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Op-ed

It Sucks, But We Have to Be Nice to Bigots

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Listening to people who have no idea what they are talking about drone on and on can get frustrating. There are times when people say things that leave us completely dumbfounded, either by their ignorance or lack of empathy and understanding.

This can most easily be highlighted by Tomi Lahren’s recent appearance on The Daily Show as she shows a blatant misunderstanding of the Black Lives Matter movement, comparing it to the KKK. For many people, sitting through her biased accusations and staying level-headed would be a difficult task, but Trevor Noah stayed impressively calm. This very action (or lack thereof) is immensely important to improving the discourse of social justice in politics and the media, as well as amidst the greater population.

When speaking about any controversial subject, politics and religion especially, many people are unable to stay calm because of how passionately they believe in that certain value or policy. This is counter-intuitive because, for most people, if they hear someone contradict their closely held belief in a manner that is derogatory, they will completely block out what they are hearing and focus solely on proving the other person wrong.

This is the textbook definition of an unproductive conversation. In order to have a productive conversation, mutual respect is vital. If one assesses and attempts to understand the other’s viewpoint, respectful discourse, and even a change in opinion, can occur.We may feel that these people do not deserve respect, but without it, they will not listen.

We may feel that these people do not deserve respect, but without it, they will not listen.

For a fruitful conversation, it is nearly a requirement that both parties have a respect for the other person. Perhaps you may not respect their beliefs or their actions, but respecting the person is completely necessary. You must be mature enough to understand that your belief, as well as theirs, is simply a belief– either of you could be wrong. If you are participating in a conversation without an open-mind (even a conversation with a closed-minded person) you risk the chance of the person never understanding you simply because they are mentally blocking out every word that comes out of your mouth. You must get to the level of the other person and understand why they believe what they do. By assessing this, you are able to explain your viewpoint in a way that they can understand.

It’s also important to note that many people are not ignorant because they choose to be; it can be because of the media they are exposed to or the people that surround them. Many of us who are passionate about social justice will automatically assume that someone is a bad person simply because of their view on a certain topic. However, it is important to remember that at one point, you believed exactly what you learned from those who surrounded you. Many people learn to agree with what they were taught, and many diverge from it, both are completely okay.

It is insanely frustrating, I know, but by being just a little more understanding, we can help others learn to be more of that themselves.

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Areej Khan
Written By

A high school senior from northern Virginia.

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