“Who wants to say grace?” my father said at the Thanksgiving dinner table this weekend, just to be met with my sister’s reply, “Yeah, but who y’all voting for?” We all laughed and the rest of our Thanksgiving meal wasn’t filled with divisive political debate, as it was nearly impossible for us to talk and stuff our mouths at the same time.
Thanksgiving is very commonly known as a time when the family gets together and political conversations at the table frequently occur. In pop culture, these tend to be portrayed as rather intense sometimes. With this in mind as I travelled to relatives this year, I thought about how some of my political and social beliefs differ greatly from other family members. This led me to think about the first opinion column I ever wrote at Technician, "You too can be a bigot." This article stated that “Bigotry is independent of political ideology, religion or race.”
After a year at NC State, I’ve had the opportunity to learn about topics of diversity. I am now able to reflect and recognize that the article I wrote comes from a place of extreme privilege. Although I still stand by the claim for political conversation between groups to prevent polarization, it’s important to acknowledge that when another person’s “political opinions” outwardly deny a group of people’s existence and/or support legislation that systematically oppresses and discriminates against already marginalized groups, then one does not need to be tolerant of those statements, claims or ideas.
In the previous article, I defined bigotry according to John Corvino, a philosophy professor at Wayne State University, as “stubborn and unjustified contempt toward groups of people, typically in the context of a larger system of subordination.” Yes, anyone can be a bigot technically, but it’s important to recognize the second part of the definition that I previously neglected, relating to larger systems. If you asked me last year to describe what that means, I couldn’t have, because I didn’t understand what systems of subordination and oppression were. Now, however, I know this is the legislation and institutionalized racism, homophobia, transphobia, etc. that exists in our nation.
Most of my previous column was in the context of discontinuing being someone’s friend based solely on their political beliefs. As someone with primarily majority identities, such as white and cisgender male, I have experienced little to no discrimination on an individual and national level. But after conversations last year with Wolfpack friends who are Muslim, people of color and LGBTQ+, I am able to see now that pushing aside someone’s political beliefs on topics that relate to their identities and communities is not possible. Divina de Campo, U.K. drag queen and singer, touched on this when they said “Your belief is a belief, [but] my existence is a reality.”
And even this Thanksgiving, I was able to see this firsthand in a small way. Some of my family members brought up in conversation that they don’t agree with the practice of introducing themselves with their pronouns to make a more inclusive space for transgender and nonbinary people. Although this goes against my fundamental beliefs when it comes to gender identity, I couldn’t help but think about how a transgender or nonbinary person would feel hearing that comment. Then, to put the burden on them to “accept the other person’s viewpoint” and be “tolerant,” as I said in the previous article, would be absurd, as the other person just outwardly and explicitly dismissed this person’s identity.
Not to mention, I called upon people in these situations to utilize conversations, dialogue and open-mindedness to learn about the other side; however, after speaking with so many people with various minority identities, I can only imagine how aggravating it is to experience both microaggressions and active discrimination, as well as have all of the onus placed on them to initiate these conversations with people who reject parts of their identity.
At the end of the day, compassion and open-mindedness are the best qualities to help reduce groupthink and encourage conversation, especially on a diverse campus like NC State. Yet there are some opinions that blatantly discriminate against communities and therefore can be argued are fundamentally and morally wrong. People who are affected by those opinions which affect legislation and policy have every right to not want to communicate or interact with those that hold these viewpoints.