Saturday, January 14, 2012

Just a few words

For my first post on this blog, I just want to take a moment to lay ground work for will hopefully be successful (and more interesting) posts on this blog. But I want to remind people about the need to always be looking the reason behind something and never be satisfied with an “on the surface” view of an event or person.
Given the type of audience I expect this blog to attract, (people with an interest in social justice issues) some reading this may think to themselves “I already do this”. That may very well be true. However, I still feel that much of the labeling that goes on in society is actually from the very people who consider themselves to be very accepting. Often times I will be in a situation where someone may say something inappropriate/insensitive, ex “that’s gay” or “that’s retarded”. I think its ok to approach the person about this, in fact I would encourage everyone who cares enough to work up the courage to try and speak out. Be mindful though of how you approach them. I don’t think it does anyone any good if you attack them just to make yourself look better or feel better about yourself. A situation like that could potentially be a “teachable moment”. I’ve seen that all potential value will be lost if you approach them a certain way. I think its best if you give them a chance to learn and see something from a different perspective rather than returning the ignorance by making them feel like a horrible, awful person for making a human error. Even the most considerate people have said or thought things that they regret and now realize were wrong. Keep in mind, not everyone has had the same opportunities to talk about certain issues openly. Give people the chance to learn.

Prompt: What do you think is the best way to approach and challenge those who say things that are insensitive?
            Is it more disappointing to hear insensitive remarks form people you thought were “on the right side”? ex. people in a social justice type group.

P.S.: sorry that this was more of a disclaimer than a legit post, but this things gotta start somewhere.


  1. For me in the past, I have been most successful addressing insensitive comments/words/remarks by first trying to explain why I personally find what the person said to be unnecessarily offensive and if necessary explain how someone else (perhaps a member of the group being targeted by the statement) could potentially feel had they heard those words. That being said, I think that in the right situation and in the right context, I think that being offended can be a positive experience if it leads to a learning experience. I think often, especially in the realm of experiential learning in social justice, that at times we all need to be offended, or at the very least have our core values tested, and put on the block, especially in my opinion, those of us with many majority statuses who are more accustomed to having our feelings/thoughts validated, rather than having our views being constantly shut down and corrected for us by members of the privileged group. I can think of one incident in particular in RAPP last year where I could have potentially been deeply offended and turned off by a comment a close RAPPmate made, rather I tried as best as I could to consider what the person had said and why they said it. In the end, while I didn't fully agree with the comment the person made, I did learn a bit about myself, and how something that I say can be attributed to my majority status(es) without my realizing of it.

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  3. Perfect segue into what I was going to say.

    I think that identity can play a role in how we address oppressive actions, words, and behavior. All too often people are seen as trying to "correct" what they think of as negative or oppressive. Making statements like- "you shouldn't do/say that because it's wrong" can really put people in a space that is not conducive to learning or self awareness. Valuing our own personal liberties and free speech is a part of American culture, and many people don't like to be told by someone else what they should or should not do or say. This can be especially true if the person who is trying to correct you has an identity that you do not- i.e. a white person telling a person of color not to use the n-word, or a hetero person telling a non-hetero person not to use certain language. This doesn't always go over well.

    I think the most important thing is to tell someone how they make YOU feel when they act oppressively. It takes a lot more courage to talk about how you are feeling in a moment of discomfort than it does to say "you shouldn't do that because it's wrong."