If a friend makes a post proclaiming that the Backstreet Boys are better than Nsync, I will feel sorry that they’re so misinformed, but I won’t unfriend them. We’re all allowed to have our own opinions on things. Even when it comes to politics, we’re all going to have different views on things like taxes, education, etc. There are certain candidates that some will like more than others. Friends and families do not have to agree on everything.
However, when it comes to human rights and equality, that’s not merely a difference in opinion. Not supporting the LGBTQ community or questioning the actions of a rape victim instead of the rapist or not recognizing that black lives matter, goes beyond different views. It says so much about who you are as a person.
After the 2016 election, I unfollowed several people on FB. I didn’t enjoy the posts I was seeing, so it was my way of ensuring I didn’t see anything I found unfavorable. Out of sight, out of mind. I realize that is not enough. These actions do nothing but make my life easier. I can ignore the racism and ignorance of my friends and family if I don’t see the posts. Their views will never actually affect me in real life. By just unfollowing the posts, I’m essentially allowing the racism to continue.
Confronting someone you know about racism is never comfortable. But I also think we need to start learning how to have uncomfortable conversations. We can no longer ignore racism when we see it. We can’t click “unfollow” and pretend that it doesn’t exist. Just because you no longer see the racist posts from that guy you went to high school with doesn’t mean they no longer exist. Their racism is still there. Their racism is being embedded in the children they’re raising. Their racism is affecting the lives of people of color every day.
Force yourself to have the uncomfortable conversations. The job of educating white people shouldn’t fall on people of color. If you call yourself an ally, if you want to be more involved, don’t ignore racism when you see it. Initiate those conversations. Explain why the term “All Lives Matter” is problematic. Show examples of white privilege.
In an ideal world, these conversations will always be civil, with each party expressing their views and you coming to an agreement. I wish this were the case, but it won’t always play out like this. You may never be able to change a person’s views. But you still have to try. We all have to get in the habit of calling out racism whenever we see it. Unfollowing isn’t enough!