She may not even go here, but let’s face it, girlfriend has a point.
Recently something ignited inside of me and I started thinking. This something was a simple proclamation that it was unacceptable that Obama not attend the anti-Islamic terrorism rally in Paris. Pose the question: where was Obama? Go ahead. The man has an obligation to support precisely such causes on the international stage. But can we for a minute remember that the man has an entire country to run. This is why diplomats exist, to act as representatives of the state. You might preach that this rally takes precedent, and I agree that it does, but sometimes it’s simply not feasible to tear oneself away from their business and attend. I’m sure the majority of people out there have missed an important family member’s birthday due to illness or a midterm or what have you. Sh*t happens. We are all human. Even Obama catches a cold sometimes. And let me be the first tell you that red tape is not the easiest thing to work around. This type of persecution also shuts to door to gathering a complete story that might offer the possibility of hearing an objective opinion on the situation or allowing an understanding of the other person or group implicated in the conflict.
Taking such an important event surrounding a sensitive issue and creating a sub-issue around it diverts the discussion away from the fundamental cause. People want an American presence in this endeavour, but this is certainly not the way to compel people to empathize with a cause. Antagonizing someone does not allow them to explore the issue thoroughly and instead places them outside the cause. This creates a culture of inclusion through exclusion. Does no one see how backwards this is? And this is most definitely not the first instance where this has happened in recent history.
Between the normalization of rape culture through scandals like the Dalhousie Dentistry School Facebook group, the SFUO segregating students in the name of deconstructing white privilege, and issuing a warning to white people to take a back seat at vigils for Michael Brown, exclusion has become a growing problem veiled by the mask of respect and equality. It is impossible to miss the good intentions behind these actions, but we must not turn a blind eye to how these things accomplish the exact opposite of their goals, and take away the voice of all parties implicated by blindly firing shots against a certain person or group’s character. These types of actions lead to a homogenization of information and sharp criticism of any opinions that might run contrary to these bold claims.
We are all trying to accomplish a sense of togetherness and justness, but how do we ever plan to achieve that if we are doing it in such a perverse way. It is creating a climate where people become afraid of speaking their mind in fear of persecution. The girls victimized in the Dalhousie Facebook group have elected to take the route of restorative justice. Matters are being taken care of in a way that the victims themselves see fit. Then why is there still this immense pressure to release names in what has been referred to as “a rape culture witch hunt”? People at the University of Ottawa have demonstrated that a safe, integrated space exists where students of all races have addressed issues of race through organizations such as the Black Student Leaders’ Association. Then why does the SFUO feel the need to separate students to discuss these issues under the constructed labels of “racialized folks” and “white privilege”? The vigils for Michael Brown were a sign of pan-racial solidarity that were to be conducted with the utmost respect. Therefore why was is necessary to heed a warning to whites attending the events to take a back seat, separating blacks and whites? These types of separations are not integrative, but instead demonstrate a fundamental lack of equality and understanding between people. Categories do not unite people. I don’t understand how people are missing this elementary idea and still preaching “safe space” and “equality activism” by compartmentalizing people based on the exact differences between which they are trying to blur lines.
It also creates a hypersensitive society where people are afraid to speak their minds and proverbially puts a muzzle on free speech. Take the Iggy Azalea vs Azealia Banks feud. Iggy got attacked for not speaking out concerning the events surrounding the Michael Brown tragedy while continuing to appropriate certain aspects of African-American culture. Perhaps she should have said something. But perhaps it is just this culture of fear of expression that prevented her from doing so. I bet there have been multiple occasions where you have seen a Facebook status about a controversial topic but have refrained from commenting on it lest you ignite a fire or a subject yourself to a myriad of criticisms. And your thousand-odd Facebook friends are nowhere near the calibre of people Iggy would face if she had made any type of public statement. Take that example, and try a little empathy, Iggy haters.
We are inundated with unmanageable amounts of current events on a daily basis. It is more important to focus on the issues in these instances, rather than creating a steady flow of side issues that derive from it. In the flood of information that is made available to us every day, these sub-issues make it easier for us to miss or skim over articles or reports that outline the fundamental issues at stake; the issues that should not be lost in the sea of 30 second sound bites and eternal streams of cat videos. This does not mean that I am in any way defending the people on the receiving end of these criticisms. But, just like Obama, we forget that they are human too.
This might be bringing up some old, seemingly unrelated issues that have long blown over, but they are all prime examples of a pathological need for perceived correctness. Ironically this correctness is exactly what is being lost in the process. The need to radicalize such issues to me just seems like a plain lack of respect we have fostered recently, and no amount of preaching political correctness can change that. The solution to all this is simple: just be f*cking nice to one another. Seriously, try it some time. And while you’re at it, a little empathy goes a long way too. Whether you are extending it to your peers or to Obama, understanding goes a lot further than bitterness and name calling.
This is an op-ed piece and the views reflected in the article do not necessarily represent the views of Her Campus uOttawa.