• Adji Renfro

Issa Trap: Talking Politics in 2018

Updated: Jan 29

No one is entitled to your time.

In 2018 when the world is in political turmoil, it can be draining to discuss political matters. Conversations surrounding topics like mass incarceration, police brutality, immigration policy, access to necessities like nutritious food and clean water, nuclear warfare, geopolitical conflicts, environmental policy, sustainable energy, education policy, corporate regulation, and electoral politics can leave you pressed. Often times people will talk about politics as if these contentious issues are detached from the reality of their lives. But politics is not just conceptual. These policies are having an immediate and heavy affect on real people. Everyday.

Take the DACA repeal and the mobilization of ICE agents for example. To reduce the conversation around immigration to easily manipulated statistics or to make it about tax dollars would be to ignore the tangible and often devastating impact on families that may live anywhere from 1,000 feet to 1,000 miles from us.

As Black people, we know the eviscerating pain of turning on the TV or opening twitter to see our lives reduced to hashtags, our schools reduced to performance metrics, or our communities reduced to statistics about gang violence. We also know how incredibly draining it is having political conversations with people whose only perception of the Black experience is characterized by the way we are portrayed on the news or movies coupled with their consumption of Black culture through our music and art. These conversations ignore the way the police interact with our people, how gerrymandering affects the way our schools are funded, how a lack of access, support, and opportunity leads to crime as a means of self-preservation. These conversations are void of the human aspect of politics.

So in 2018, we are reclaiming our time.

The days where we waste our time and precious energy debating with people about our humanity are over. If someone wants to argue with you, but does not understand the systemic and institutional nature of injustice then they are not worthy of your time. Power structures throughout history have oppressed Black women, Black men, Black children, Black LGBTQ+, Black people in poverty, Black people with disabilities, and all of their intersections. Explaining to a socioeconomically and politically powerful demographic of people how their policies, words, and actions affect real human lives when they have historically (and in my own lived personal experience) proven time and again they do not care enough to be agents of change is dead. It is not your job. You are not a professor. You are not google. If for your own mental health you do not want to engage in that kind of political discourse that is your absolute right.

Many white people will try to guilt you into it and in my experience they come in two forms:

One is a white liberal claiming they’d like to “learn more” and somehow in their mind you are the only source of knowledge capable of getting them the answers they need. It makes them feel down with the shits to talk about the struggle and attempt to prove to you that they understand it. These people often never have these conversations with their conservative counterparts and it is all very performative. A good ally would understand that you are not a play thing they can turn on and off to spout some centrist pseudo rage at whatever nonsense Trump conjured up that day. A good ally would understand you not wanting to have an incredibly draining conversation about the many issues at our doorstep.

The second is the white conservative that loooves to debate just for the fun of it. They are the ones that come prepared with heavily skewed statistics that ignore many of the nuances and realities we face. Often taken from Fox and Friends or straight from the President’s propaganda mechanism: twitter. They will be enraged at you not wanting to engage with them and blame you for widening the divide between the left and right because “no one is willing to talk anymore.” ISSA TRAP. Often it is an attempt to lure you into a one-sided conversation where they attempt to assert their point irrespective of what you have to say.

By no means am I saying we should stop talking about politics or only discuss politics with people who have comparable ideologies as us. What I am saying is that no one is entitled to your time, your energy, or your knowledge. You have no obligation to suffer and be heard but not listened to.

In 2018 we are only engaging in meaningful conversations that end in action plans rather than pent up rage and passivity. We are focusing our energy on positive efforts like community involvement, volunteering, and attending actions. We are reclaiming our time because like water and energy, it is a vital and finite resource that should not be wasted.

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