OurView: Privilege speaks louder than words; DeGeneres’ philosophy doesn’t apply

This past week at a Dallas Cowboys’ football game, TV personality and comedian Ellen DeGeneres was shown on public television sitting in a box office with former Republican president George Bush. Apparently, up until this point, no one had known the two public figures were friends and the internet exploded with controversy. Over the past week, DeGeneres has been widely criticized and shamed for the friendship with Bush, a man who was once considered the anti-christ of the left.  

DeGeneres defended herself on her Wednesday show, by explaining how she believes in being kind to everyone, not just those who think like her. Although her docile audience cheered her on, for many commentators, the response was infuriating. The reason is that being friends with someone who has a different political ideology is not the same thing as being friends with one of the most destructive Presidents in modern American history. Bush was responsible for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that left thousands of civilians dead, and he created a secret torture program for suspected terrorists on the coast of Cuba in order to avoid attention on U.S soil. In relation to DeGeneres, Bush also vocally supported advancing anti-gay policies while he was in office. 

Looking at Bush today, it’s hard to despise him in comparison to our current president, however, almost anyone looks better than Donald Trump. The problem is that Bush’s legacy during his two terms as president was blood-stained with innocent lives. From this perspective, it does seem somewhat ironic that DeGeneres, a self-proclaimed relatable comedian, seems to turn a blind eye to the violent political blunders of her friend. It does in a sense signify the privilege of DeGeneres to not acknowledge the fact that Bush’s in many ways would impact her community in a negative way. DeGeneres simply uses her “kindness” as the defense and although her argument works for many, it does not acknowledge the hypocrisy of her character.  

It’s easy to say that we can put aside our differences and be cordial with one another. It shouldn’t apply to things like whether or not queer people should exist or whether or not we should bomb innocent people. There’s a certain level of privilege that is required to ignore such dire differences. Discrimination and hatred aren’t just simple differences. These are direct markers of immoral human beings and are inexcusable. 

Choosing to ignore these political differences is not the right way to be tolerant. Tolerance requires people to seek out justice and help others become better people. It does not mean that we should forgive and forget every horrible “mistake” in the name of being civil.

We have to accept that even our favorite, most “liberal” celebrities will never stand for us. They will always stand for whatever puts them in a better light and makes them more money. Even our beloved Ellen chooses to stand with those that are like her: cisgender, white, and wildly wealthy. Not everyone is afforded that same privilege.