Editorial: I disagree, so what now?

Finding a solution to harmful opinions

Editorial Board

“I disagree, but I respect your opinion.” 

This phrase has become quintessential for any political conversation with family or friends. But at some point, this phrase runs up against threats and ideological hatred.  There is an obsession with respecting others’ opinions, even, apathetically, if those same opinions threaten real people. 

Politics do affect people in all ways, through taxes, immigration policy even mainstream political rhetoric can affect long term emotions and anxiety. It may often seem that political discourse exists in a world of its own, where facts reign supreme and being right trumps all. Although facts like statistics and legislative outcomes are vital for creating policy, who legislation affects is not equal. More often than not, the people who do talk about politics as if in a vacuum are disconnected from policy changes. 

A white and wealthy college student is not going to have their life upended by the Trump presidency. For a student studying the United States through DACA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, having their access to a US education could change their life.

For the most privileged in the United States, a gap exists between those who talk politics and who experience politics, creating conversations lacking empathy. 

Jokingly, holiday dinners and racist relatives have become synonymous with each other. Racist remarks at family gatherings have become a cultural hallmark for young people in the United States. 

Hateful comments are wrong in and of themselves, but leaving these remarks to fester into someone’s personal beliefs will only normalize and spread this very behavior.

To say “this is your First Amendment right to say this” is also to say “you can continue to culturally abuse minorities, and I won’t stop you from doing that.” It is a similar concept to saying “boys will be boys” to defend toxic masculine behavior. It is always hard confronting someone close and to risk being attacked at your most vulnerable, but this vulnerability is worthwhile in protecting the most marginalized people in the U.S.

Words spread and, in the age of the internet, a Facebook post of an so-called opinion can reach an audience of easily 500 people per user. Although opinions may seem small to the speaker, to an audience they can seem like legitimate, platformed facts. 

These “opinions” are not simply matters of personal preference, but rather statements made on the basis of an ideology — something much more powerful and resilient than an opinion. Showing a friend or family member that their opinion is not something to be argued over, but is outright wrong will make them think twice.

To be able to say that a hate-filled statement is merely “someone’s opinion” is wrong. It shows apathy towards people who are endangered by such statements.

To ignore the power of words is an affront not only to marginalized people, but it shows negligence on the part of people who ought to show more care for their neighbors. To uproot the hateful rhetoric at the source is to prevent future hatred and to literally make the world a better place, for everyone.