I should have said this ages ago. I’m going to say it now.
This Coalition has recently lost two fantastic contributors because I didn’t stick up for them. Why didn’t I stick up for them, I hear you ask? I tell myself it’s because I don’t like confrontation, but that’s bullshit. I did it on the grounds of white male privilege. Not knowingly, but that’s the reason.
It’s not the time or place to go into detail, but suffice to say I let people get away with harassment of contributors because I didn’t understand. I was looking at the situation through a lens – the lens of the average white male. I didn’t act (or rather, not act) out of malice, but because I genuinely couldn’t comprehend what the situation was through any other pair of eyes.
It’s all well and good offering platitudes and nodding and saying you understand, but unless you’ve walked in another person’s shoes, you can’t claim to truly understand their experiences. I am not black, nor am I a woman – and I’m never going to be either of those. When they came to me with concerns about being harassed and belittled, I should have tried to see things from their perspective.
Whether the people doing the harassing knew what they were doing, I don’t know. It’s entirely possible that, like me, they weren’t consciously doing it, and just couldn’t perceive their actions through a different perspective. Sometimes our privilege blinds us. We are guilty of institutionalised sexism, racism and bigotry, without even realising it.
So it’s important to stop, and think. What does the person on the receiving end think? The next time you write a comment or post accusing someone of being emotional, ask yourself if you’re making that statement because you genuinely believe it, or if you’re only asking it because they’re a woman. If a person of colour is explaining something to you, don’t belittle their experiences – their experiences are unique to them, and unless you’ve been through something similar, don’t pretend to know what they’ve been through, or what it’s like to be them.
This goes for any situation where you’re dealing with anyone who isn’t you.
Maybe this is the start of a new way forward. Please, don’t be afraid to ask one another questions, but take greater care over both what you’re saying and how you’re saying it. The person you’re talking to isn’t some faceless username, they are a human being, to be treated as such.