I try to help out the local BLM chapter by pulling aside clueless white people and trying to gently coax them along to stop talking for 3 hours. Failing that, I give them my contact info, offer to send them some introductory materials written by PoC–which I’m also compiling for the blag–and tell them their return will be contingent on reading those materials. I take this role because the local chapter falls under the “make shit happen” branch of activism. While the “make shit happen” branch can only grow with the help of the “educate the majority” branch, the “make shit happen” branch can’t be dragging itself down trying to clue in the clueless.
So I do it. Or, try to. Most decline to read the material. Most are there to detract. Most haven’t figured out that a minority specialty interest group needs majorities to STFU and listen. Most aren’t permabanned, but few meet our conditions for return.
I had a frankly surreal encounter which I’m still kind of wrapping my head around. Our Mayor and Premier are trying to run this social media campaign called #MakeItAwkward which calls on white people to point out instances of racist microaggression. The local BLM chapter has no consensus on this. Some feel it’s… milquetoast, that the recent spike in hate incidents needs a competent police response and not a hashtag. Some point out that it still contributes to a broader system of dismantling racism. It’s complicated.
While BLM was debating on whether to integrate it in our next plan of action, a white dude butted in with predictable white fragility: I’m not racist, so stop talking like I’m the problem. He says, at a meeting that’s supposed to be amplifying black voices.
So I stand from my chair and gently motion him along to follow me outside of the meeting. I try to walk him through it: Pretend you’re one of the people in that room. They hear 100 white voices every day. Their own voice is often ignored. To them, you’re just dude number 8000 trying to tell them how not racist you are. Frankly they care more about what you plan to do about it, and a big part of that is being able to listen during their meetings. They will call on you when it’s appropriate to do so.
Him: Stop yelling. I’m not racist.
I was honestly gobsmacked. I hadn’t raised my voice. I hadn’t sworn (which, from me, is saintly restraint). I hadn’t accused him of being racist, because I know how quickly that gets the clueless into defence mode. All I had done was told him in a no-nonsense attitude, without apology, that his capacity as a white person at BLM was to listen.
But apparently all a woman has to do to qualify as “yelling” is set a clear boundary: These are the terms, follow them or get out. By the time I pointed out that I was speaking in the same even tone the entire time, he began yelling at me that I was yelling.
I just. What?????????
Dude was kicked out, meeting continued otherwise uninterrupted, everything’s fine. But I just can’t wrap my head around the cognitive dissonance so thick you could swim in it.