The Privilege of “More Important” Things

What you heard:

The media/political news/my friend/etc is focusing too much on Russia/the Boy Scout speech/Trump encouraging police brutality/etc and should be talking more about health care/dismantling of regulations/the economy/etc.

Most of this commentary comes from those who are white, male, or occupy upper income levels. Most likely the person you’re hearing this from is some combination of the three, since they all inform each other in an endless cycle of the American privilege feedback loop.

What it means:

For all of our talk about understanding and acknowledging privilege, we as white/male/moneyed Democrats are still not doing a great job at it.

To tell anyone that X thing is more important than Y thing is to automatically assume they live their lives under the same conditions as you, have the same priorities, and are equally impacted by certain policies. It’s also a form of racism & sexism – every time a white person tells a person of color what they should actually be talking about, they imply that people of color aren’t capable of determining what’s important to them and their lives. Every time a man tells a woman what she should actually be talking about, they imply that women aren’t capable of determining what’s important to them and their lives.

There was a lot of talk like this floating around during the healthcare debate, things like “Stop talking about Russia and focus on healthcare!” And yes, talking about healthcare was – and is – important. But remember: we wouldn’t even be having the healthcare debate if systematic discrimination and racism hadn’t manifested itself in voter suppression laws, or if the GOP hadn’t lied about Obamacare for nearly decade, or maybe even if the President and his lackeys hadn’t conspired with a foreign power to influence an American election.

Nothing in politics exists in a vacuum.

When Donald Trump rants about putting Hillary Clinton in prison in front of 40,000 Boy Scouts and encourages police brutality in a speech broadcast across the nation, maybe you think it’s unimportant. Cable news should be talking more about the economic danger of letting Goldman Sachs executives run rampant in the Administration, you say. That’s your priority, and you’re lucky to occupy a space where you’re not affected by other horrors.

But for someone who fled religious prosecution in any number of places across the world, or for a family who was driven out of their homeland after a candidate they opposed lost an election, the idea of jailing those who don’t agree with you hits terrifyingly close to home. For a mom who’s lost her son to police violence because he committed the sin of wearing a hoodie or carrying a toy water gun while existing as a black child (not even yet a man), brutality accepted and condoned means more fear and worry for her community.

There is no one issue “more important” than the rest.

That’s the great thing about Democrats, though: as diverse as we are, we’re bound together by a common idea that we all do better when we all do better. There’s no need to tear each other down or condescend about what issue you, or I, or our friend down the street, or a stranger halfway across the country, should care about most. It’s when we all come together and listen to each other that we’re able to develop a platform that embodies “better” – for everyone, not just for the privileged.

And what’s more important than that?

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