Opinion: Don’t stop listening: A response to “The vilified majority”

Andrew Atkins

To the readers who may have missed Lucas Misera’s piece, “The vilified majority,” here’s what his argument boils down to: As a straight, white male, he feels as if empathy is taxing because he’s attacked by the liberal left for being a majority.

This argument concerned me because I realized he’s not alone in his thinking. This line of thought is mirrored throughout much of both the right and left and unfortunately may serve as a catalyst for stagnation in our nation’s progress towards an equitable future.

If you let something bother you, you stop trying to help. So, please — don’t.

Let me tell you this, Lucas: I agree with your fundamental point — the rampant political discourse is becoming increasingly toxic, fraught with personal attacks and miscommunication that even polarizes the liberal demographic.

For example, Lucas begins by making the point he shouldn’t feel uncomfortable acknowledging his identity as a straight white man.

Agreed. Your frustration is justified.

But consider: Gay people shouldn’t feel uncomfortable holding hands with someone they love in public. Black people shouldn’t feel uncomfortable for the color of their skin. Women shouldn’t feel uncomfortable walking down the street at night — or any other time of day, for that matter.

Nobody should feel uncomfortable for who they are.

But, if you’re complaining that your identity as a straight white male paints a target on your back, the reality is this:

The LGBT community is more likely to be the target of hate crimes than any other minority group, according to data collected by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Moreover, between 2012 and 2015, black transgender women were murdered more than any other individual group within the LGBT community, according to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs.

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence highlights a startling reality: In the United States, a woman is beaten or assaulted every nine seconds. In fact, one in three women and one in four men have been assaulted by a partner. Indeed, the conversation about intimate partner violence against men is sorely lacking, but it’s a point you failed to make.

The Chicago Tribune reported that in 2015, there were 613 anti-white-related crimes, approximately 10.5 percent of the total number of hate crimes. The majority of hate crimes, however, were against African Americans. The total, in 2015, resting at 1,745 anti-black hate crimes, or roughly 30 percent of all incidents.

I’m not saying you aren’t discriminated against for your identity as a white, straight male — these statistics quite clearly demonstrate people are discriminated against for that very reason, and these statistics are in no way a justification for your vilification.

But, what you experience is a pebble. Others feel a landslide of hatred and institutionalized discrimination.

What struck me the most, perhaps, was the assertion that empathy was taxing for you because of your vilification.

That must come from some place of relative privilege.

I’m not denying that it may be taxing for you. I’m not in your shoes. But please, consider this: empathy, for some, is a matter of life and death.

Without empathy, victims of intimate partner violence do not get the help they need. Without empathy, systematic racism continues to crush the black community, which we as white people have oppressed for hundreds of years. Without empathy, the LGBT community continues to face discrimination.

And you know what? I acknowledge my privilege. I’m a white male and recognize the inherent privilege that gives me, and I try my hardest not to abuse that privilege. I acknowledge the bias I have, and I work every day to overcome that and bring equity to the others who are suffering.

I think we can agree that privilege does not make us inherently evil.

What this means, Lucas, is that you shouldn’t feel attacked unless there’s a reason to be. In other words, if the shoe fits, wear it. Otherwise, don’t — step up to the plate and use your privilege to help those that are suffering.

Modern day liberalism isn’t the only obstacle to political discourse. It’s those in the majority who shut down and stop listening.

Andrew Atkins is an assigning editor, contact him at [email protected].