Speak up: why are millennials afraid of confrontation?

By Jamie Linton, Columnist

The other day a friend of mine wrote a drawn out Facebook post ranting about her ignorant friends who use racial slurs and straight friends who use homophobic slurs.  She concluded her post by proclaiming that she won’t call attention to someone about their wrongdoing unless she’s very close with that person.

That same day another friend was texting a boy who used a racial slur, and after being confronted about it responded with “oh, you’re one of those people”.

This is the problem with our generation.  Speaking from my own experience, millennials are more “woke” than our parents in terms of social issues — likely due to our heavy involvement in social media, allowing us to spread ideas and understand issues from a global perspective.  However, being educated about these issues only solves half the problem.

By refusing to call out friends and peers for their wrongdoings, we perpetuate ignorance. Likewise, staying silent when someone uses a slur in a poor attempt at comedy only encourages offensive “humor.”  When you laugh politely but then later cringe to yourself after a classmate calls something he thinks is stupid, “gay,” you become part of the problem.

When you allow someone who is not a person of color to rap along to the N-word, you become part of the problem.  What ignoring these “small slip-ups” does is conserve a society that is systematically racist, sexist and homophobic.

Unfortunately, this fear is understandable.  During a time where nearly an entire presidential candidate’s platform is based on refusing to be politically correct, taking a stand to avoid blatant offenses and microaggressions can be intimidating.

When terms like “crazy liberal” and “social justice warrior” have been stigmatized, and words like “feminazi” have become mainstream vocabulary, addressing our peers in hopes of educating them can be seen as overbearing and aggressive.

Although I condemn my friend for staying stagnant in a volatile situation, I understand her internal conflict.  It’s difficult to have an open discussion about something that offends you while also trying to avoid preserving false stereotypes like “the aggressive feminist.”

Addressing these issues through a social media platform, like my friend did, is a great start to reaching a large audience; however, we cannot continue to stay silent.  Overcoming ignorance is a two-way street where each driver must be understanding of the other.

On a diverse campus such as the University, you will run across people with varying levels of social awareness, and it’s everyone’s job to help educate when necessary.  On the contrary, we also must be open to listening to other people’s opinions and know when the problem in question is an issue of being morally wrong or merely a matter of conflicting viewpoints.

This isn’t to say that I’m perfect.  In fact, this summer I found myself in a situation where I was the aggressor.  Without going into too much detail, my ignorance led me to offend a friend, who responded in a very confrontational manner.

At the time, I was defensive due to my own discomfort, but looking back on the situation I was able to learn from that experience and understand why my actions were so triggering.  Sure it lost me a few friends, but it made me realize that ignorance is unavoidable.  You don’t just come out of the womb understanding every detail of those who are different from you.  But you can work to educate yourself by asking questions and doing your own research.  This is the digital age, after all — Google it.

Constructing your own educated views and staying open-minded is an integral part of the college experience.  We are all problematic to some extent, but we can work toward eliminating popular issues by speaking up.

Jamie is a freshman in Media.

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