The Personal is Political: Don’t Let Your Privilege Blind You

Politics. Politics. Politics. That word was so foreign to me growing up.

It didn’t seem interesting, even when I was old enough to understand the basics of politics, government, and elections. It all seemed so far away and unreachable. Any encounter with “politics” and my brain snapped off, went to another world. Besides, what did it matter? It wasn’t something applicable to me, it was the world of old, powerful, white men. Why should I care?

For most of my life, I lived in blissful ignorance of how politics affected the world around me, not even completely understanding that “politics” had anything to do with it. For example, younger me didn’t know that it was because of bad policies we are still at war with Iraq, a war we started because the media told us to be afraid of terrorists. It was because of the media surrounding 9/11 that people from the Middle East were and are being discriminated against in America and that certain policies, such as the Patriot Act were implemented, which took away some of the constitutional rights of immigrants. Now with the knowledge that this marginalization came from policies based off of hate and fear that wrongly associated all people from the Middle East with terrorism, I know how terribly powerful politics can be in our everyday lives.

But like I said, it was really easy for me to ignore all of the hate, considering that I’m from a white, middle-class background and surrounded by people, who for the most part, aren’t negatively impacted by the aftermath of politics. But once I hit college and started living on my own, I finally understood how dangerous that mentality was and that I needed to cut it out.

Politics are supposed to be for everyone. Our government is supposed to create laws that will, in turn, help every human being make their way in this country, but it doesn’t. Instead, there is inequality on every level, and people’s freedoms are always on the line.

If everyone who was privileged enough to be able to ignore important issues continued to do so, we would get nowhere. It’s like being the bystander, watching the bullying happen but not doing anything about it. You may not be the bully, but you’re sure as hell not doing anything by standing there and pretending to ‘mind your own business’. It’s not possible to personally disassociate yourself from politics because politics affect the way we live our lives. The personal is political.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s terrifying, and it can feel pretty hopeless. You’re one person in 7 billion, what can you do?

For starters, you can stop ignoring the problem because that isn’t going to make it go away.

Do your research.

Go read the newspaper and make yourself aware. While you may find out about what’s going on in politics through Facebook and Twitter, you’re going to get someone’s opinion along with it. Allow yourself a chance to form your own opinion before you absorb others’. It’s only fair to yourself because if we don’t pay attention to politics, we just take things for granted and listen to what the loudest talking head says. Read the newspaper, subscribe to the New York Times or any other reliable news source, get it straight.

Talk to different people about it.

Talk to your parents, talk to your friends, talk to your neighbors. No one’s experience with oppression and politics is ever going to be the same. Understand how others are affected by it, and what you can do to support them.

And of course, vote! Your voice is so important, and it needs to be heard. It’s your chance to tell the government what they need to do to make things better for everyone.

To everyone who has access to privilege. Don’t let your privilege blind you. Do something. Be aware and vote.