I’ve been wanting to do a breakdown of the types of White People Pushback I’ve been seeing lately, but I hadn’t figured out how to organize them yet. And then…I saw a post from a White person who actually listed out all of the responses I’ve been seeing in one comment. I included a screen grab below.
I’m tired of being gaslit.
I’m tired of being told I am racist.
I’m tired of being told that since I’m white I have not and cannot experience racism against me.
I’m tired of being told that minorities can’t be racist.
I’m tired of being vilified for suggesting that POC check their privilege… we all, regardless of race, gender, or economic class have some sort of “privilege” over others in some ways.
I’m tired of being told that unless I figuratively (and sometime literally) kneel and genuflect in honor of whatever race then I am racist.
I am tired of being told that I should have to learn how to deal with my white guilt (that I don’t have).
I’m tired of being told that if I don’t do exactly what I’m told to do, or say exactly what I’m supposed to say, that I am the problem.
I’m over it. I don’t need to check myself constantly. I need to be respectful, show grace, and be kind. And that’s all I ask of others in return.”
There’s a lot to unpack, but it represents several of the things I see the most often, so I thought it might be important to address some of them because I see a lot of you getting pushback on your support and I thought maybe some of this would explain some of the responses you see. I don’t think we should ignore everyone who pushes back, but I also don’t think we should engage with everyone either. If you follow Rachel Cargle she breaks up a lot of comments on her page with direct response/examples of tropes (ex: https://www.instagram.com/p/CBqVucfnURl/) and it’s been VERY useful in trying to understand pushback I see as well.
1) Equating BEING SHAMED with FEELING SHAME: Brené Brown talked a lot about this on her recent podcast. She pointed out that if someone challenges you on something and you FEEL SHAME it is not the same as BEING SHAMED. It’s being held accountable. Our shame response stops any form of potential for growth, but EVEN MORE SO if we blame that response on the person trying to hold us accountable. I have had conversations with people who have responded to everything I’ve said in this way, like I was shaming them, when really I was trying to just hold them accountable in the same ways I try to hold myself accountable. If it’s someone I love/respect, I try to give them examples of how I’ve had that response in my life. If I really want to get through to someone I say, “I have had many racists thoughts/beliefs/actions that I have to work against every day,” to try to be an example of how to respond to that initial shame with a growth mindset. But honestly? I don’t bother engaging most of the time because I’m not trained to help other people mediate their shame.
2) Fox News Syndrome: Fox News takes one comment from a liberal (or sometimes a snarky conservative) and turns it into a “cause” that they should fight. I’ve been watching a lot of Fox News over the last 2-3 years; both when I lived with my Mom off and on, and now when I spend a lot of time at her place. I see this CONSTANTLY. Example: Last week a conservative pundit snarkily said something about burning down Mount Rushmore and the governor responded, “Not on My Watch,” on Twitter and for the next 24 hours everyone on Fox News kept referencing how the movement had gotten out of control wanting to burn down Mount Rushmore…A National Monument. They take what is surely a random/benign comment and blow them up to BIG ATTACKS FROM THE LEFT. “I’m tired of being told that unless I figuratively (and sometime literally) kneel and genuflect in honor of whatever race then I am racist.” Um…I’m neck-deep in this stuff and I’ve never had anyone tell me that. So it probably happened once and she’s blowing it up to something EVERYONE WHO SUPPORTS BLACK LIVES MATTER TELLS HER. In my personal opinion – debating with people who only watch Fox News takes too much energy because of this type of response.
3) Building An Arsenal Solely From Engagement On Social Media: I’ve seen this a lot on BOTH sides honestly. This is why I don’t like engaging on Facebook. There are some people who just LIKE engaging but they’re not engaging with academics or activists or historians or journalists…they’re engaging with average people who don’t always know how to explain what they’re feeling or what they believe but they feel the need to defend themselves and so ideas get oversimplified and often inflammatory and maybe not properly phrased. And then the opponent carries these oversimplified/inflammatory responses with them to use in other wars. Most academics and historians and activists are not using these type of arguments in their activism. But people on Facebook are. If someone was really willing to be challenged, they would not start fights on Facebook…they would read books/articles/podcasts from the experts on systemic race. Not this type of person intentionally avoids professionals and experts, only fights with people on Facebook, and then builds this victimhood out of those engagements. You send them links and they say, “I’m tired of being vilified for suggesting that POC check their privilege… we all, regardless of race, gender, or economic class have some sort of “privilege” over others in some ways” – When, if she would dig into some experts a little, she would see that most experts talk about all sorts of privilege that can double up with privileges around race. I just read and entire book where the author spells out all of the other types of ‘isms that exist along with racism. He is a Black historian who – for example – talks about his own gender/heteronormative biases. This girl just got in a fight with someone on FB and built her response from their response.
4) Oversimplified Meme Anger: This is someone who doesn’t like the memes they see but don’t really know how to “argue” with a meme. “I’m tired of being told that if I don’t do exactly what I’m told to do, or say exactly what I’m supposed to say, that I am the problem.” I mean, we have all seen a meme that says, “Then you are part of the problem.” Memes like what I posted recently that said that if you’re denying White Privilege you are providing evidence of it. People see that and feel ALL SORTS OF FEELINGS and just bottle them up instead of digging into them. They build attacks against memes instead of against the movement. I don’t love using memes for this reason, but MAN, sometimes they feel so on point I can’t help it.
5) Repeating responses/language they’ve seen without actually digging into them. The “I’m tired of being gaslit” one is a great example. They heard/saw this in response but if you asked them, “What is an example of when you’ve been gaslit” they would probably say something like, “That the criminal justice system is racist,” because they equate hearing something a lot with being gaslit. (Fox News also does this a lot, refers to any mantra as “the Left” trying to “gaslight the right”) When in reality, they’ve never looked at any of the research or anything and so they just classify it as “being gaslit” so they don’t have to.
This is a long post but hopefully it helps you categorize some of the pushback you might be getting and help you decide whether or how to respond.