Saying what I Should have Said 

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. 

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26 thoughts on “Saying what I Should have Said 

  1. We should certainly listen, but ideas have to stand on their own merit. If they can’t be challenged, then what we’ve got is religion; and the worst variety of religion, for that matter. Apart from that, functioning successfully in this world requires the ability to deal with situations that are complex, unpleasant and even difficult. If I want to visit Iran, the “I’m not gay but my boyfriend is” t-shirt is probably not a good idea. In fact, that part of my life has to be concealed all together.
    We can try to improve the world, we can even try to enforce certain rules that make things easier for people, but we can’t (and shouldn’t) create artificial realities.

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    1. Yes, ideas should stand on merit. However, the manner in which ideas are challenged can have a bearing on how that challenge is received. Going in all guns blazing, without even attempting to consider where the other person is coming from, can lead to a fierce response. It’s the old adage of ‘push me and I’ll push back’. Almost inevitably, that degenerates into angry argument rather than healthy discussion. Sadly, that has happened a few times on here, which is why we’ve lost two contributors.

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      1. Grr, I hit send too soon. I see your point, but do you get where I’m coming from? People respond to people. People will switch off from a point if it’s made in an aggressive manner. It might get used as an unfair excuse to dismiss an argument – it might also genuinely upset or hurt someone when they make an argument, only to come under what they consider to be an aggressive response. I’ve seen both sides of this coin.

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      2. I do understand, but I think you’re giving yourself an impossible task. All sorts of websites have tried various approaches, and none have achieved a perfect formula. I think the best that can be done is to stop overt trolling, or point out overt trolling, but anything more than that is dangerous because it shuts down discussion- which is the way people genuinely learn.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I agree, it’s difficult, and I’m probably setting myself up for a fall. I think, what I’ll do is post a regular reminder of the rules, every so often, so it stays in peoples’ minds. I’ll also work harder to enforce them.

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    2. Being challenged isn’t the problem. It’s when the person who disagrees with you abandons the topic of discussion and attacks you personally for no reason at all and then it happens over and over and over again. I’m all for a great discussion, even a debate but once the name calling and sexist comments get thrown in, I know that the person on the other side of the conversation no longer has any valid points to make and is just looking for something – anything- to argue about

      Liked by 2 people

      1. But you’re smart and tough. It’s *necessary* for the world that people like you, in particular, make an impact. That will involve, time after time, difficult and unpleasant confrontations.
        And keep in mind you can set those standards as the discussion progresses. When there’s sexism, explain why it’s sexism etc.
        Walking away is not a solution. Certainly not in times like these.

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      2. No. It is not “necessary” for me to have to deal with some sexist asshole attacking me personally because I’m a woman of color with an opinion. The fact that you, as a man, even said that is a part of the problem. Yes I am smart and tough (thank you) but I’m not going to entertain someone who runs out of ideas to back their argument and starts to make false assumptions about me as a person.

        It’s one thing to actually be able to have a conversation with someone who doesn’t see the error of their ways and educate them but I’m not going to waste my time on someone who knows that they’re wrong and keeps doing it anyway.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. It’s ultimately your decision, but I firmly believe people create the most impact when they deal with people who hold differing views and are from different sociocultural groups. Otherwise you’re speaking into an echo chamber. Is your audience people who already agree with you, or is your objective to actually change people’s minds?

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      4. P.S. Just out of curiosity, do you think perspective bias could be playing any role at all in your perception? I ask because my last comment to you was very much a compliment, but your label of choice was sexist- and then you mentioned my gender. That misrepresents both my intent and the actual words I used- so I can’t help but think you’re starting with a conclusion and then trying to make the facts fit the preconception.

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      5. I said thank you. And I mentioned your gender because, as a man, you don’t get to tell me how to respond to sexist comments that you will never have directed at you. Just as if someone said sexist comments towards you as a man, I don’t get to tell you how to respond because I don’t know what your experiences are like and I never will.
        So no, I’m not trying to make anything fit.
        And like I said, it’s one thing to have an actual conversation with someone and be able to offer differing views and opinions. I’m not obligated to waste my time with someone who knows that they are wrong, and being sexist or racist, and is harassing me simply for the sake of harassing me.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. In response to: “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.” – Even if you’ve been through something similar, I think we shouldn’t pretend to know what they’ve been through.

    We can be more empathetic, & perhaps understand better how the person might feel, but, at the same time, all the facets of that person’s identity & all their experiences culminate to who they are & colors how they might feel. It’s impossible to completely know how a statement/event might affect someone else.

    I’m not suggesting we belittle anyone, obviously, but that we understand, even if we’ve been through something similar, we still don’t know what another person experiences.

    I mentioned this to someone the other day: An Internet without conflict is like peace in the Middle East – it’s a wonderful thought, but seems pretty much impossible right now.

    I think that the general rule of intersectional feminism might do well applied to The Coalition of the Brave. If someone says something is offensive, racist, sexist, abusive, harassment, or just plain trolling, believe them. Support them.

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  3. If people are going to ask hard questions and post comments about controversial issues conflict will always flare up, just check out some religious or political TV and You tube debates.

    If the kitchen gets to hot it is time to get out, it is that simple. It is just foolish to take anything personal because the bloggers do not know you personally, does that not make sense?

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    1. I understand what you’re saying, but my view is that it isn’t always that easy. We are all only human, subject to our emotions and it can be hard to remain impartial or impassive. I for one certainly find that tough. Maybe that’s a failing of mine, but it is who I am. A creature that is trying to learn, to grow and better myself and the way in which I treat others.

      Liked by 1 person

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