Something happened on Facebook. It bothers me a lot but it required a more thoughtful, nuanced response than possible in that medium, so here is a blog post.
As reflected upon before, the trouble with social justice movements is that over correction and the original evil both exist, side by side.
I fear both the old evil “-isms” AND the confrontational “calling out” mentality and cancel culture.
Do I really have to spell out that I am in favour of equal opportunity, justice for all, etc etc? Consider it spelled out, please. I am in no way denying that racist incidents still occur and must be protested.
AND I fear living in a climate where people approach each other with an attitude of angry suspicion, rather than an assumption of goodwill.
Social media is making it all too easy to take a remark out of context, remove all nuance, and generate an outrage storm.
I have this friend, with who I disagree on many things. We live in different bubbles, and take in different news sources. I am an agnostic social democrat, Ken is an evangelical Christian conservative. We are both the Canadian variety, which makes dialogue more possible.
We will never agree on for instance abortion, climate change or the role of trade unions, but in spite of our differences there is genuine respect.
What we do share is a desire to see honesty and truth in media.
We will both post corrections if we have been misguided by our own side. I tend to be naive and believe what I see, while Ken has a keen eye for photoshop effects.
I treasure this friendship.
Sometimes, when I have climbed on yet another outrage bandwagon, Ken will present a different viewpoint. For instance in any case involving police brutality I am likely to jump to the conclusion that the cops were evil racists. Ken is more likely to look at what is was like for people on the line trying to uphold law and order in a tricky situation.
No, this does not mean that he wants to either deny or excuse police brutality or racism. It does mean that he may ask: “What else was happening? Is there some grey in the black and white picture?”
Then there is this other friend. A vibrant young woman who moved to our village a few years ago. Jo has been injecting some much needed colour, in many senses of the world, into our overly grey and white community. I have enthousiastically supported many of her initiatives, including some I have no personal interest in.
The latest venture I had misgivings about. Do we really need an investigation into racism in the Kootenays? I voiced my concern that excessive “wokeness” may make relationships between groups worse rather than improve them. I prefer to see people as individuals, not members of a group. Correcting historical injustices is a complex issue, let’s not get side tracked. Anyway, I expressed my reservations but gamely filled out the questionnaire. I am white and live in a progressive liberal bubble, so what do I know?
I introduced Jo to a young woman whose mother was from Trinidad. She grew up in the region and might have more to say.
Remember, my worries around wokeness concern OVER zealousness, not the basic ideas. On May 8 I shared Jo’s story of the day, which was about doing a run to commemorate Ahmaud Arbery, and getting disgusting reactions with this comment.
“Quite frankly, when Jo started to do an inquiry into racism in the Kootenays I thought it was like looking for micro agressions, a mentality I thoroughly dislike. I honestly thought racism was rather like smoking, hardly done anymore and those who do have to hide on street corners.
It looks like I was wrong. So please share this and shame the assholes who think this is who we are. Carry on running Jo.”
So far the background. Now the incident.
I had posted a meme regarding the murder of Ahmaud Arbery. About the need to frame the narrative. You know, the regular me on the outrage wagon.
Ken chimed in with a link to a talk by a black woman, Candace Owens, introduced with the following comment: “Here is another perspective. Not saying it is correct, just a perspective.”
Jo reacted to this and talk ensued about the credibility of the speaker, and whether it is racist to call a black person with conservative views an Uncle Tom. Jo interpreted Ken’s words a certain way, he protested that is not what he meant, it went on and on.
This dialogue took place between two people who had never met.
I took no part in it but finally said:
“Jo Law Jo, I know Ken well enough to know that he absolutely would NOT call a black man an animal. That is just not what he meant. Ken and I disagree on many matters, but he is a deeply moral man who believes all humans to be equal in the sight of his God. He likes to play devil’s advocate. As in, ”Have you looked at this aspect of the story?”
Ieneke Van Houten wonderful, someone’s come to his rescue...
Wish someone had done that for Ahmaud.
Ken:Jo Law me too Jo.... we agree...
Me: Jo Law I know Ken. That is all. There is enough real evil and racism to fight and we all agree on that.
These last two comments went without reaction from Jo.
The whole exchange left me with a bad taste, but that got worse when I saw a post by Jo on her page, where this exchange was described as follows.
Jo: “So recently, I was in an online interaction with an older white male. He compared Ahmaud Arbery to an attacking animal and the McMichaels to seasoned hunters. When I called him out on it, he first became defensive saying that’s not what he meant. Then to his credit, he apologized. (Sighhh) Then he hopped right back into his analogy, but now premised with the assurance that he was not racist. I told him amongst other things that whenever I call out racist behaviour, it rarely, if ever, sinks in until another white person concurs. Then, like an answered prayer, another white person chimes in.... to excuse him and gaslight me. Ah fiddlesticks... maybe next time.
So now I am a gaslighting apologist for a racist.
I shall continue to assume most people mean well.
I shall continue to speak up against the evils of both racism and creating antagonism where none need exist.
And now, I have wasted enough mental energy and precious time on this during prime planting season.
Discussion on this post happened on Facebook. Originally the post contained part of the dialogue.
Jo made the comment that I had quoted part of the conversation verbatim, but not the parts that had been most offensive. That is valid criticism, so here is the whole thing. I do not expect anyone to wade through it all. It took so long because this requires the use of a clunky laptop instead of my beloved iPad, and it is gardening season and well, LIFE.
(Meme about reframing the narrative)
Ken: Here is another perspective. Not saying it is correct, just a perspective.