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Cliché and constructed responses to controversial topics are of no value in modern discussion about social justice issues

After a month under the Trump presidency,  the political and social divide has unfortunately managed to remain. There is a growing presence of those who yearn to diminish this divide, but are using empty rhetoric that lacks thought and effort. 

Here are five phrases—and prominent Facebook comments—that are getting really old:

“Just get over it.”

And move on! *Insert social issue* is over so we just need to let it go. This is a common phrase that is used in regards to issues that deal with discrimination against race, gender, religion, etc. Using a phrase like this as a means to downplay the importance of an issue is counter-productive. For example, slavery is not something that people can just “get over”, especially since it is deep rooted in this country’s history.

This phrase was also used following the 2016 election results in response to those who were not satisfied with the outcome. A phrase like this makes it seem acceptable to settle for less. It only works in the favor of those who are not affected by a problem despite their acknowledgement that the problem still exists.

“Put yourself in their shoes.”

A popular one amongst the plethora of Kumbaya rhetoric that sounds easier than it is. To put yourself in the shoes of another individual of a different cultural background seems to only provide a glimpse of what it is like. It lacks authenticity and makes it seem like by doing this, you would be able to have a full understanding of what it is like to be from another culture. It does not and will never provide an honest experience.

This phrase is merely a superficial attempt to understand cultural perspective. It would be more effective to emphasize engaging with a culture and the individuals who identify with it to learn more about it. That lens of experience is unique to that individual and by knowingly attempting to view through it would result in an unrealistic and constructed experience. That experience would hold no value.

“We should all be kind to one another.”

The classic cop-out that holds no substance when it is used to address an issue. This phrase should be a given and the fact that we still have to remind each other of this is unfortunate. This is also easier said than done. While it is true and the message is positive, it fails to address how we should be kind to one another and promotes progress without dealing with conflict. If anything, it should be “We should all be kind to one another when expressing opinions and perspectives, even if we disagree.”

“We don’t know what is going to happen, give it a chance.”

For those who were not happy with the results of the election and the subsequent controversial policies that were proposed, this response is not reassuring and it is stating the obvious. Being unaware during this presidency is not comforting and saying this in an attempt to find comfort is problematic. Knowingly pleading ignorance as a means to justify controversy is not a substantial answer. This is not to say that predicting the future is always correct either, but to say this phrase in response to criticism does nothing. The whole point of discussing issues is to talk about what is happening and ideas for what is going to happen.

“It is what it is.”

A cheap excuse to avoid addressing a problem. This phrase is closely related to the “Just get over it” as it manages to downplay the severity of a social justice issue. To say this comes across as though there is nothing that can be done to improve these problems and no efforts need to be made to do so. Essentially, it is giving up.  “It is what it is” does not solve anything and saying so does not mean that the problem will go away. This response relies heavily on laziness.

Using these empty phrases allows us to detach ourselves from engaging with one another in knowledgeable discussion. It takes away from the opportunity to learn about one another on an individual level and gain a better understanding about how we form our perspectives.

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