Culture, Feature Story

4 Things to Keep in Mind When Discussing Politics

Last week, I attended the NAACP’s Presidential Candidate’s Forum and I was very excited to be there. I was excited to see some of the candidates I’ve been following on social media and I was also looking forward to meeting candidates who were new to me. 

I’ll be real with you– I’m still trying to decide who I am voting for with the upcoming presidential election. Right now, I consider myself to be in what I call “the research stage” because I am taking my time to learn more about each candidate. 

It was an amazing experience to attend the forum because I’ve never attended a Presidential Candidate Forum where I was able to see the candidates in person.

I’ve attended one presidential debate and that was at a debate watch party. It was in 2008 when Obama and McCain were debating in Nashville, Tennessee. I took my two oldest children Elijah and Michala with me. This was when I was a single mom and hadn’t met my husband yet. 

NAACP Presidential Candidate's Forum Detroit
Photo of me at the NAACP’s Presidential Candidate’s Forum in Detroit, Michigan.

I remember feeling so excited to go to the watch party. I really wanted Elijah and Michala to experience it, too, so I specifically selected a family-friendly debate-watch party. I told both of my children to take in everything and remember this moment because it was historical. 

I kind of felt the same way at the candidates’ forum last week. I was also thankful for the opportunity to attend the event because I wanted to learn more about each candidate. Granted, two minutes for each talking point isn’t enough time to learn everything about each candidate, but I felt like it was a nice introduction.

It encouraged me to continue researching candidates from ALL parties and to try to be more proactive in encouraging my family, friends, and other voters to do the same!

American Urban Radio White House Correspondent and CNN Political Analyst  April Ryan
American Urban Radio White House Correspondent and CNN Political Analyst
Reverend Jesse Jackson NAACP Detroit
Rev. Jesse Jackson

Naturally, I featured my experience at the Presidential Candidates Forum on my social media. It came as no surprise to me that I received a few negative messages about a candidate or the fact that I was even attending the event.

A few messages I received were not very kind. Some were presumptuous and just downright rude. I’m not going to get into what these messages said because I don’t want to focus on negativity.

Instead, I thought I’d share my thoughts on what I think we should remember when we discuss politics with family, friends, and strangers.

Senator Cory Booker NAACP Presidential Candidate's Forum
Senator Cory Booker (NJ)
Beto O'Rourke NAACP Presidential Candidate's Forum
Former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke

Here are my four thoughts:

1. Respect others beliefs and viewpoints, especially if they’re different from yours.

I made this tip to be number one because I think it’s important to be respectful of others. Not everyone thinks the same. Being your own person and embracing our individuality is a beautiful thing! When discussing politics with other people, we have to remember everyone has different feelings and thoughts on things.

I’ve been married to my husband for eight years and we do not always agree on the same issues. I’ve learned the hard way from a few arguments we’ve had (Hey, I’m not perfect!) over politics that it’s important to see his side and RESPECT his viewpoint. 

It’s not cool to bash others who believe differently than you. It’s not cool to be hateful or bully someone because they don’t support the same causes as you. If after discussing politics with a friend she still disagrees with you, then respect her beliefs and let it go. Change the subject and talk about something else. If you feel uncomfortable with your friend’s viewpoints, then simply excuse yourself from the room or politely end the conversation if you’re talking via phone or internet.

“Let grace lead you when discussing politics. Be respectful when sharing your beliefs and concerns.  We need to keep talking with each other about the differences. But we need to do so without wrapping up our entire identity and relationships in the political choice.” — Nancy Berns, Ph.D., “How to Love People When You Hate Their Political Choices”

Mayor Pete Buttigeg
Mayor Pete Buttigieg (South Bend, Indiana)
Former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro
Former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro

2. Keep an open mind. 

Just as we are free to have our own personal beliefs and political views, I think it’s also important that we keep an open mind. When discussing politics with a friend who has different beliefs than you, try not to be quick to anger or judgment. Take the time to listen to what he has to say. I mean truly listen. You never know, you may learn something new. When we take the time to truly listen to others, we can learn something that may be helpful for us. 

“Keeping an open mind is realizing that we all perceive the world that we live in differently. It’s remembering that when we read (or listen) we are “decoding” at the same time—trying to understand and make sense of information, all through our unique and limited worldview.” –Melissa Pennel, “How to Be Open-Minded When Others See the World Differently”

Senator Bernie Sanders NAACP Presidential Candidate's Forum
Senator Bernie Sanders (VT)
Senator Bernie Sanders
Senator Bernie Sanders

3. ALWAYS do your research. 

One time I was at church and the pastor was about to deliver his sermon. Before he began, he encouraged the congregation to keep reading our Bible and research the Scripture and points he was discussing. He said it’s important to read the words for ourselves and also fully understand what he is trying to explain. The same is true for choosing and understanding your political beliefs. 

It’s important to do your research on candidates you are interested in voting into office or social issues that are important to you. Don’t just take somebody’s word for it. Research it! Take others commentary and viewpoints into consideration and then research it for yourself. Self-educate. Always. 

Senator Amy Klobuchar (Minnesota) NAACP Presidential Candidates Forum
Senator Amy Klobuchar (Minnesota)
Former Vice President Joe Biden NAACP National Convention
Former Vice President Joe Biden

Travis is always listening to podcasts and watching YouTube videos about political and social issues. I must confess: I didn’t start doing this until about a year ago. Through my husband’s example, I discovered when I educate myself and research topics that are important to me, I feel empowered and inspired. 

You can’t just rely on one person’s or group’s point of view. Some of the content we view on social media is very biased. Sometimes words are taken out of context or video footage is edited in favor of someone else’s agenda. Taking the time to research candidates and issues will help us make a more informed decision. 

Former Vice President Joe Biden NAACP Presidential Candidate's Forum
Former Vice President Joe Biden
Senator Kamala Harris NAACP Presidential Candidate's Forum
Senator Kamala Harris (CA)

4. Ask for a source.

This kind of follows what I was saying about doing your research. I think it’s important to know the sources of information you receive because it helps you understand the information better.

As much as it gets on his nerves, I always ask Travis for a source for information he shares with me. Maybe it’s the teacher/writer in me, but it helps me understand the information presented if I know the source. I mean, not to be rude or anything, but having a credible source is important! 

If a friend shares information with you about a political or social issue, you can KINDLY ask for his source. You can also ask why he holds the belief he does. It can be an opportunity for you to understand where your friend is coming from and if needed, offer a RESPECTFUL rebuttal (with sources, of course). 

Senator Kamala Harris and April Ryan
Senator Kamala Harris
Former Governor of Massachusetts Bill Weld NAACP Presidential Candidate's Forum
Former Governor of Massachusetts Bill Weld (The only Republican candidate at the forum.)

I think we all can agree the last three years have been very tense politically in our country. And now that we’re in the midst of the 2020 election, more and more people are becoming vocal about their personal beliefs and political viewpoints. 

It’s cool to speak your mind. It’s your right. We all have the right to freedom of speech, but I think there’s a way we should go about it. Showing respect to others, keeping an open mind, taking time to research, and being a kind person is key to talking politics with our family and friends.

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All photos by Jennifer Hamra for Good Life Detroit.


What are your thoughts?