Why Should I Be “Nice” to Someone Who is Wrong (or Being Hateful)??

A lot of times I want to yell and scream and cry about everything that is going on in regards to racial equity and justice in our country….but I recognize the privilege I am experiencing by having my feelings about all of this come from my empathy, not my reality, so I am trying to manage those feelings to provide more room for members of the black community or communities of color to share their feelings instead.

And…along those lines…

One of the big ways that white people can “help” right now is to interrupt racism and call it out when we see it.  Every dang time. And so far, I’ve been actually seeing that happen a fair amount, which is nice.

What that has frequently looked like though (from where I’m standing) is people seeing someone being racist and then yelling at that person until they “run away”. (Sometimes digitally, sometimes mentally, etc).

But…and this is tough for some people to agree with or swallow….as a White person in particular….while it may be easier or more satisfying just to yell at someone, it is my belief that taking that course of action is mostly self-serving, because it just doesn’t yield results.

White people need to be having conversations. Respectful, thoughtful, and patient conversations…so that people can be open to hearing what we are saying.

After dealing with a lifetime of microaggressions, it is completely unfair to ask anyone from the Black community to be responsible for working on correcting even one more white person’s ignorance. Additionally, to have those kinds of conversations, someone who is black may have to minimize and compartmentalize a lot of their own personal experiences and feelings….and that is asking a LOT.

I’m not trying to make anybody feel guilty. Almost all of my friends and loved ones are extremely socially liberal and anti-racist and I’m proud of them for everything they’re doing right now to call people out on their crap.

But I truly think the thing that will actually help in our society/communities (as protesting and policy work advances the legal and constitutional aspects of everything) is teaching people and meeting them where they are at in their journey to understanding privilege and racism, so that they are willing to continue to learn and eventually “wake up.”

It’s not fair. It’s not easy. It’s frustrating. We shouldn’t HAVE to tell people to care about others. We shouldn’t HAVE to tell people why All Lives Matter and Black Lives Matter aren’t the same thing. We shouldn’t HAVE to explain that peaceful protests didn’t work. We shouldn’t HAVE to explain what privilege is. We shouldn’t HAVE to “break it down Barney style” in order for White people to understand that they have benefited from systemic racism

BUT. I have not once EVER gotten someone to listen or change by shaking someone by the shoulders and saying “how can you be so ignorant and cruel?!?”

And I HAVE by being respectful, careful, and thoughtful.

It’s more challenging, it takes time, and I am usually completely drained after these discussions. But almost always, by the end of one of these conversations—whoever I was talking to has shifted their thinking. Maybe it’s just a teeny tiny bit, but 99% of the time…they move a smidge. (Yeah, I’m from MN…).

There are some people who won’t change, no matter what–but if someone IS going to change- it’s not going to be because they got “yelled at.”

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