It’s 9 p.m. on a Friday evening, and as I scroll through my Twitter feed, I see something that makes my heart drop. It’s a petition advocating for social justice, made by a UNC student — a student who has not only made me highly uncomfortable, but has objectified, stalked and harassed so many other women I know. I click on his tweet and I’m disappointed to find so many people who were aware of his inappropriate behavior engaging with his post.
Unfortunately, this occurrence was not isolated. In the past year at UNC, I’ve noticed an alarming trend.
As a community, we romanticize the notion of progress and the “politically correct” but fail to address how we might continue to excuse racism, misogyny and other systems of oppression in our personal lives. UNC students are obsessed with the idea of a perfect “social justice warrior,” and that is reflected in how we publicly present ourselves and who we publicly support.
We applaud and provide platforms to students who make the most basic, bare-minimum progressive statements, regardless of whether their words are a regurgitation of what marginalized students, particularly Black students, have already been expressing.
In turn, this has allowed a number of abusers, perpetrators and harassers into our progressive spaces, many of whom consciously manipulate the language of social advocacy to present themselves as “good” or “woke” people.
Capitalizing off of the narratives and experiences of marginalized communities in an attempt to gain social status is highly problematic. For this reason, we need to actively think about why we provide certain people with platforms. If we aren’t holding the people in our community accountable, our politics are largely empty — they're performative, self-serving, feel-good mechanisms that allow us to simultaneously ignore and other ourselves from the very systems we claim to be fighting against.
There's no excuse for complacency. The least we can do is remove known harassers and abusers from our progressive spaces and communities. Unfollow them on social media platforms and don't interact with their posts — doing so further enables them and makes us complicit in their violence.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if one has seemingly good politics on paper if those same principles don’t extend into their personal life. The way we interact with one another is more telling, and it is imperative that, as a community, we begin to hold each other to a standard beyond surface-level political performance.
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