Pointing out problematic behaviors

Donald-Trump-pointing-Gage-SkidmoreIf the world was perfect, this is how pointing out problematic behavior would go:

Person 1: [Problematic statement]
Person 2: This statement is problematic for the following reasons. [Reason 1] [Reason 2] [Reason 3]
Person 1: I didn’t think about that. I should look into this further and amend my behavior so that it is inclusive of all oppressed groups and not contributing to current societal problems.

But this is how it really goes:

Person 1: [Problematic statement]
Person 2: This statement is problematic for the following reasons. [Reason 1] [Reason 2] [Reason 3]
Person 1: Fuck you. You don’t know shit. I’m the most tolerant person in the world and you’re just an idiot for accusing me of being a bad person. I hate you. Go die in a fire.

When it comes to behavior, no one is perfect. We can’t be. We’re human. But to admit that we’re human, that we fucked up, that we did something offensive without realizing it, seems like entirely too much for some people to handle. And I understand, I really do. I don’t like people pointing out that I did something wrong or correcting me. It’s not fun. But it’s important to listen and amend your behavior where needed.

There’s an assumption that when someone points out that you said or did something problematic that it’s a personal attack. And it’s not. No one is saying that you’re a bad person because you exhibited a certain behavior. It means you might not have known something about how your words affect people or you might not have realized that people don’t interpret your words the way that you intended them to.

Beyond that, there’s sometimes an accusation of PC policing and people getting offended over nothing. And this really just makes me think of Republicans. I’ve heard more right-wing radio throughout my life than is probably healthy. It seems that Republican commentators are the first to accuse someone of political correctness. But what they’re really saying is, “Why is someone getting offended when I said something offensive?” It’s the attempt to push the blame onto the victim and absolve themselves from responsibility. And it’s bullshit. There’s no such thing as being too polite or too concerned for the dignity of oppressed groups.

Some other problems that prevent people from handling this situation like a rational person is an incorrect belief that they know everything there is to know about the topic at hand and don’t have to learn anything new. But this is just not true. Everyone should be learning every day. No one is an expert on everything and no one should rule out new ideas just because they challenge old ones.

But most of all, what really bothers me is when a member of the group being oppressed speaks out about something and they are met with the response that they just shouldn’t feel that way. As if that will solve all of the problems. I’ve had men tell me what I should find empowering as a woman. I’ve had thin people tell me how I should feel as a fat person. I’ve had sane people tell me how to deal with my mental illness. And it’s bullshit. Don’t tell me how I should feel about an issue that you’ve never experienced.

Anyway, when someone confronts you about a problematic behavior, you have some options in how to respond. Two of which are displayed above. You can do whatever you want. But if you react with rage, indignity and insults, just realize that you took a moment where you could have learned something and you turned it into an attack on a person who was trying to help you.