There’s a guy in my Monday night class.
He was in my Monday night class last semester.
And his big thing, his huge thing, is looking at the other side and agreeing to disagree when people get angry with what he’s saying or point out that he’s just… being a dick in the interest of exploring whatever it is that he thinks he’s exploring. He did it all of last semester in our class on “the everyday”, in the hallway when my friends and I were talking about literally anything, and on facebook when someone has an opinion and he feels like playing the Devil’s advocate pro bono.
And he did it yesterday during our first class of the semester when we were talking about the status of Confederate statues/monuments around the US and I swear, I nearly stroked out from anger.
At one point, he was like “the thing that worries me is that if the government shuts down this speech, what will stop them from shutting down other ideologies that they disagree with”.
Y’all… I got so mad I could barely look at him while I was talking to him and in the end, he just kept reassuring me that he really did agree with me and that he just worries about freedom of speech and I… am not looking forward to an entire semester of this nonsense.
I get that some people, when they look at the social and political climate of the world around us right now, see a fun debate exercise. For some reason, when people are talking about the real-world oppression and violence that they face or witness as marginalized people, there’s always (at least) one asshole that shows up to play Devil’s Advocate, cheerily turning our pain into fodder for their social experiment.
And without fail, when the pan gets too hot, they jump out and offer a tepid “maybe we should just agree to disagree” as a rather rotted olive branch as if we’re tied in a game of tennis or having a conversation about whether Marvel or DC has the cooler superhero groups.
I refuse to “agree to disagree” about social justice issues.
I refuse to “agree to disagree” on things that relate to my identity.
I refuse to pal around with someone who, upon hearing me express an educated opinion on race/gender/sexuality in media or fandom, leaps in to inform me that I’m overthinking things but then paints me as the aggressor in the end.
I refuse to think about the other side’s feelings or rights when the “other side” is determined to ensure the subjugation and/or annihilation of people like me (because of their race, gender, or sexuality).
I refuse to entertain the idea that criminalizing hate speech (or at the very least, not protecting it) is “just as bad” as what they’re doing to us.
Being empathic has never been my strong suit, and I get that empathy is hard to muster up some times.
But I am so tired of talking about things like my queerness or my blackness only to get into it with someone who doesn’t even care about what I’m talking about and who taps out with a mealy-mouthed “oh let’s just agree to disagree” the second I show them that I know what I’m talking about from my academic work and lived experiences.
It’s not worth it and it gets me nowhere.
Besides, have you ever noticed that people never “agree to disagree” when they’re winning?