Some things must be made political

Some things must be made political

After major mass shootings, people call for legislation restricting gun control. In 2016, enraged viewers criticized the Oscars for snubbing actors and directors of color. Each of these situations has been met with a similar response: “Why are you making this political?”

The answer is simple: for some of us, life is political.

As a woman of color, much of my existence is controlled by politics. Reproductive rights, unequal pay, and police brutality are all inherently political topics that directly affect my quality of life. I could choose not to “politicize” any of the above, but my silence would make me complicit in allowing oppressive structures to remain standing. 

Many topics may not immediately appear to be a huge deal if one is not directly affected by them. For instance, it may not seem particularly important that historically, an overwhelming proportion of Oscar nominees have been Caucasian—after all, it’s just an award show. 

However, ignoring the talents that people of color have to offer to the film industry serves as yet another instance in which we are treated as auxiliary, rather than viewed as equals who deserve to be honored on the same stage. The lack of representation also makes it almost impossible for young non-white creatives to believe that there is a place for them in that world, thus stifling many artistic careers before they can begin. It’s an insidious kind of injustice that wordlessly undermines our legitimacy and can easily slip right by anyone who doesn’t feel the effects. 

There is also a moral obligation to bring politics to the forefront of certain conversations. Some find it callous or ruthlessly self-serving to use tragedy as a reason to demand political movement, but what other option is there? Thoughts and prayers, as well-meaning as they may be, offer no concrete aid to the people suffering from whichever problem is currently on the table. No matter how bad the latest mass shooting is, the unfortunate truth is that things could have ended worse—and often, things do end worse as the same atrocities are committed again and again.

To back away from proactive, preventative legislation in order to keep from stepping on any toes is not only misguided and weak, but also dangerously irresponsible. The best response to tragedy is to think ahead. Catastrophe should serve as both a somber reminder that there is still work to be done and motivation to make the necessary changes to prevent such occurrences from happening again.

As tiring and draining as it is, some of our existences cannot be separated from politics no matter how hard we try. Members of certain social groups can very easily bury their heads in the sand and ignore the issues that do not directly affect them, but most of us simply do not have that choice. 

As it turns out, it’s pretty easy to scoff at people for “playing the victim” when you yourself have never been a victim of systemic, political oppression. However, there is no reason to ignore a topic or scorn others for finding it repulsive just because you don’t think it’s a big deal. It’s important to recognize when perhaps you don’t know much about the situation beyond what you see in a few headlines on your Twitter feed. 

Take time to learn about others’ struggles and understand why certain behaviors and constructs you consider ordinary may be harmful. Above all, amplify the voices of marginalized groups that are often ignored. They are crying out for a reason, and they deserve to be heard.

Lota Erinne is a sophomore majoring in finance and English. Her column runs biweekly. 

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