"There are three things I never talk about in public: politics, religion and money."
My experience as a journalist has shown me that a lot of people think this way. It's normally the people who have money that don't want to talk about it. People who don't really care too much about religion are the ones that don't want to talk about it. And folks who are staunchly conservative try not to talk about their views in the street for fear of being publicly stoned to death.
Obama's historic race had everyone discussing politics, so much so for the year and a half that he ran his campaign it became as normal a conversation starter as "How's the weather?" Now that he is in office, the culture he created for using ones voice is allowing folks to speak their minds on American policy, economy and such. Don't think that everything is fair game.
"Five Political Topics That Don't Go Over Well"
1. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict
Talk about a mood killer. Try uttering the words, "Well I think Israel/Palestine should..." and watch people's smiles disappear and ears perk up. The war between the two nations has been going long before Israeli was made into an independent Jewish state in 1948. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is like the abusive couple that lives upstairs. Sure, you hear them fighting every night. You wonder why they still live together. Time to time you call the cops, who only get turned away because the couple is determined to work it out themselves. At some point, you become numb to it. Why bother getting involved. Every American president since Israel's creation has tried his hand at helping the feuding populations reach an agreement but to no avail. You think that you have the grounds to speak on it like it's as simple as 1, 2, 3 will create for you new enemies for life. This topic also has a way of showing you just who people are. Within seconds everyone around you will reveal their nationality, folks you've known for years. "I'm Jewish", "I'm Palestinian". It's their way of saying "watch the the @#*% you say!"
2. Welfare Reform
In 1996, President Bill Clinton signed into law the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 aka The Welfare Reform Bill. This basically meant people receiving public assistance from then on would have to abide by a new set of federal and state guidelines or face being booted from the system. No one likes the people who take advantage of the system. In fact we all have this image of that moocher, who has several kids running around and spend their days sitting on the couch watching their stories while the majority of society works for a living. Yet the problem with speaking about Welfare Reform in public is that your views, either for or against, can come across as racist or elitist. Someone is bound to make a correlation (whether or not it's a valid point) between public assistance cases being black and brown single mothers. As you try to defend your P.O.V, chances are you come off as hating black people, single mothers or supporting laziness and out of wedlock births.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is about to lose her job for denying knowing anything about waterboarding. She blames the CIA for not informing her but a lot of people are calling her a flat out lair. Americans know we are at war, want victory but have the luxury of not witnessing the brutality that takes place in order to measure our success as the strong arm of the international law. We want Osama bin Laden to be caught but we don't think about the hundreds, thousands of people (some innocent, some not so much) who are beaten, killed or disappear just so we can piece together bits of information they confess under duress. Our government politely calls it "enhanced interrogation techniques" but really it's good old fashion torture and it just so happens that wateboarding is it's poster child. The reason why we as Americans can't talk about torture is because 95% of us have no idea what torture truly is and most importantly who the victims of it are. Being for or against torture is a catch-22. We all want to be safe, we just don't know, want to know or support the measures our government takes to make that possible.
If you are African-American, here's a surefire way to make white people uncomfortable: Talk about you still not having your 40 acres and a mule. Reparations is one of those things that should great in theory, especially for the folks who would be on the receiving end, but has no chance in hell of ever happening. Actually, reparations was real, short lived, but real:
In 1865, after the Confederate States of America were defeated in the American Civil War, General William Tecumseh Sherman issued Special Field Orders, No. 15 to solve problems caused by the masses of refugees, a temporary plan granting each freed family forty acres of tillable land in the sea islands and around Charleston, South Carolina for the exclusive use of black people who had been enslaved. round 40,000 freed slaves were settled on 400,000 acres (1,600 km²) in Georgia and South Carolina. However, President Andrew Johnson reversed the order after Lincoln was assassinated and the land was returned to its previous owners. In 1867,Thaddeus Stevens sponsored a bill for the redistribution of land to African Americans, but it was not passed.
Thus began the fight for African-Americans to be properly compensated for hundred of years of slavery. During the 90s, reparations came back into public yet no one could agree on how blacks should be repaid. Some where happy with just a public apology from the government (didn't happen) while other really want some land and a mule (definitely not going to happen). Still, there is not better way to play the race card than to bring up reparation but now that Obama is in office it's kinda a moot point.
5. Being Republican
Talk about having to defend yourself. The only time it's cool to talk about being republican is when you are in a room with only republicans. Otherwise, you find yourself having to defend a spectrum of republican views that may not be your personal views. Regardless, folks boiling hate for the republican party will be thrown at you. Don't let you be a republican of color, especially during last year's election, that's a death wish of sorts.
The X Fact(her) is a weekly column that appears on 99problems.org. Started on Inauguration Day 2009 by the League of Young Voter's Education Fund, 99problems.org is a non-profit initiative that aims to keep young people engaged in the political process through activism and community involvement. Please visit 99problems.org to find out how you can get involved right now! For more on Chloé A. Hilliard visitwww.chloehilliard.com