hey tumblr, i think we need to have a little talk.
sometimes i don’t think a lot of people fully understand the harm that can come from micro-aggressions that come from ourselves and our allies.
like yes, we absolutely should focus on the people who preach overt hatred; racists, queerphobes, sexists, y’know, the folks that you KNOW just by talking to them that they’re bigots.
but as well as that (yes, we can focus on both), we need to also focus on the little things that slip through from allies and people in our own communities, because in a way, those can be even MORE harmful, because they’re supposed to be coming from people who are supposed to be part of a safe space.
just because someone’s not saying something overtly oppressive with the intention of being hurtful, (“get in the kitchen and make me a sandwich b***h!” “marriage is between a man and a woman, not for you f****ts!” “white people are superior! go back where you came from!!!”), doesn’t mean that what you do can’t be sexist, racist, cissexist, queerphobic, etc. we grow up in a toxic society, and even if deep down, you really do truly believe in human rights for all, want equality, want to be a good ally, we still internalize those toxic messages, whether we realize they are oppressive or not. so sometimes we will say or do something hurtful without even realizing! and unlearning that behaviour takes time and effort.
i’m not saying people aren’t allowed to fuck up. we all do, we’re all human, and we’re all learning. what i AM saying, is that when a person of a marginalized group approaches you saying “hey, this thing you said/did wasn’t okay, and it really hurt me!” the wrong way to react is to get defensive at said person and act like they’re attacking you. because they’re not. they’re trying to point out that you did something hurtful, because they don’t want YOU to be a hurtful person!
sometimes that person will call you out in a rather angry manner. again, you shouldn’t get defensive, and don’t tell them to calm down! why? these folks are angry for a reason, and rightfully so; they’ve probably been dealing with oppression their WHOLE LIVES. chances are, they’ve proooobably tried the whole “educating people calmly” thing. they’ve proooobably tried everything in the book in order to get it across to others that blackface isn’t okay, that wearing a bindi as a white person isn’t okay, that the t-word isn’t okay, that not every person of __ identity fits __ stereotype, etc. and you know what? people still won’t listen. so after a while? my patience would sure run out trying to be kind to people who won’t listen to me. their anger is JUSTIFIED.
most often, marginalized folks will understand that yes you made a mistake, and realize you’re learning! we’ve all been there! but the thing is, it’s not usually the fact that you fucked up in the first place that people will judge you for, it’s how you deal with the aftermath and the effects of said fuck-up:
okay, so you are an ally or a member of a marginalized group yourself. someone calls you out for saying/doing something shitty. what the heck do you do?
- DON’T GET DEFENSIVE. i mean that. THEY’RE NOT ATTACKING YOU. they’re calling you out because you’re a member of the community, or you’re an ally, or you’re a friend or a family member, they care about you, you’re an influential person in some way, or you deserve to be a person who doesn’t say shitty things! ****this includes not telling the person to calm down. doing this takes the focus off of you and your fuck-up and tells the offended party that their feelings and expression of those feelings is invalid. they have every right to be angry!!!****
- APOLOGIZE. and i mean sincerely. apologize for what you did. don’t try to justify why you said or did it, just straight up apologize for doing it in the first place. period. ********(this does not include faux-pologies like “sorry you were offended by what i said,” because that puts the blame on the offended party for what you did.)********
- PROMISE TO TRY AND DO BETTER. when you apologize for whatever you fucked up, promise to improve how you handle your behaviour in the future, and do it. simple as that. for example, if you were called out for using a slur, in the future, if you need to describe a situation regarding that slur, censor it (ex: “t****y”, or “t-word”) in your apology, and always censor it from then on. if you use the wrong pronouns for someone, apologize for misgendering them, and move on and try to remember to use the correct ones next time. if you fuck up again? apologize! just always keep trying!
- DON’T EXPECT FORGIVENESS. this one could be a bit hard. if you’ve really hurt someone, it could take them a while to come around, if they decide to come back around. they do not owe you forgiveness, they do not owe you anything. just keep moving on and trying to do better. if your reasons for apologizing are solely because you want to be forgiven, then that’s for the wrong reasons. you should want to do better for YOU so YOU can become a better person, and so YOU don’t hurt more people, whether unintentionally or not.
- DON’T ASK TO BE EDUCATED. again, they don’t owe you anything. just because they’re willing to call you out, does not mean they are willing to sit you down and tell you WHY what you did was wrong. why? they’ve probably been through this hundreds and hundreds of times. education is exhausting, and it isn’t for everyone! and NO ONE should be expected to educate you. so what should you do? educate yourself! google is your friend, friend. find people/bloggers who ARE willing to educate! they’re out there i promise! some blogs will tag stuff (ie; /tagged/racism, /tagged/transmisogyny, /tagged/cultural-appropriation) and you can peruse those on your own.
the reason it’s so important for us to be careful about what we say and do, is because we’re supposed to be a safe space. if people who are supposed to be friends and allies to us perpetuate oppressive behaviour, then who are we supposed to feel safe with?? not to mention, if we let oppressive behaviour slide WITHIN OUR OWN COMMUNITIES, we’re also saying to privileged folks/oppressors that it’s okay for THEM to use oppressive language and actions (“but my queer friend called you ‘he!’”, etc.).
i hope this has been helpful! let me know if anything should be added or if i’ve messed anything up in any way. i don’t want to be speaking over people, so do give me feedback! and ask me questions if you have any!
If you scrolled through this, scroll back to the top and read this again. This is probably for you.