At the start of my undergrad, I once came home from an LGBTQ mixer to see that two of my housemates were still awake. They asked me where I had been, and I said as much. I was met with an awkward silence. “What’s LGBTQ mean?” asked one. This was met with a sigh of relief from the other, who also didn’t know what it meant. They lost interest about 10 seconds into my answer.
Other comments I have had in the “goes home and screams into pillow” category include: I’ve only known bisexual girls who do it for attention; I’ll just get groped if I go to a gay bar and I haven’t heard of gay pride. In these cases, when I’ve tried to call people out on their ignorance, it’s usually met with a cluster of feeble excuses. Namely, that their sheltered upbringing somehow justifies their lack of socio-political awareness.
Look, I get where some of this comes from. My parents are conservative, and I went to a majority-white all-girls private school. I’m undoubtedly guilty of parroting my elders’ opinions in lieu of my own. It’s easy not to challenge the beliefs of people around you. That being said, there is never a scenario where we should let this kind of attitude fly.
Perhaps I would have been more understanding a few years ago when we didn’t have a shameful excuse for a person as president. However, it takes a lot of effort to be completely outside the political news cycle nowadays. It’s basically impossible to go on social media without seeing some kind of commentary on the aforementioned president, considering his standing as one of the most influential men on Twitter this year. Politics is a hot topic for a good reason. It’s acutely evident that the rights of minorities have been and are being systematically eroded. If you don’t care to educate yourself on these issues, then you are compliant. Many would say you are a part of the problem.
Moreover, excuses on background often seem to forget that the internet exists. I too found that when I tried to go on the internet, type in “LGBTQ rights,” I was suddenly frozen with a paralyzing power that prohibited me from ever Googling something. Except, I wasn’t. In the age of the internet, most of us are granted access to opinions as similar or polar in relation to ours as we wish to find. It’s the medium for self-publishing; but several companies are realizing the success that comes from making diversity a priority. Our potential for knowledge is not just limited by the square mileage of whatever place we grew up.
We’re all ignorant about something, so I’m not suggesting that it’s even possible to be some kind of all-woke student. I myself was astoundingly ignorant on transgender issues and used some language that I’m far from proud of now. However, after a dozen or so videos from YouTubers, I changed my mind. While it’s impossible to truly know every lived experience, what makes my skin crawl is when people act as if the ignorance from their upbringing is some kind of permanent personality fixture. It’s not. It can so easily slide into downright bigotry that it’s alarming. So, I propose we replace the excuses of background with one key addition: “I’m trying to learn.”
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Email Natasha Jokic at [email protected]