Student Voices: Rage, Race, Religion, and Politics - The University of Tulsa

Student Voices: Rage, Race, Religion, and Politics

This piece was written by Breanna McNaughton, who is a Biology Pre-Med Senior, Peer Mentor, and Oklahoma Center for the Humanities student fellow among many other things. It was featured on the OCH Blog on January 28, 2021, “Breanna discusses the divisions she has seen grow in this country over recent years and asks what role our political system has played in this growing rift in America.” Bree is pictured here doing lab work.

The events of 2020 through the early days of 2021 have proven to be significant points in history. However, not every memorable time in history is pleasant. Here’s what I have learned this past year: a life-altering virus can plague the earth at any moment (and I do not mean the coronavirus) and that division is prominent in human culture.

While coronavirus is a serious issue that has completely changed lives and livelihoods for everyone, I find myself visiting the notion of division being a prominent aspect of humanity. Whether that division is religious, political, cultural, or even visual, it has always existed. Growing up in the early 2000s, I did not think that America still faced the same issues that plagued our
country in earlier decades. This may have been because I was raised in a very accepting household—my sister is mixed-race, and in my family, we were always taught that love is love. I learned about slavery and segregation in grade school, while also being taught that police officers and firefighters were helpful individuals who served their community. I was not completely unaware of racism; in fact, I experienced it a few times in my youth. However, I credited those occurrences to a few bad apples who had survived through the progressive tides. Now, however, I’ve learned that racism runs deeper than I could ever explain in this blog post. I have always known and even expected the racial divide. However, I am completely astonished by the political division that reigns over America today.

We live in a bipartisan system: the Democrats (with liberals being thrown into this category) versus the Republicans. Sure, there are other parties that seem to make their way on the ballot, however, they are easily overshadowed.

Through our discussions this past semester about rage and human rights at the Oklahoma Center for the Humanities, I have been able to think critically about disparities and prejudices. Those conversations have inspired my latest question: Why and how are politics the main source of division? For example, I was casually scrolling on social media, and I read the comment of a mutual friend: “Those demons, I mean democrats…” and I was absolutely astonished. How did we get here? How did religion make its way into the conversation in such an aggressive, even toxic way? I am aware that this division has always occurred throughout history, and that religion has always played a part in politics. However, I feel as though everything has been amplified this past year due to quarantine and our constant access to the virtual world.

Rage has been expressed by every person over the past year. One of the most important things that I learned during this time period, is that everyone’s rage is valid—even if one does not agree with the source of that rage. In a way, race and religion ultimately play a role in politics and this further widens the divide. Factors such as human rights are a direct reflection of this political divide. Unfortunately, the political divide introduces a human divide, and there is a loss of compassion, understanding, and morality. Johnathan Haidt discusses the concept of political and religious divide in The Righteous Mind, which urges us to constructively disagree in order to made proper progress. I am not sure if people have the ability to put aside their differences in order to fix the world’s issues. However, if we could at least see the human factor in any of this, we might have a chance.

Breanna McNaughton is a biology major, studying to become a future obstetrician-gynecologists. Breanna currently works as a nursing assistant in a clinical setting.  Her research interests include pathogenic microbiology, artificial intelligence, and the human condition. Breanna is currently completing her Honors Plan project, the final component of her honors portfolio, where she analyzes the human condition through conversational interviews.