The other day I had a conversation with someone who had opposing viewpoints in regard to topics of social justice. Throughout the entire conversation, we both listened and remained respectful. And when I told someone else about this interaction, they laughed and said, “this is why you need to have these conversations and not me. I would have lost my shit if they said something like that.”
At first, I laughed it off, but after a day or so, I reflected on this. This person’s experience is much more realistic than mine. Conversations are rarely ever calm and more often than not, end in screaming matches. In the past, this was normal for me, too.
It wasn’t until recently that I learned my anger was misplaced. Sure, I am not exactly thrilled when a twenty-year-old white conservative determines I deserve to die for supporting Black Lives Matter, however, now I recognize that this mindset is created at an institutional level. So, how will my anger at one person, stop the larger institutions at hand that are inspiring millions more?
Answer: it won’t. Out of all the anger I have seen liberals display in response to social injustices, I have almost never seen this anger intentionally placed. If we fight one and other, then who is fighting the bigger institutions and people who are responsible for creating, funding, and maintaining hatred, discrimination, injustice, and more? Is it possible, that by yelling at one and other, we are fighting the wrong battle?
Please don’t mistake this as an excuse for avoiding those hard conversations with loved ones, peers, friends, colleagues, and more. Instead, let this be the reason why you pursue these conversations with empathy, respect, and an open mind. I no longer respond with anger because that defeats the purpose of the conversation.
We want to call people in and direct our anger towards the larger influences at play. There are plenty of people that need to be held accountable, some of whom should even be canceled entirely (*cough, cough* Donald Trump), but the majority are not our neighbors. Anger can be a powerful tool in ending injustice if we use it wisely.