While I respect that we all have varying political views, one thing that I draw a hard line on is when social justice/ human rights issues are turned into political ones. I do not view human rights as political, though many in positions of power seem to. Ideas that would deprive people of their rights to live and to seek happiness are not justifiable. Centrist ideas that acknowledge that human rights should be protected while not seeking to take actions that would do so, is also something I find issue with. If you’re willing to stand by while people are hurting and you have the power to help them, you’re part of the problem.
This is part of why ignoring issues that may not affect oneself can lead to systemic harm. One example of this is with environmental protection. An episode in the latest season of The Handmaid’s Tale highlighted this particular example. It can be said that it doesn’t matter what else humans do, if the earth becomes uninhabitable. While this is true, such a line of thinking, if taken to an extreme, can give way to fascist ideas ¹ that cause the loss of human rights. This is particularly a danger when religious extremists or white supremacists become involved. It can become far too easy for fascists to turn a movement that should be good for humankind (along with all other life on earth) into one that causes harm to many.
While the country is fighting for environmental protection, we should also be fighting for the myriad of other issues that also matter. These issues are all intersectional. For example, those living in poverty ² or who live in primarily BIPOC communities ³ are at greater risk of being subjected to health issues caused by a lack of environmental protections. Without affordable healthcare, they are also at greater risk of not being able to seek out healthcare when environmental issues make them sick. Because of this, to truly believe that the government should focus only on a single issue would be incredibly short sighted.
This also applies to other movements. Black, Indigenous, and other communties of color are at greater risk of poverty due to systemic racism. ⁴ Therefore, actions to end poverty should also take racist policies into account. The fight for feminism has won women’s rights, but has also often excluded the concerns of BIPOC women and transgender/ nonbinary people. ⁵ In recent news, trans exclusionary extremists have co-opted feminism and fed into the rise of transphobia. This puts black trans women in even greater danger of discrimination due to systemic racism combined with transphobia. None of the movements that our society needs in order to progress exist within a vaccuum. What happens in one can create a chain reaction.
While we are all limited in what we can do as individuals, the society that we live in is made up of many different people, organizations, and professions which can each center their focus on the problem they are most equipped to solve. A position stating that any issue is less important because it only affects a certain group of people often comes from a place of privilege. I would even dare to say that, in worst cases, it can come from an alarming lack of empathy for what others may be going through in the here and now. The United States is dealing with ongoing problems rooted in fascism: racism, homophobia, transphobia, misogyny, religious extremism, classism, ableism, etc. People are already dying. We can not afford to prioritize one thing over everything else. Our society must take advantage of the resources that we have to ensure that all of these issues, all of which matter, can be addressed. The problem with picking only one issue to care about? It’s all connected.
(Though I mentioned The Handmaid’s Tale, it should be noted that the book/ show is problematic due to the historical treatment of BIPOC in the U.S. ⁶)
¹ What is Ecofascism and Why It Has No Place in Environmental Progress by Nikita Shukla, Earth.org https://earth.org/what-is-ecofascism/
² Poverty and the Environment by Anup Shah, Global Issues. https://www.globalissues.org/article/425/poverty-and-the-environment
³ Environmental racism – the deliberate poisoning of BIPOC by Amaya McDonald, The Statesman. https://www.sbstatesman.com/2021/04/19/environmental-racism-the-deliberate-poisoning-of-bipoc/
⁴ Poverty, Racism and the Public Health Crisis in America by Laurie Fickman, University of Houston. https://www.uh.edu/medicine/news-events/stories/2021/november-2021/poverty,-racism-and-the-public-health-crisis-in-america.php
⁵ What Is Intersectional Feminism? by Olivia Guy-Evans, Simply Sociology. https://simplysociology.com/intersectional-feminism.html
⁶ Why ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Is Problematic by Kiarran T.L. Diaz, Black Feminist Collective. https://blackfeministcollective.com/2018/12/08/why-the-the-handmaids-tale-is-problematic/
(Disclaimer: A previous incarnation of this post was misinterpreted as being an attack on an individual’s character, so the post was removed until I could properly edit it. I acknowledge that the misinterpetation was due to poor writing and carelessness on my part to ensure that the intent was fully clear to others.)