A Vote for Earnestness
I’ve been having a lot of conversations about thoughtful engagement this week. I acknowledge that I largely live in a bubble, most of my friends have degrees, have lived elsewhere, and read quite a lot, but I was still surprised by the responses to our conversations (how naive?). Several people told me they feel uncomfortable engaging in discussions on race because they feel too stupid or uneducated, or they were afraid of others taking offense. The issues we discussed last week related to the explanatory comma are definitely quite contentious. And as soon as I brought up political correctness, the conversation was inevitably derailed to the issue of “siloing” in academia. When I challenged someone on the tone of a Facebook post related to the Berlin terror attack, we had a productive discussion on framing for Twitter vs. Facebook, and how we may be contributing to anxiety by putting this stuff on our feeds, but the person also firmly said they didn’t want to overthink all their posting.*
I guess what I have been more interested in engaging with lately is the preconceptions that lead to explanations, not the facts, and now is a particularly ripe time to engage with lots of different people, because most of us have just graduated from the same mandatory crash course on American politics. I am equally aware that we will soon face our own electoral struggles, and if the last federal election and the current leadership races are anything to go by, it will be an ugly time. I’m upset and pessimistic, but I appreciate that this past year has forced me to put some personal work into developing my understanding and conversation skills on issues of race and gender, because they aren’t going away any time soon, and the need for allies and advocates, engaged citizens, is greater than ever.
And it IS work, complex and nuanced. It’s like learning a new language, with all the humiliations and miscommunications that go along with actually using it, and maybe there’s guilt in there as well. But it’s more productive than just reading another thinkpiece or explainer (looking at you Vox). I hope that you’ll join us in our ongoing conversations around these issues, because we’re all processing and learning. Drop us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org
*As an aside: What does it mean to be an informed citizen now, and what role does Facebook, with its desire to trap you forever in its platform, play in that?