When Complacency becomes Toxic

We have come to a point in humanity’s narrative where complacency is no longer an acceptable standard to uphold. As I discovered yesterday, however, this common truth is vehemently repulsed by many.

I was walking back to my dorm from class when I came across a poster that had a picture of Kathryn Steinle that read: “She had dreams too.” Alarms going off in my head, I ran back to my room, sent the picture to my Diversity professor, and quickly put up a news article about the incident, tying it to the previous two incidents of bigotry on campus this quarter.

For those of you who don’t know, Kathryn Steinle was shot and killed by Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, an illegal immigrant. He was initially acquitted on murder charges, which sparked outrage by many, but was indicted earlier this week on other charges related to the case. While protesting this incident is logical, what the person or organization behind the posters did was perpetuate a narrative of white supremacy. They essentially where claiming that undocumented immigrants and Dreamers were not welcome here. By specifically saying “she had dreams too,” they are calling out Dreamers. This is horrendous, especially on a campus that works to protect it’s undocumented and Dreamer student populations.

Despite this, I found that this line of thinking was not taken kindly. Many students left nasty remarks on my post in the university facebook page drawing attention to the issue. They dismissed my viewpoint as coming from a “triggered liberal” who took things out of proportion. I was even told to fuck off, among other things.

However, what is more shocking is the fact that there are those who agree with the fact that these posters were bigoted, and yet still argue for complacency. They claim that patience is what will lead to progress, and that it is counterintuitive to try to “impose” progressive beliefs onto those without them, as they may have “been raised as to not have the capability of giving empathy.”

These arguments are wrong, disastrous, and do a disservice to those who face marginalizations on a daily basis.

In a society that has allowed the hegemonic majority to remain comfortable for millennia, we no longer can be afraid to “step on people’s toes.” When it comes to social issues, pushing a progressive agenda is what will succeed in the fight for equality for all. This is not “imposing beliefs” onto the mainstream, because it is asserting a factually based narrative that has long been swept under the rug, leading to members of minority groups being murdered on a daily basis.

We can not be afraid to speak out, cause commotion, or to be labeled as “radical.” Make change slowly and in a contained manner as not to upset the status quo too much is just as bad, if not worse, than those who follow the bigoted narrative in the first place. When you consciously choose to recognize the importance of the progressive social movement but refuse to be a force of change, you are a part of the problem.

If you want proof of this, you need look no further than my own university. In October, a white supremacist group hung banners condemning DACA and promoting a white supremacist narrative. The school gave a halfhearted response, but ultimately did nothing to try and prevent this from happening again or to address the root causes of white supremacy. The following month, a student went into an online study guide and wrote the n-word throughout it 86 times. This time, the university took an even more complacent approach, referring media outlets to a page discussing the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion requirement (I have heavily criticized this for being too complacent, which you can read through the link I have put on this sentence.)

Because of the university’s lackluster approach to combatting bigotry in those instances, yesterday’s incident was allowed to occur. Could this have been prevented if the school had taken aggressive action in the previous two occurrences? That is up for debate. However, if the university had taken more than the bare minimum of an approach, likely future incidents would see a drop off in frequency.

We must hold ourselves to a higher standard of accountability in the fight for equality for all. As we see on a daily basis in the news headlines, the fate of minority lives is perpetually at risk. The only way to turn this stark reality around is by refusing to have a complacent mindset in the condemnation of and fight against bigotry. Please, utilize your empathy to help everyone around you. The fate of the world depends on it.


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