The Milk of Human Kindness is Social Responsibility
Donald Trump was elected President of the United States on November 9, 2016, and we went back in time. Soon, it seemed a woman’s right to make decisions over her own body was under attack, it became a “burden” on the military to have active transgender officers in the ranks, and practicing freedom of speech was unpatriotic and considered by some to be treasonous. I have faced sexism, been attacked for my feminism, and been criticized for my “emotional” stances on social issues. I do not face these issues every day, but I can tell the difference between what’s right and what’s wrong. And I know social responsibility is right in these hate filled times.
The Cambridge Dictionary definition of social responsibility is, “[The] actions of an individual must benefit the whole of society.” In my words, I’d say social responsibility is raising your voice for those who don’t have one. People who have social, political, or economic privileges should be using their platform and their position in society to either raise awareness of an issue and/or be an advocate for equality for those who are at a lower ring on the society’s class structure. Social responsibility may sound like a natural human reaction anyone should have for one another, but that’s not the reality.
I began getting seriously involved in advocating for women’s rights. Starting with the Women’s March, my passion in going out and making a difference in the world grew. It wasn't until I was asked to take photos at a disability rights protest at Queen’s Park when I realized I don’t need to only protest for things that affect me personally.
I received a lot of backlash when I became vocal about these issues after the 2016 presidential election. Of course I knew there would be some people that would disagree with my opinions, but it got to a point of bullying. The thing about change though is that some people who are privileged view equality as oppression against themselves; they see equality as a threat to the power their privilege has over others. It seemed to be people would get angry with me out of fear of the unknown and lack of understanding, not so much the idea that I was a bad person for what I was saying.
At school, I am called a “Femi-Nazi” and a man-hater; definitely not my cup of tea. When the name calling started, my voice was silenced. I let the counter argument get to me. After the name calling began, I stopped out of fear because of the reaction I would get. It was hard, and I admit, was foolish of me. I felt as if I lost all the strength I would praise others to have.
I always told myself, however, even though my voice is small, it counts.
I internalized all my emotions about things people would say at school, so I started to decorate my room full of photos, New Yorker comics, magazine cut-outs and more. I figured if I could paint the walls of my room with art forms that expressed my views, I could let out my emotions there rather than face the backlash at school. This wasn't the best idea, as I was hiding from something I need to face as I grow up, but it made my room look pretty cool.
One day, in my American History high school class, a student who expressed his support of Trump daily said he believed racism was over because we had an African American president. Now, that set me off immediately and I broke my silence. Despite him calling me a “commie bitch” after I explained how racism is still a reality for people of colour, I found my strength in social responsibility once again.
The thing about social responsibility is that within it there needs to be discourse. No matter your stance on an issue, respecting the opinion of others is important. If we just argue back and forth and keep up this name calling and anger, there will no progress together. The only way we can move forward together and progress to a better world, is if people who are privileged in society realize that they should be socially responsible.
The fight for justice is a complicated one but as Brittany Packnett, a resident fellow at Harvard University says, we need to “spend our privilege.”
“Spending one’s privilege can carry consequences, but nothing important comes without risk and it’s worth taking one in the name of justice,” she wrote in an article published in the online magazine The Cut (Packnett, “How to Spend Your Privilege”).
As a white cis woman, I have acknowledged I have privilege in our oppressive society. Sure, I do face gender-biased oppression, but I am a small link in a much bigger chain. We need to stand up together, as a whole, not divided. If we truly want change in our world, we need to stop sitting around and complaining about world leaders, policies and setbacks. We need to go out and get things done.
Spending privilege can start small with a post on social media or a t-shirt with a message on it, but we can’t stop there. Look at Colin Kaepernick, the students from Parkland, Fla., or the men and women of the #METOO movement. They used their platforms, their privilege, to stand up, to kneel, and to march for the rights and safety for not only themselves, but for everyone.
The fight for justice may start with the individual. However by working together toward an equal world where we stand up for one another, we can make change on a global scale. It may be scary at first because of the angry reactions, but remember, nobody is asking you to start a revolution, only to start something. For this I believe, I am Rose Lamberti for the world.
© 2019 Rose Lamberti