For the last 25 years, I’ve worked diligently to remain neutral in my public actions and more recently in my postings on social media.
This was a byproduct of life as a journalist, where you needed to remain objective to maintain your journalistic credibility.
Of course, there are times when that has been challenged. When you are called out as a member of the media, it is difficult to remain unemotional and detached and not respond in kind. Often the most sensitive people become journalists because that depth of empathy is necessary to connect with story subjects and topics of coverage. This empathy is a double-edged sword when it comes to criticism, of course.
We tend to internalize criticism and continuously have to fight imposter syndrome because of this type of feedback loop.
I’ve slipped a few times over the years and have owned up to those judgment errors quickly afterward.
An especially problematic minefield is political commentary. I would not even broach the topic at social gatherings, let alone in public places or on social media over the past 20 or so years. However, recent world events have altered my perspective on this practice.
The election of Donald Trump as president of the United States was the launching point to this. I was quite aware of his narcissistic personality and his misogynistic statements and actions leading up to the election and was horrified when he won. I was one of those people watching the entire election night broadcast until the bitter end, often rocking in place and swearing at the TV.
Over the course of the past 200 days of his administration, that anxiety has increased to the point where I began sharing and posting stories and commentary to my Facebook friends and Twitter followers. I’m sure I’ve lost some friends and many followers for this action.
As I recently said on Twitter: “For years I’ve avoided political posts on social as a practicing journalist. But as a practicing human being, I can no longer be silent.”
For years I've avoided political posts on social as a practising journalist. But as a practising human being I can no longer be silent.
— John K. White (@JohnKWhite) August 16, 2017
There’s a point at which we must speak up about racism, misogyny, corruption, and fear-mongering regardless of our position in society. If left unchecked, we could be led to oblivion.
I think about the false equivalency of grouping Nazis and white supremacists, and those opposing those beliefs and acts of hate. Trump is using these tactics for his own political gain, desperate to hold onto his dwindling group of supporters, but it is coming at a great cost for all Americans and proponents of peace everywhere etc. Sad.
Trump himself has said both sides of this fight “were bad” in the recent unrest, violence, and murder in Charlottesville, Virginia. Non-violent protest in standing against hatred does not make you a terrorist. Fighting for human rights does not equate to human rights’ abuses.
Trump is often cited as the primary reason hate has returned to the mainstream in the U.S. His words and actions on Twitter and in press statements have made it acceptable for white supremacists and Nazis to hate without the burden of white sheets and hoods. His approach has made it OK to target visible minorities or members of the Muslim faith, or members of the media as the enemy.
I was at a Subway restaurant in Castlegar a few weeks back and a woman was complaining about a missing sub from her order. When the staff member of a visible minority tried to apologize for the error, she yelled: “Ugh, I can’t even understand what you are saying.” Of course, I clearly heard and understood what he was saying.
I immediately stopped her and said: “No. That’s not cool. You can’t say that.” She went red-faced and quickly returned to her table.
We all need to do our part to make it uncomfortable for racism to thrive in our communities.