'Staying Out Of Politics' Or 'Not Caring' About Politics Is Not A Thing Unless You're Privileged
Everyone has that friend on Facebook — the one who’s afraid or unwilling to engage in civil political discourse. Maybe their feed is full of memes from both their conservative and liberal buddies. Maybe they don’t want to take a stand because they’re worried they will offend someone. Or maybe they just genuinely don’t care who runs the country and what policies they enact.
So naturally, they post a rant. In this rant, they demand, “Why don’t we all get along?” They lament “the state of politics today.” They say they are “sick of it all.” And they close with saying they are “staying out of politics” and they “hope everyone else will too,” for the sake of their newsfeed. Then they add a kitten pic.
Sorry, friend, but your anti-politics rant is privilege in action.
If you don’t care about politics, that means you don’t have to care about politics. Either that, or you’re too dumb to care, and frankly we’re going to give you more credit than that. Right now, not caring is a privilege you happen to have. Not caring is a privileged act, the same way having white skin, being a cis male, or living within a certain tax bracket is privileged. Because of who you are, you get the choice to care or not care. You are not threatened. Your lack of caring shows that what happens politically will not overtly affect your life. It may even benefit you. So you stay quiet.
And that puts you in a privileged group. Because the policies enacted by this administration are affecting a hell of a lot — if not all — marginalized people in America. Other people have to care. They have to care because the Trump administration somehow threatens them, their livelihood, or people they care about.
Think of it this way: I homeschool my children. I have the luxury of not giving a flying fuck who this regime installs as secretary of education, because Betsy DeVos’s policies — school choice, closing schools, decentralized oversight — won’t affect my kids. They’ll go on reading the same books, doing the same math program, and using the same spelling curriculum, in the same place, for the same amount of time, with the same oversight they’ve always had. Betsy DeVos doesn’t personally affect my family.
I could have chosen not to care because the ability to homeschool puts me in a privileged group of people. We can live on an income and a half (my job is flexible), and I have an advanced degree that gives me the skills to educate my children. We have an internet connection. My partner is engaged and hands-on with our kids. We have access to a stellar library, and the extra cash to buy needed books. The list goes on and on. But I saw through my privilege. Instead of throwing up my hands and telling everyone to stop annoying me with all their caring for social justice, I called both of my senators every day for a week and a half. We have to make some Americans’ problem every American’s problem.
Recall the Muslim ban. Very few of us, relatively speaking, were directly affected. Most of us could have made the choice not to care about it because we’re not Muslims from one of the seven banned countries, staying in the United States with nothing but a green card and a prayer. We were all privileged. But to defend our democracy, to stand up for justice for a marginalized group, Americans everywhere rose up in protest and demanded an immediate end to the ban. Most of those activists were privileged not to be directly affected by the ban, but that doesn’t mean we stop caring about those who are being oppressed.
When you say you’re sick of politics, or you’re tired of people talking about politics all the time, you show your privilege. You must not be a woman because you don’t worry about having a president who says you can “grab ‘em by the pussy.” You must not be a Native American because you don’t care that the Dakota Pipeline is set to continue construction. You must not be Jewish because you’re not worried about the swastikas drawn all over a New York City subway car. In fact, you must not be American because you don’t care about the Mar-a-Lago dining room serving as the briefing room for a national security crisis. Maybe your gender, your power, and your money insulates you from caring — and then you make the choice not to give a fuck about anyone else. Must be nice.
Right now, saying “I don’t want to see stuff about politics” is to say “I want to be insulated by my privilege.” If you don’t want to see politics, you don’t want to see people of color, or Muslims, or Jews, or people who aren’t just as privileged as you. You only want to see others who can afford to stick their heads in the sand and ignore the injustices done, and the injustices looming, for American minority groups.
I hope your white skin tans evenly. I hope your big house insulates you from the noises outside. I hope your Stepford spouse, of the opposite gender, will keep you warm at night. Keep not caring. But remember, as Elisa Chavez says in her poem “Revenge,” about those of us who care: “We have always been what makes America great.” And we will never shut up.