Why Are White Dudes The Only People Who Leave Negative Comments On My Essays?
I’m just wondering.
My man. I see you outchea. Keeping it real in these streets. Policing the boundaries of acceptability. Laying down the laws of the jungle. Letting me know when I’m wrong, or out of bounds, or boring, or wasting your time, or inflammatory. I see you. I do, after all, spend a lot of time here.
I read a lot of posts on Medium. Dozens each day. Many of them, I like. Many of them, I don’t. It’s impossible to have a 100% success rate when it comes to reading words. Some resonate. Some don’t. Some read like bad refrigerator poetry. Some read like a fourth-grade textbook. Some read like they were written by someone who can’t read. And that’s okay. The great thing about Medium is it gives everyone a voice — including people who wouldn’t otherwise have a voice. And, through it, I’ve discovered some great ones.
But this post isn’t about people I read. It’s about people who read me. Specifically, the people who read me and wish they hadn’t. I’m not naive enough to think that everyone who reads what I write will walk away fulfilled, or rewarded, or feeling like they’ve become better or smarter for having spent some time with one of my stories. I’m not Ta-Nehisi Coates. I’m not Ernest Hemingway. I’m not even Dr. Fucking Seuss. (And, to be fair, not everyone enjoys them, either.) I expect to not be everyone’s brand of whiskey. And that’s okay. I don’t write for you … I write for me.
Every now and again, a couple times per post, I’ll receive a negative comment — I don’t mind that. People are welcome to disagree, and they’re often drowned out by people who enthusiastically enjoy the words I dumped onto this web-space. Thing is … it’s always a certain type of person who vehemently objects, or gets their sensibilities rattled, or just would politely like to tell me what a pompous fuck-bag I am. That type of person is, 99% of the time, a dude … and white. And, hell, that 99% of the time might be a conservative estimate. To which I humbly ask, why?
I don’t (often) write about politics. I don’t really attack white dudes in my posts. I write stories — about my life, mostly, and about lessons I’ve learned living it, more specifically. I’ve written listicles, essays, short stories, think-pieces, poems, op-eds, musings, etc. etc. And, without fail, someone will leave a comment like, “get over yourself” or “I learned nothing” or “you need Jesus” or “what a waste of my fucking time.” And, white dudes, that’s you. You also take great pride in correcting my grammar. And, hey, that’s okay — I’m a white dude, too. I just, you know, handle things I don’t agree with, or enjoy reading, differently.
When I scour my Medium reading list, and come across something I don’t find particularly interesting or agreeable, I do one of two things:
- I don’t finish the piece. (90% of the time.)
- If I do, I don’t clap for it. (The other 10%.)
I understand I might be wired a little differently, and perhaps, as a writer, I may simply appreciate other writers’ efforts (however misguided or poorly executed as they are) to share something of themselves where I don’t feel the need to berate or troll them, or cut them down, or throw shade on their shine. Maybe. And, maybe, that’s the wrong way to go about reading things when a comment section presents itself. Maybe I should aggressively voice my displeasure with something. After all, that’s what comment sections are for!
Or, maybe — just maybe — maybe I shouldn’t read the comment sections. After all, the first rule of blogging is “never read the comments.” But, see, I like reading the comments. I’ve met a lot of people I’ve grown to admire and enjoy through reading the comments. (Some of them are even white dudes! *cough* Jonathan Greene, Michael Thompson.) So I’m going to keep reading them. And keep responding to them. It gives me joy. It gives me life.
I’m not naive enough to think that there aren’t women, people of color, or people in other countries who don’t enjoy my writing. Hell, they’re out there. But, unlike you, fellow colonizer, I don’t hear from them. Maybe one day they’ll take issue with me. Maybe this piece will draw them out. I doubt it, though. If anything, they’ll leave a private note, raise their hand and be like, “this wasn’t one of your better efforts.” (They would be right, by the way, this is not one of my better efforts.)
I’m also not naive enough to not recognize that, because I am also a white man, that I get off relatively light. You should read the comment sections on a Hanna Brooks Olsen or Tracy Moore piece. Just a bunch of triggered white dudes playing themselves and outing their own insecurities, fragility and toxic masculinity. (In addition to many thoughtful, enthusiastic, articulate responses from other people.) And, hell, women and people of color on the Internet on other sites get dragged, threatened and belittled in droves — and in ways that appall and disgust me beyond measure.
And it’s not like I’m actively approaching topics that people would find “controversial.” I very rarely dive into the shark-infested waters of third-rail topics designed to elicit triggered responses. And although I identify as an inclusive Egalitarian politically, I generally talk more about things like hypochondria, depression, love, running and music. I prefer to talk about matters of the heart and mind, than matters of systemic oppression — not because I don’t think talking about systemic oppression is important, but because I can’t talk about that shit as intelligently as I’d like to, and also because I think the last thing the world needs is another well-meaning progressive white dude trying to medal in the “woke” Olympics by constantly spitting bars about how we should pay women fairly and not call the cops on black and brown people just because they happen to be chilling in the same zip code as us, at the expense of drowning out other marginalized voices.
So, white dude to white dude, what’s up? Why does my seemingly innocuous writing upset you so much? Or, to use the language of my people, “WHO HURT YOU?”
Because, to me, this says more about us as a people than it does about my writing in particular. Your vitriol — even toward one of your own — is the Internet version of yelling at the waitstaff, or asking to speak with the manager. It’s a symptom our entitlement, of making sure you remain heard, of being the dominant voice in the room, and establishing the intellectual and moral superiority you so desperately crave in order to feel as though the natural order of the universe remains so. To which, I would humbly suggest three words to change your life: Let it go.
Move on with your day. I’m not dignifying your shit-shower with a proper response. I’m not going to internalize the critique and re-evaluate whether I should continue writing. I’m not going to delete my account. I’m not even going to call Applecare. I’m going to finish this piece, having said what I wanted to say and asked what I wanted to ask, close my laptop, take a shower, and go to work. And it’s going to be a great day!
And if, for some reason, this upsets you, or offends you … well, close your laptop, take a shower, and go to work, there’s still time for you to have a great day, too. After all, the deck is stacked in your favor: you don’t have to worry about working 30% more to earn the same wage as other white guys, or having the cops called on you just because you happen to be chilling in the wrong place at the wrong time. You’ve got that going for you … it’d be nice if you enjoyed it more.