We are born followers. We see what our parents do and say as babies and we copy. Our first word may be dada because we hear our mother say it a million times and eventually it sticks to our minds. We don’t understand what it means or what we’re saying, but we say it because we see everyone else do it so how could it possibly be wrong. Through political socialization we discover our morals and beliefs. The impact society has on a baby is immense. But the first impact is that of the mother. When a mother picks her newly-born baby for the first time, that is the beginning of a lifelong following. She will be a follower until her teacher tells her it’s okay to sit next to a black girl even though her mom said to stay away. She will be a follower until she sees the horror that the Republican Party has become and becomes a Democrat or independent. The media, our peers and education are some examples of agents of political socialization.
Media is a funny reality of our time. Some news headlines talk about gossip and the idiocracies of celebrities while others explain money and politics. But the one thing all these different headlines have in common is they shape our world view. For example when we hear about Afghanistan as a country, the images of dirt roads, begging children and the Taliban comes to mind. People tend to forget Afghanistan was not always a country afflicted with war and terror because the media only talks about the war and terror. They show pictures of the ongoing bombings but seem to ignore the progress the country may have made over the years. All the bad is visible while the good is shoved in a tiny box. So how can we blame someone for thinking that everyone who comes from Afghanistan is a terrorist and will bomb us? That’s the impact the media has on a person’s beliefs or actions.
If CNN publishes an article about terrorism, how could it not be true? It’s CNN, a prestigious news network which has been giving us the news for ages. “Of course all Muslims are terrorists, of course all women who wear the hijab are oppressed by their husbands and their religion because the media said so.” That’s what someone born in a Caucasian Christian family might tell you. Can we blame them for trusting the good old American news outlets or be angered because they refuse to educate themselves in the topic. It all factors into political socialization. The media lets us know what is happening but we, as people, should do our own research and educate ourselves.
People like Miley Cyrus may want marijuana legalized throughout the U.S., so her fans probably agree. They agree to legalize a drug because the woman they found and praised through social media said it was okay. This is the impact the media has on a person and although the media is nice to watch, we must question whether what they say is true. We must educate ourselves.
Education, as many say, is the key to success, but it is also the key to getting rid of ignorance. Is ignorance truly bliss? Do we pride ourselves in not knowing what is going on and trust what we see. Unfortunately for many, we do. So much of the world is ignorant to what is going on around us creating horrible stereotypes and racist thinking. Political socialization has factored into this ignorance. People who try to find links between terrorism and religion or believe that people from minority groups are either as thugs, terrorists or illegal immigrants, are ignorant. This may not be entirely their fault, after all it is our mothers and fathers who show us what is good and what is bad, but you can blame them for not further educating themselves about such topics. So many people live up to the status quo, never challenging it because their society has said no and they agree to this. This ignorance is hurting other cultures and giving rise to many stereotypes. Political socialization is the gateway to someone being racist or someone understanding the culture, the religion and becoming respectful toward it.
Our parents teach us our values but what if we meet someone who defies everything our parents have taught us and we end up liking them, your views on certain politics will most likely change. You may become an aggressive feminist and walk around NYC protesting for higher wages. Or you may simply decide Donald Trump is an amazing presidential candidate and decide to vote for him. Either way our friends impact our beliefs. Sometimes friend’s values are more important to you than the ones your parents taught you, and sometimes they may be correct and change you for the better. But other times, the ones you once found most near and dear can only describe you as a stranger. Our peers impact us, they show the world the kind of person we might be, and sometimes the world is right while other times you may just be hanging around the wrong group of people.
To sum it all up, political socialization isn’t a bad thing, it often times brings people of various backgrounds together. But it also creates generations of racists and feeds off of stereotypes. I guess it really all depends upon who we meet.
The author is a NYC-based freshman.