Leibee: The most important issues aren’t always the ones that affects you

Katrina Leibee

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual authors only and does not represent a stance taken by the Collegian or its editorial board. 

If it’s not already clear, America has a lot of issues. Just to lay the groundwork, the US struggles with every ism you can name, faces a mass shooting epidemic and shows a lack of involvement in reversing global climate change. On top of all these issues is the problem of trying to rank their severity.


Which ones affect the most people? Who has been oppressed for longer? Should we be giving some people reparations for the mistakes we made in the past? We ask for those questions to somehow label one issue as the priority for the government.

Ultimately, the issue that will always be the most pressing and the one that deserves the most attention is the one that affects you. Whether someone is affected by racism, sexism, homophobia or any other discrimination, the oppression that threatens a persons identity will likely be the one they believe is the most pressing thing for our government and for society to prioritize.

However, just because something is important to an individual doesn’t mean it’s what’s best for society to focus on. 

In January, I wrote a column entitled, “The Women’s movement is not the most important issue.” That period of time was when the border crisis was becoming more apparent. It was a moment when it was unclear if people were marching because women’s issues were truly pressing at the time, or just so feminists could shout, “Don’t forget about us!” over all the other issues happening in the United States at that moment. 

You might ask someone in need of an abortion how important abortion rights are in the United States. Alabama’s governor signed an aggressive anti-abortion law in May and more states have tried to enact laws restricting abortions. To a woman living in Alabama, the government’s focus on this issue is more important than anything else.

For women, passing the ERA and ending the gender pay gap is the priority— they see it and are affected by it everyday. They aren’t going to skip the women’s march for anything.

This is where we as a nation struggle. Everyone has different identities and the discrimination that each person faces is the most important issue to them. We have very loud voices coming at our government from every which way, persuading them all to prioritize and consider their issue before or instead of others. 

The skill of knowing when you have a right to speak on something and when you should be silent and let others speak their truth is one that should be practiced everyday.

Luckily, we have a government whose responsibility is to prioritize, rank and decide which issues come before others. At the 2019 democratic debates, a lot of candidates said their top priorities when they got into office were gun violence and climate change

These issues are no longer just “policies the far left is trying to push.” They are fundamentally threats to the United States and the world. They are something the democratic candidates have recognized as too important to be pushed aside and too urgent to focus on anything else, meaning possibly putting a lot of other issues and movements on the back burner.

It’s not to say that they are not important, but more so that sometimes there truly is a best time and place for certain issues to be addressed. 


We might be thinking, if not now then when? There will never be a perfect time to stand up against the oppressions that people face in the United States. If we waited for the perfect moment, we would never have taken the strides that this nation has. If we waited until each issue was of uttermost important, we would be waiting forever.

That may be true, but there is a time for your voice to be quieter and for your voice to be louder. There is a right time to speak over someone or let them speak first— it’s up to you to know the difference. The skill of knowing when you have a right to speak on something and when you should be silent and let others speak their truth is one that should be practiced everyday.

It is okay to be aware of and prioritize the issues you personally face. Without passion and personal motivation, some of this countries worst failures would never have been rectified. But it’s also okay to recognize that this moment in time is not yours alone and you should stand behind the people who need a voice more than you do.

Katrina Leibee can be reached at letters@collegian.com or online at @KatrinaLeibee.