I pulled someone up on a “And I don’t care if that makes me a racist” comment in what was meant to be considered a safe online space. Ironically their comment wasn’t racist and actually quite culturally educational until they made that comment. It became racist when the person said they didn’t care if they were racist (because people should care if they’re being racist).
Sadly, rather than taking on board the “heads up”, they wrote a defensive comment then left the group.
The online world can be a pretty toxic place, but when you’re in a safe space, it’s really important to continue to learn and accept new information to process, so you can become a kinder more understanding person.
Imagine if more of us approached online discussions full of wide-eyed wonder!?!?
I hang out online quite a bit, so I am regularly being corrected, particularly in my learning around two issues: disability (what was once considered OK can change and is often different from country to country!) and gender pronouns (mostly because I bravely ask as I find a lot of it confusing – even yesterday I learnt that someone can be OK with the pronouns she/them/he and not necessarily be OK with being called a woman).
Being corrected can sometimes be upsetting if it’s done angrily or unkindly (even curtly can sometimes be rather jarring), but if it’s done kindly it can be a great experience for everyone involved.
I try everyday to be a better ally online to those who are more vulnerable than I am or different to I am or have more challenges than I do. And when it comes to my own vulnerabilities, I can only hope that others will take the opportunity to learn as well (e.g. you don’t hold less value as a person if you are fat; discrimination against fat people is unacceptable; fat people deserve to be happy and healthy; diet culture is a capitalist scam and dieting has proven to not work for the majority of people; weight loss diets actually increase your chances of becoming fat over time; talking about dieting can trigger someone’s eating disorder; being anti-diet does not mean you are anti-health, don’t value health or don’t strive or are working towards being healthier).
Note, none of this is the same as hanging around in unsafe online spaces where there’s no constructive conversation happening. Those spaces are not designed for learning. It’s OK to leave those spaces well alone!
It can be exhausting to be an ally, but it’s more exhausting being part of the minority or vulnerable community that is being maligned, misunderstood, insulted, discriminated against, spat on or murdered.
When you’re not actively being an ally and you’re just going about your business and you say something wrong, consider what that person is saying and try to learn from it. You don’t have to agree, but you might learn something new that helps you change your view over time or eventually agree.
“Wow! I didn’t know that/realise that. Thank you for helping me better understand.”
It’s the most humbling of experiences. I strongly urge you to try it.
Yours in wide-eyed wonder,