I see it all the time.
“Instead of focusing on Black Lives Matter, why don’t we talk about abortion?”
“I have an idea, why don’t we start sharing information about child trafficking the way we do about COVID-19?”
“Y’all spend your time discussing masks when we should really be bringing attention to police brutality.”
The world is full of problems and issues that need to be discussed. Public examination and debate is a vital way to bring awareness to these issues and we are in a better spot than ever before to do so. Our access to communication makes bringing light to a cause as easy as opening Twitter or Facebook.
A side effect of this communication is how quickly our timelines now fill with issues to talk about. In an ideal world, I suppose, this wouldn’t be a bad thing — the internet is big enough to harbor every charity event, news article, and personal essay out there. However, we as a species are driven by competition (queue “survival of the fittest” quote) and instead of welcoming multiple ideas at one time, we have created a competition of constantly pushing new things forward.
While this isn’t inherently bad, this idea of “what I want to talk about is more important than what you want to talk about” is, in my opinion, causing more harm than good.
Pitting two social issues against each other assigns them a tier status when they don’t need one. Who gets to say homelessness is more or less important than police budgets? Who gets to say mental health awareness is more or less important than systemic racism?
The problem with deciding your conversation is more important than the current conversation (or your perception of the current conversation) is that, as wholesome as your intentions may be, the fact that you feel you can categorize the importance of social issues means you have a bias about them.
Again, it’s not inherently bad to have some sort of bias or affection towards a particular issue. But it starts to become problematic when you use that bias to draw attention away from other equally important issues.
It is irresponsible and unethical to take momentum away from a cause simply because the ego you have associated with a different one isn’t getting enough attention.
Let’s look at an example I’ve seen a lot on my social media feeds in recent weeks: “Let’s stop freaking out about COVID-19 and focus on the much bigger issue of child trafficking.”
The coronavirus pandemic is a very important, current issue. Over 600,000 people around the world have died and millions have been hospitalized. Over 14 million cases have been documented. People haven’t been able to give final goodbyes to loved ones or even participate in funerals. Economies have halted, millions have lost jobs, countless people have developed mental health complications, and domestic violence rates have increased. Cases in the United States are increasing and the number of deaths, while not significantly increasing, are not dropping. Wearing a mask to help slow the spread has gone from a medical recommendation to a political issue, causing further division in our country. The coronavirus has affected and continues to affect millions of people.
Child trafficking is also a very important, current issue. Current statistics estimate over 10 million children are victims of child trafficking at any given time. Jeffrey Epstein’s arrest and questionable death in 2019 and Ghislaine Maxwell’s recent arrest have brought more light to involvement from some Hollywood elite. The International Labor Organization reports that forced labor generates $150 billion in illegal profits per year. Children living in poor countries with little protection to begin with are often targeted, but people from wealthy countries like the United States also participate in this heinous crime. Human trafficking is an underground crime and very difficult to track, and more funding is desperately needed to help combat this exploitation of children. Child trafficking has affected and continues to affect millions of people.
Both of these issues are extremely important. But do you want to know the good news? Coronavirus and child trafficking are not mutually exclusive! We can talk about both! We can give plenty of time and awareness and money and attention to both of these causes, as well as plenty of others.
I know it’s impossible to give 100% of your attention to ten different social issues. It also gets mentally and physically draining to advocate for dozens of causes and give attention to everything else life requires.
I’m not saying you have to give a fair share to everything — people need to specialize in certain areas and causes so they have the ability to give that 100%. I’m just tired of seeing this constant competition for attention and watching equally important causes get undermined by someone who thinks the world is only big enough for one social issue at a time.