#AVoiceForEveryone - Don't Unfriend Donald's Supporters
As someone who is active on various social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, I understand that naturally one tends to surround themselves on platforms like this with other people like them. Through the things we have in common and the purposes we use these platforms for, it’s only natural that we build circles of followers and friends that share our interests and values. For example, I am a queer person that takes part in many discussions involving LGBTQ+ topics. Because of this, most of my online friends, and most of their friends and so on, are either queer as well, or allies. In the online spaces populated by these people, of course love and acceptance are the norm. The same can be said for people who use their online presence to discuss and combat racism, sexism and ableism. The occasional attack from trolls or “skeptics” aside, we are used to seeing people understand where we’re coming from.
It’s sometimes easy to forget that outside of these groups of like-minded progressives, there’s a whole world of people who barely even give these topics a second thought, or if they do have opinions on said topics, they are the opposite of accepting. When every dissenting opinion you encounter usually takes the form of a vicious insult, complete with death threats and swear words, it’s easy to dismiss it entirely. Reasonable people don’t speak like that, and people are mostly reasonable after all, right?
Well, maybe, wrong. Donald Trump’s election has proved that despite our disbelief, large scale ignorance and hateful attitudes are still alive and well.
In the same way that open-minded progressives become used to affirmation in their online spaces, people of the far right also band together and reaffirm each other’s bigotry. People that hold the current positions of power have no need to think about those society doesn’t favour as kindly. Non-heterosexual people, transgender people, people of colour, and people with disabilities might as well be aliens in terms of your average white person’s ability to relate to them. And that’s where the problem lies in a nutshell. We can preach education and compassion on “controversial” topics like minority equality and acceptance all we want, but as long as it’s to an audience of people that largely already agree, it won’t get us anywhere.
I’ve been seeing a lot of “if you support Donald Trump, unfriend/block/unfollow me” in my feed today. I completely understand the desire not to see posts celebrating the results of this election. However, unfriending the people that share them is the opposite of productive. Living in bubbles that create the illusion that everyone thinks the same way as we do is part of how we got into this mess. Racists, sexists, homophobes etc, all think that secretly everyone else is just like them, and if they don't have people in their circles to prove otherwise, to prove hate and ignorance ISN'T the norm, then they'll never change. We can't just remove ourselves from the lives of people that have vastly different political beliefs. We have to be on their radar to represent the people who those beliefs harm and/or outrage.
We have to be the face of the other side, the voice of those who are negatively affected by the attitudes being perpetuated. We have to normalize the presence of and equality for those who come from much different walks of life, because otherwise they will forever remain just as alien to those who don’t understand. This is why representation is important. Representation in media on the large scale yes, but also representation in real life or on social media. People will only stop dehumanising and disregarding the rights of others once the social gap between them and said others is bridged. Further closing ourselves off from each other isn't the solution. Only by integrating with people NOT already like us can we move forward and slowly change attitudes for the better.
So instead of distancing yourself from Trump supporters and all that they stand for, stand your ground. Be like a trojan horse in their life or their facebook feed. Make yourself visible (if it’s safe to do so). Let them see your posts and get used to you. Discourage the attitude of tailoring your online interactions to only be with those who already understand you, and instead encourage empathy in those who don’t. Because that way, maybe one day, they will.