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Opinion: The people I want to call 'friend'

On October 29, 2020

BY MAXINE MOORE / VN STAFF WRITER

Is it possible to be friends with someone who has differing political views than you?

The short and simple answer to this question is maybe.

Here’s the deal.

In today’s world, political perspectives are being confused with moral perspectives.

The word “political” is defined as “relating to the government or the public affairs of the country,” according to the Oxford English dictionary.

Some topics that might fit into this broad category include gun control, social security and taxes, just to name a few.

The word “moral,” however, is defined as “concerned with the principles of right and wrong or good and evil.”

There are several other definitions and a long list of synonyms that includes words like virtuous, honorable, incorruptible and even sinless – none of which seem to exist in our country’s climate today.

It is understandable how social issues can get grouped with political and economic agendas.

This is the way our country has always operated.

Today we must realize that we are living in unprecedented times, a time different from when I was growing up, different from when our parents and grandparents grew up.

2020 is a different animal.

These times are more desperate than ever for minorities in America.

As the saying goes, “desperate times call for desperate measures.”

We can no longer blur the lines of morality and politics.

In 2020, things need to be spelled out for some people.

Allow me.

“Would you really cut someone off all because they don’t have the same political beliefs as you?”

Well, my answer might be different and rather unique.

As a young Black woman in America, I’ve seen and felt a lot of injustices in my short 20 years of life.

Yes, I could possibly retain a friendship with someone who I may disagree with on taxes and global warming or perhaps whether or not pineapple belongs on pizza.

In these instances, we can “agree to disagree.”

But what I cannot and will not do is maintain a friendship or any other kind of relationship with someone who does not agree with or is not willing to understand my moral perspectives, especially the ones that have the greatest impact on my life and those who are closest to me.

So, in this case, no, I cannot be “friends” with someone who willingly supports leaders, political or otherwise, and ideologies that essentially harm myself and my community.

Imagine, for example, a civil rights leader being friends with the Grand Wizard of the KKK.

Not likely, right?

The events that have occurred this year have indeed reshaped the world as we know it.

To those who say that this nation is divided, I completely agree.

We are not divided, however, by Republicans and Democrats.

We are divided by stubbornness and selfishness.

I read an article that talked about people ending friendships because one person found out the other was voting for “that guy?!”

The article essentially asked if the person’s vote was really so significant that the whole friendship had to go down the drain.

It conditionally posed this question: “What if that person was on their death bed?”

That’s quite a stretch if you ask me, but the bottom line is this:

My answer is yes.

My answer might not be understood by the average white American.

But the reality is that nothing can change in this country until we all seek to understand.

As a young Black woman in America, I continuously feel disrespected, unprotected and neglected by a society that is plagued by systematic racism and people who refuse to recognize their privilege in that exact system.

It harms me both mentally and potentially physically to be “friends” with someone who does not see the evil and hatred in statements like telling the Proud Boys, a right-wing extremist group, to “stand back and stand by.”

It is mentally draining and heartbreaking at the same time to think back on times where microaggressions were made against me by people who I thought were my closest friends, teammates even.

It is with great remorse that I missed several opportunities to educate those peers because I was afraid of being labeled as the “angry Black girl.”

Confrontation is something I grapple with, but I am getting a tighter grip on it.  

Black Americans everywhere have to continue to fight, educate and have the difficult conversations. It’s going to continue to be exhausting and painful.

But we cannot give up.

To our allies and those who are genuinely willing to learn and be a part of the cause, we need you more than ever.

I want authentic allies for friends, not people who claim to support me and the fight of my people but are driven by the fear of being called racist.

I want friends who will support me in all my endeavors and who are also willing to get comfortable with being uncomfortable; people who truly want to be a part of change for the better.

This country will probably never agree on the left or right – or Republican or Democrat.

But we must agree on human rights.

So, to finally and clearly answer the question: Yes, it is possible to be friends with someone who has different political views than me. But in 2020, it’s hard to be friends with people with whom I am not morally aligned.

Here’s the thing, though.

I will never harm or disrespect those I cannot agree with morally.

People who play the “respect my beliefs” card should please understand that there is a way to respectfully challenge one’s beliefs.

It all starts through meaningful conversation, through being able to explain why we believe what we believe and from where these beliefs originate.

Do we really believe what we say we believe or is that what mom and dad have taught us to believe and we don’t have the guts to see the world through our own lenses?

It is OK to have our beliefs respectfully challenged?

It is OK to challenge others to do their own research and have their own independent beliefs about different things?

We must also understand the difference between beliefs and values.

Beliefs are assumptions that we make about the world and our values stem from those beliefs. Education can help shape beliefs that are harmful so that the values (equality, honesty, effort, perseverance, loyalty and faithfulness) can influence actions.

In 2020, it is imperative to challenge people to step out of their own individual worlds where it may not matter who is sitting in the Oval Office because they may not ever know what it’s like to worry about having their basic human rights be stripped away from them.

It is paramount that we challenge people to be empathic.

And those are the people who I can call “friend.”

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