So, a bunch of would-be allies have protested getting “flamed” or “piled on” or basically told to sit down and shut up, in Racefail 09, because they tried to join the discussion by contributing their own experience.
Well what did they expect?
In any discussion of privilege, stereotypes, oppression, agency, if you are on the plus side of the particular issue, do not try to join in with comments about your experience. It may seem like a gesture of sympathy and solidarity, but it isn’t. It’s you taking the focus away from the injured party. Don’t do that. It’s not about you.
Do not try to say that you are not privileged because, while you may be plus in this particular area, you are minus in others. For one thing, that’s flat wrong. If you are plus in this area, then you have privilege in this area. Trying to deny that by waving all the other areas in which you are minus just makes you part of the fail and ensures that the people who have to deal with a minus in the current discussion will have zero reason to respect your minus when that’s under discussion. For another thing, it’s beside the point. Because right now, it’s not about you.
Do not suggest that, yes, this is awful, and shouldn’t we all try to be colorblind (religion-blind, gender-blind, etc.). The only way anyone could imagine such a thing is a) possible or b) a good idea is by being plus in the area in question, and therefore not having to worry about it, not having to be aware of it constantly, not having to deal with how it makes you invisible or second class every day. Such a statement comes only out of a plus experience. Don’t make it. Because it’s not about you.
Do not, for the love of little pixels, try to tell anyone to calm down or be less angry. Do not try to join in by offering your own solution to the problem of being angry. Being angry isn’t the problem, it’s a reaction to the problem. More importantly, that isn’t your anger, so you don’t have any right to say what gets done with it. If it makes you uncomfortable, too bad. It isn’t about you.
You’re plus in a given debate and you still want to contribute? Listen. Don’t talk. Listen. Don’t tell about your own experience. Listen to someone else’s. Don’t deny the anger and don’t try to fix it. Listen to it. When you see another plus person failing in one of the above manners, step up and point out that it isn’t about them, and now is not the time for defensiveness or guilt. Now is the time for listening. Because the sad truth is that a lot of us listen better to people who are like us than to the people who actually have the experience under discussion. If you can redirect attention to where it currently should be, do it. That’s a bare first step, but it’s one that truly astonishing numbers of people seem unable to manage.
Also? Do not comment to this and prove the point in spades by talking about how your intrusion of your own experience into this or any similar discussion wasn’t like that. Because (all together now) it isn’t about you.