As a black woman living in the United States of America, I am very aware that not very long ago, I would not have been able to express myself the way I have the opportunity to do now. Less than 200 years ago, I would not have had the right to vote, pursue higher education or work in circles as I have had the opportunity to do.
Yet, we’re almost at the end of 2017, and I’m constantly being asked not to share my views to save someone’s feelings, or to keep from stirring the atmosphere of a room. Why would I shy away from exercising the rights that I’ve been afforded?
Time and time again, I have witnessed in person and online how people are shut down because they’ve shared a dissenting opinion. On one hand, I understand how difficult it can be to listen to someone share views that you wholeheartedly disagree with. Yet, I would assert that these are the best times for a conversation to begin. After all, change is never achieved without someone first disagreeing with a popular idea. Closing off a conversation just because you don’t like what someone has to say leaves both parties ignorant to the alternate viewpoints that exist.
It is very seldom that a group of people can agree on any one thing. This is the reason why we have referees, hold meetings and have created a judicial system. While these systems are not perfect, it is understood that it is necessary to consider both sides of the argument before making a decision. What makes these processes work is the fact that debates happen, ideas are shared and conversions are made.
It’s time that we stop living within our bubbles, afraid or indifferent about hearing opinions that you disagree with. Are you going to be offended and will it be uncomfortable? Perhaps, but it’s likely that the person who holds a dissenting opinion is uncomfortable too. It’s not pleasant to go against the grain, but if you’re being affected by something and you don’t agree with it, you’d probably say something. Isn’t that why you have your own opinion?
The next time you’re preparing to shut someone down, try to keep an open mind, welcome lively debate, explore different perspectives and share openly. It may be awkward at first, even a little annoying, but it’s necessary.