I never comment on Medium, let alone write an entire post, but I wanted to do so to commend you on your response to Svetlana’s post. I clicked into the comments expecting to see vitriol, name calling, and anger towards Svetlana — which seems to be the default response when anyone is offended by anything on the internet — but I was so glad to see a response that was intended to start a respectful dialogue about race and foster mutual understanding rather than to vilify the author and immediately dismiss her viewpoint.
What bothers me about all the touchy discussions about race, gender, identity, and other controversial topics is that they aren’t discussions at all; everyone is either preaching to the choir or a participating in a screaming match between “disgusting racist misogynist pigs” and “social justice warriors who are just looking to be offended.”
The lynch mobs on both sides are incredibly destructive. You’d think we’d know better by now than to think we can win arguments just by yelling louder than the next person. That anyone is going to want to listen to someone who is telling them they are a terrible person. How do we not see that this is counterproductive and only serves to further divide us?
Of course, it’s understandable that people sometimes react in anger to things — god knows I can’t blame the black community for finding the ignorance so completely infuriating that they can’t, or just don’t want to, restrain themselves any longer — but I do find that the people who lash out are very often white. They think they’re speaking on behalf of the oppressed, but even if they are, they’re still doing the oppressed a great disservice simultaneously.
People often miss a huge opportunity whenever they see something they find ignorant, hurtful, or otherwise offensive: the opportunity to start a real conversation. The opportunity to create positive discourse, to educate, to create empathy, and to maybe even consider an alternate viewpoint to their own. The opportunity to create a meaningful connection with the person on the other side; to unite rather than to further divide; to understand that most people are not out to hurt others but are just trying to do their best based on their own lifetime of (incredibly narrow) experiences.
Sure, the other side may not always be open to having a conversation, and may just be looking to draw blood, but those of us who keep quiet and watch from the sidelines — people like me, who read articles and comment threads with a critical eye but never participate ourselves— notice the effort and are affected by it, whether or not we agree with you. In my case, as a white woman who is frustrated at the lack of constructive conversations around race, let alone ones that leave me any room to participate or ask questions without having to walk on eggshells, I found it so refreshing to see your response to Svetlana — a critical response that was informative without being at all condescending or disparaging to Svetlana’s viewpoint, which is as valid to her as yours is to you. A response that actually has the potential to change her viewpoint. I hope that others follow your example in future conversations about race, and I’d love to speak to you about it myself sometime in the near future, as I know very little about the black experience in America and have many questions that I’ve honestly been afraid to ask.
P.S. Queens represent!