#SocialMediaSoWhite (Part 7)

A lot has already been written about tone policing.  If you are unfamiliar, start here.  In reading the blogs in this #SocialMediaSoWhite series so far, I am struck with the amount of effort it takes to consider ones digital identity when the color of your skin impacts your practice.  I have mostly been unaware of the impact this has had on my colleagues as I navigate my own digital space.

In addition to being a student affairs practitioner, I am also discovering my own internal journey to deal with my own emotions.  As a man, growing up, I was told to fight my emotions.  Like Spock from Star Trek, I was told Logic wins the day.  If you make a good point, you don’t need emotions to win.

Well, being married for the past (almost) 15 years, logic doesn’t always work when it comes to relationships.  When I say something that hurts others, and they share that hurt with me, I have some choices to make.  When my significant other comes to me and shares that something I said or did hurt them, and I don’t believe what I said or did should have hurt them, I have a few options to respond:

  • Argue with them and convince them they are wrong for feeling hurt by my actions.  Explain what I did was actually the right course of action and explain if only they had understood my intent or had better facts, they would not have been hurt by my actions. I would make a logical argument and they would, of course, see that I was right and their feelings would no longer be hurt.
  • I can call them a snowflake and tell them to toughen up. I can tell them they need a thicker skin.
  • I can throw my own belief out the window and just accept what they are saying is true.
  • I can listen to them with empathy.  Don’t argue or try to solve the problem in that moment.  Think about my behavior, action, or words, and determine whether I am ok repeating that behavior and having them continue to be hurt, or whether I should change my behavior so that I avoid the hurt in the future

Now, consider my first response above.  Let’s now imagine every time I say something that hurts my significant other, and they confront me, this was my response.  At what point would it make sense for them to get angry?  When someone continues to hurt you, and doesn’t seem to care that they hurt you, we could understand the anger, right?

So imagine the 100th time this interaction occurs and I hurt them.  They respond out of anger.  And my response is “whoa whoa whoa!  Why are you so angry?  Ya know, you’d be more effective if you were calm in how you confronted me!  You catch more flies with honey!”

THIS IS TONE POLICING.  Except on the interwebs it is happening on a broader scale, and our colleagues of color continue to communicate that they are hurt by our actions, and we continue to respond in every way above EXCEPT empathy.

So when someone shares with me that they are hurt by systemic power and white privilege, AND they express that hurt in a way that is angry I have a few options:

  • Argue with them and tell them they are wrong, and argue how we are all the same, or actually class is a bigger deal than race, and if they understood the research they would see it my way
  • I can tell them to suck it up – people are successful regardless of the color of their skin
  • Throw my own belief out the window and just accept what people are saying is true
  • Listen to them with empathy.  Decide whether I want to change my behavior to avoid future hurts. Decide to look to dismantle systems I am a part of.

I’d argue one of those options is likely better towards harmony.  But here is the secret;  our colleagues aren’t wrong.  If anything, this blog series should communicate the impact the color of one’s skin has on their practices as a Student Affairs professionals.  The bigger question to my white, cisgender, heterosexual colleagues is “what are WE going to do about it?”  We are the ones who created the problem.  We need to lead the way in fixing it.  We cannot put the responsibility on those negatively impacted to fix the system WE BUILT.  We built the system to give our children an advantage.  Our children look a certain way.  You can argue things may be “better” now, but they are NOT equitable.  Here is the (literal) million dollar question – are we ready to sacrifice the advantages we have built into the system (for the benefit of our children) so that OTHERS can succeed?  That is what we need to wrestle with.

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One Comment on “#SocialMediaSoWhite (Part 7)

  1. Pingback: #SocialMediaSoWhite (Introduction) – Digital Leadership Network

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