes, depending on what the topic is, before I say, “this is problem. We should talk about this or part ways.” I don’t want to say good-bye to someone that I have put the time and effort into being friends with.
I think polarization is something that is harmful to community, also, and cutting off contact with people if they hit anything in a list of opinions feels like it is contributing to that problem. It’s why I try to talk to people. I always feel honesty and sharing together is best. I have a very difficult time letting it go if I ask to discuss an issue that’s hurtful to me and people simply say no and expect things to be normal moving forward.
But – what if there’s no compromise? Or what if just not discussing the issue isn’t enough? I can ask someone to not make racist comments around me – but now I know they are racist and just not sharing it with me. I can ask someone to not make fat jokes – but now I know they think my body type is a joke. We might agree not to have “political” discussions about civil rights for LGBTQIOA+ because we discover that we disagree, but now I know my pal thinks gays shouldn’t marry or that non-cisgendered people don’t deserve the respect of a third person pronoun.
I try to always be open to the idea that I could be incorrect or ethically wrong in my opinions. I really struggle with the concept that refusing other humans civil rights and measures of respect could be correct, though. There are so many ways to disagree and protect what you feel is your own “correct lifestyle” without actively harming and punishing people who don’t ascribe to it.
I am realizing that you can’t really pick and choose. More and more, I think there are very few situations in which people should have their rights, respect, and dignity removed from them. There’s no good line for me to draw in the sand where I can say to myself, “I think it’s okay to humiliate and punish people for this social issue, but not that social issue.”
A dear friend of mine was discussing an ethics podcast with me awhile back, and made a comment to the effect that once you start thinking about it, everything is an ethical issue. I think that’s true. I think that if you are lucky and smart, once you start down the path of recognizing that some singular oppressed group in our culture deserves better, you realize more and more that nobody deserves to be oppressed. Striving for intersectional equity to bring us to a place of equality in opportunities and happiness doesn’t really allow you to pick and choose.
That said, there will always be judgments of the magnitude of problems in friendships. The gray areas for me right now are probably things like vaccination, essential oils, and sharing incorrect information on social media. But for me to be what I feel is a good person, I have to say good-bye to the in-person friendships and have limited contact with people that are anti-LGBTQIA+, unapologetically or obliviously racist, not body positive, and anti-civil rights for any group of people.
In actuality, I know very few people who fall into the latter group. I already drift away or limit contact with those people. Each time I’m confronted with the problem, though, it feels heavy. Making the realization again over one person this morning prompted all these thoughts. What a privilege – both to be reminded of my flexibility to choose where others cannot and to discover I’m already doing an okay job.