I’m a middle-aged, white mom who frequently writes about social justice on the internet. In my real life, I’m surrounded by conservatives, both in religion and politics. They are coworkers, extended family members, part of my friend group, and the parents of my kids’ peers. It’s been tricky, trying to reconcile relationships with people whose everyday lives appear so similar to mine, but whose values differ in such profound ways.
There’s a mom at my son’s preschool who I am friendly with; in fact, I could see us being good friends. But one day I wore a graphic t-shirt with the words Coffee, Books and Social Justice (these are a few of my favorite things) and she commented, “Oh, I can tell we would never agree on politics, but I would be willing to listen to you.” I found it almost funny that social justice, which is supposed to mean equality and fairness for all human beings, is now considered such a liberal term. And just like that, wearing that shirt apparently signaled to those in my community that I’m on a different team.
When I post my writing on social media, I get a lot of private messages, mostly from white men, inviting me to coffee to discuss these issues. The thing is, I’m more than willing to engage in conversations with people who disagree with me. I truly believe that so much of the division in this country comes down to our inability to listen and learn from one another. We talk at each other, mostly from behind our keyboards, and are constantly formulating our next biting response instead of listening to what the other person is saying.