I’m going to try something. I’m going to talk about something that I really do and really don’t want to talk about. I do want to talk about it because I think it’s important and I believe it could help people. I don’t want to talk about it because there’s nothing more tiresome and misunderstanding-laden than text-based debating with people who don’t know you and don’t care about you as a friend, and this topic is sure to incite that kind of interaction, which I hate and which doesn’t fix anything. So maybe I’ll stay vague about it and maybe I won’t.
The core of what I want to say is that being the underdog or the oppressed party doesn’t make it admirable or right to command all other people to unquestioningly respect and accept everything you’re saying as inarguable fact, and give no consideration to opposing views. When anyone presents their views that way, all it does is make those views very hard and annoying to swallow for anyone who disagrees with them. This, in turn, makes it harder for the oppressed party to reach their objective of making the world a more fair and understanding place. Like it or not, the world needs some coaxing and enticement to change. A change of attitude in the oppressor is not going to come from the oppressor being vilified, dismissed outright or yelled at. You gotta put out some honey to attract flies, and that’s ok, because at the end of the day, you’re attracting the flies, and that’s the most important thing.
If you have a view to share that you feel passionate about, start it with phrases like “I believe that…” or “Based on my personal experiences, I feel strongly that…” etc. These phrases don’t weaken what you’re saying. In fact, they make it more relatable and more believable. Saying “XYZ is the absolute truth,” makes it easy for others to simply say “No, it’s not,” and give you no credence, no matter how noble your intentions are. Saying “I experienced XYZ and therefore I believe XYZ, but I understand how other people might not,” is pretty hard to argue with.
I feel the need to say this because of multiple facebook interactions and blog posts in which friends viewed things as black and white, that actually had shades of grey. We need to face the fact that EVERYTHING has shades of grey, and nothing is black and white, and that’s ok. It keeps things interesting. We also need to face the fact that we all have different life experiences and perspectives, and all of them have some validity or at least some understandability to them. No one’s a saint and no one’s the devil. And many people who are part of one oppressed group are also part of another dominant group, or benefit from being perceived as such. Everyone makes mistakes and no one has behaved perfectly toward everyone in their life all the time. What is the difference between insulting someone directly and saying something ignorant? It all contributes to making people feel negative. If you’ve ever hurt someone’s feelings, who are you to not understand when someone else hurts yours, no matter how it’s done?
What I’m getting at is that if you want a more just and kind world, you need to exhibit those qualities in the way you speak and the way you live. No “my way or the highway” talk, no withholding forgiveness from people who try to make amends, no lack of effort to understand others, even when their views bother you.
When someone hurts you, talk to them about it, and give them a safe space to explain their actions and apologize. Request an apology. Accept an apology. Offer an apology if you acted in a not-great way toward them. If they’re lacking in some knowledge you think they ought to gain, teach it to them through compassionately and kindly discussing your personal experiences and feelings with that issue. You’d be surprised what a powerful, moving, unforgettable tactic that is. Of course it’s not your “job” to constantly explain your point of view to everyone, but if you want everyone to understand you, that’s what you’re going to have to do. Stop shouting at people and then refusing to listen to them if their opinions differ from yours. That’s exactly what you wish everyone else would stop doing to you.