Some of you may have seen recent drama on Twitter due to tweets made by Karamo Brown, lifestyle coach on Queer Eye. The upset was caused after Karamo had made posts about his thoughts on both him and Sean Spicer—former Communications Director and Press Secretary for the White House, under Donald Trump. Spicer has been highly criticized by many, but Karamo posted on Twitter that he felt “excited to sit down w/ him and engage in a respectful conversation” (1).
For what reason has wanting to have “respectful conversations” garnered such anger? It seems to be a growing trend in our society. People don’t appear to want to listen to each other or hear other sides. If you disagree with someone on something, then you’re often just brushed off as problematic and not worth their time.
The time I saw this the most was during, and following, the 2016 elections. The amount of posts I saw people I know make on social media stating, “if you voted for Donald Trump, then unfollow me” felt unreal. Actress/comedian Tess Rafferty was blunt with that form of thought in the video "Aftermath November 2016," where she made these statements throughout her video: “I am so damn tired of trying to see it from the other side. … Let me say it right here—if you voted for Trump, I do think you are a racist. I do think you’re homophobic. I do think you’re a misogynist. … And while I’m done being polite, if you voted third party, unfriend me. I don’t care how much we enjoy each other on every other level. I don’t care how badly you wanted to make your third party a viable option. Fuck you.”
Emotions were high following the election. Emotions are still high today. Our country can feel divided into all these varieties of groups and frustration will arise from that. There are people who once feared being who they are and anger will come from that. Is this the right way to approach the topic though?
No. The answer is no. Even if we take the route of not caring about the feelings of those who seem to not care about us, how effective do you think that will be? If you want to combat something like homophobia, you can’t do that by living in an echo chamber and only discussing things with other LGBT+ people or supporters. Those people already exist and already agree with you. If you want to stop homophobia, then you need to change the minds of homophobes—you need to be willing to discuss with those who feel differently from you.
Firstly, you have to be able to understand why people do the things they do. In the case of the elections, the vast majority of people I know who voted for Trump did not vote for him because they thought he’d make a great president—they did so because they thought he was better than the alternative. I know many people who voted for Hillary Clinton under the same logic. The reasons why they felt that one of them was the least of two evils vary, but every reason brings up a possibility for discussion and debate.
I believe that people almost always have the capability to change. I have seen people go from pro-life activists to pro-choice, from being raised by a pastor to being atheist, from a vegetarian to a hunter. I have read about cases such as Martin Niemoeller, who went from supporting the Nazis to spending many years in prison during the ‘30s and ‘40s, for changing his mind and speaking out against Hitler.
When we refuse to discuss calmly with people who think differently from us, we are hurting our cause. All we are doing is allowing them the ability to call us intolerant and close-minded. We are enabling them to continue living in their own echo chamber, without having to face variant thoughts, because we don’t want to ourselves. If we want to create any change in this world—it needs to stop.