“But We’re Not All Bad!” Is the Wrong Answer

25 05 2011

This might be my most favourite derailing tactic (and by favourite, I mean most facepalm-y) of all time. The old “we aren’t all like that!” trope, guaranteed to derail a discussion in 140 characters or less. If you are privileged enough to have never experienced this (if you haven’t already done it yourself) I’ll give you an example. Adjust the situation for the oppressed/oppressor relationship of your choosing:

Trans woman: Wow, I really wish cis LGB people would quit directly playing a direct hand in my erasure, denial of services/basic humanity and the often fatal harm of me and women like me. That would be great if all that would stop.
Cis LGB person: HEY WE AREN’T ALL THAT BAD/IT’S JUST A COUPLE OF ASSHOLES DOING THAT/YOU HAVEN’T MET EVERY CIS GAY PERSON EVER SO HOW CAN YOU SAY THAT?

And on, and on, and on, and on, and on it goes. More derails follow, the discussion goes to shit and the oppressor often ends up getting consoled instead of the marginalized person being attacked (also known as white women’s tears) and the attempt for a meaningful discussion or call-out is abandoned at that time. All of this because of a six word sentence that has no validity in any of these discussions whatsoever.

Far too many discussions that need to happen do not, because there is always at least one privileged champ who comes in and fucks everything up with this tactic. It is not the way that one in a position of privilege should be reacting when a marginalized person speaks their truths. When a person of colour is talking about their frustrations with harmful things white people tend to do, the correct response isn’t “I don’t do that!/We aren’t all that bad!” The reaction of a person who is truly socially conscious should be to listen and learn. Only after listening and learning (not demanding someone be your Mystical Minority Teacher(TNM)) can you begin to maybe do something about this problem. Not throw a temper tantrum about how all white people aren’t in the Klan, but ask yourself “What can I do to reject my privilege, help end the systemic and oppressive problem the group I belong to has a history of doing, and how can I work to uplift marginalized people?”

The one in the role of the oppressor has no business to “prove” that their group is “not all bad” to a marginalized person. The fact of the matter is, these problems that are spoken of are systemic within the entire communities of privilege. It is not something that occurs only in fringe/extremist/super duper hateful circles within those communities of privilege, it is everywhere within the community. The goal should not be to to prove to any marginalized person that you aren’t all bad (attempting to deny the lived experiences of any marginalized person is fucked up in and of itself.) The goal needs to be to end the systemic oppression of marginalized people that requires these discussions happen in the first place.