By DaiJhah Owens
“We can disagree and still love each other unless your disagreement is rooted in my oppression and denial of my humanity and right to exist.”- James Baldwin
Recently, America’s favorite daytime talk show host, Ellen DeGeneres, was at the center of a heated debate. She was spotted enjoying a sporting event with former president, George Bush. Many fans called into question, why a person like Ellen would ever associate with a person like President Bush, who by all accounts seem to have completely different views on life. Ellen’s response was that two people can have different opinions and still be friends. After all, she ends each of her episodes by reminding her viewers to “be kind to one another.” Ellen is not alone in this sentiment. Many people like her believe that as long as you are kind to someone, their belief system should not matter.
Ellen’s beliefs about kindness, aren’t bad, to a certain extent. I believe we should see the humanity in everyone and treat them with kindness and respect, simply for being human. BUT, at what point do we hold people accountable for their harmful “beliefs?” An opinion can go something like, “Pineapple does not belong on pizza.” Someone who disagrees with this opinion may say, “Pineapple on pizza is the ultimate topping.” These two people have different views but can still sit in the same pizzeria and enjoy their meal. Someone who believes the white race is superior and every other race should be extinct; well, there’s a little more to be said about this than just a simple difference of opinion.
It is a privilege to be able to say “just be kind” to those who think different than you. If kindness was the cure for all our problems, than our issues with race would have ended in this country with Martin Luther King Jr. The most notable civil rights leader who’s entire platform was based on peace and kindness. They still killed him.
You see, those of privileged groups, still view racism and other forms of oppression as an opinion or belief rather than a system. Their rose colored glasses don’t allow them to see racism for the cancer it is. It is not a singular belief of some white guy with a tiki torch, it is a well-oiled machine embedded in our everyday lives. Embedded so well, that those who aren’t the direct victims of this monster refuse to acknowledge its existence.
Just being kind will never be enough because it does not get to the root of the problem. Just being kind alone cannot rid us of structural oppression. Just being kind is just another band-aide we put on our problems in this country. When you smile at the black mom and her children in the grocery store but drive back home to your gentrified neighborhood to people who only look like you, welp, that’s your complicity.
I am not advocating that we don’t be kind to one another or that we don’t do small acts of kindness simply because we should. I am advocating that we take a deeper look at ourselves and the society around us. We have to challenge oppressive beliefs which in turn challenges our oppressive systems. We can not simply say, “oh, they just have a different opinion than me.” That is mentally lazy and helps no one!
Your kind heart should be a motivator for greater justice, not a barrier to deeper, more meaningful change!
DaiJhah Owens is a Contributing Writer for the Pedestal Project, LLC. DaiJhah is passionate about shifting political power to oppressed groups through education. She believes there is nothing more powerful than an educated black woman who can smell political BS a mile away! Connect with her on Instagram at @d_nakhole!