Now is the time to engage.
November 27, 2014 9:56 AM   Subscribe

Dear White Allies: Stop Unfriending Other White People Over Ferguson. "...Please try and remember how USEFUL you could be should you decide to be brave enough to speak up to the folks more likely to hear YOU than me."

Spectra is a queer Nigerian writer who uses the power of storytelling and media to inspire ordinary people to harness empathy for social change. This is a longer version of a piece originally written on her Facebook page, SpectraSpeaks.
Her site, SpectraSpeaks.com (and therefore the link to this post), may be loading slowly at the moment because this post has been so widely shared, but I think it's worth the wait.
posted by pseudostrabismus (54 comments total) 40 users marked this as a favorite
 
Yeah, the blog isn't loading for me. Here's the text of the facebook post, from the second link:
Dear white allies, this is not the time to "unfriend." This is the time to "engage."

This is the time to remember that the outrage you feel can in no way match my own and therefore you have way more emotional capacity than I do to talk some sense into the "other side."

This is the time to remember that your "solidarity" does not render you powerless; in fact, the entire point of your solidarity is to lend the power you DO have to folks who do not.

And by the way, this is the time to remember that you do have power.

It may not feel like much - your empathy may temporarily make you forget that you're not Like Brown, you're not "one of us" and that in fact you are still one of "them" - but please try and remember how USEFUL you could be should you decide to be brave enough to speak up to the folks more likely to hear YOU than me.

I'm seeing one too many white people bragging about defriending other white people. I don't need your condolences. I don't need rash actions that absolve you of the responsibility of facilitating hard conversations with folks I will never be able to reach; I need you to step up in a major way, and leverage the connections you DO have to address ignorance with conversation and interrogate white privilege with compassion.

I will not do this. I cannot do this. My rage as a black person witnessing yet another moment in the endless cycle of racism in the US prevents me from engaging in a "level headed" conversation with folks who see the Ferguson ruling as just another news story to banter about at the water cooler.

But you, don't do me any further injustice by claiming to stand in solidarity with me while really (really) excusing yourself of the hard work that is *engaging* with fellow white people on this issue. Don't hide behind being a good ally without actually doing any of the work other than echoing my cries of pain, anger, and soul wrenching disappointment.

You're a white liberal? You don't share *their* views? It's disappointing to hear your friends say racist things? You don't wanna talk to them? I hear you. I really do. But who will?

Who will?

Hint: Not me.

So before you squander the opportunity before you in an attempt to demonstrate your solidarity, ask yourself which choice would be easier? Unfriending the guy who attended your birthday party last year because he posted support of the non indictment OR responding to his post with an open ended question to begin a (likely long and strenuous) conversation?

What would a good - a useful, valuable - ally do?

Stop with the Unfriending. Speak up. And for those of you doing this already, thank you so so much.
posted by eviemath at 10:21 AM on November 27, 2014 [37 favorites]


She's right. The internet and the structures designed into social networks reinforce desires for self-segregation.
posted by anthill at 10:23 AM on November 27, 2014 [9 favorites]


I saw this earlier on Facebook, and I am totally in agreement with the sentiment, and am envious of Spectra's ability to so clearly and powerfully express a sentiment I had been struggling to formulate at all.
posted by Dysk at 10:31 AM on November 27, 2014 [3 favorites]


I am all about this. I have advocated til my fingers bled this week. And while I lost about a dozen Midwest-knee jerk-racist friends I (barely) grew up with over it (their choice) I also gained about as many terrific new friends that understand. And I think overall thats a net good.
As for those that bailed, if they left over things I said at least I know they heard them and maybe some day those tiny cracks in their basic assumptions of how America works will grow into something bigger.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 10:44 AM on November 27, 2014 [14 favorites]


I never before considered that racists could have sense talked into them. I will try to do better.
posted by bleep at 10:44 AM on November 27, 2014 [16 favorites]


My Facebook is mostly filled with people who either feel the same way as me about Ferguson or just don't get that political. But I have one close family friend, who has always been more conservative then me but never radically so (except for Israel-Palestine...he's orthodox), and he has gone full-on Fox News on me re Ferguson. Posted link go to a conservative website using Wilson's grand jury testimony as 100% FACT. Making ad hominem connections between protesters and anti-Israel marches. Seeming to personally blame Obama for the fact that the health insurance exchange website in his state has an illegible captcha image. Mostly I get frustrated because he's seems to have just decided that there's THEM and US, so if he thinks they are wrong about Ferguson, they must be wrong about everything.

It's hard to engage with someone who thinks I'm attacking their entire world view. I also don't get how he got to this point. We used to have genuine debates (which I enjoyed).

But I'm also asking how I, as a white ally, can help the people trying to make this better without taking up the space of Black people trying to make their voices heard. Apparently engaging with my friend is how I do that.
posted by dry white toast at 10:45 AM on November 27, 2014 [6 favorites]


(Also, I should add while slightly-embarrassed that scrapping and sparring with them can be a lot of fun)
posted by Senor Cardgage at 10:48 AM on November 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


A good article to share with the people you engage with, on some of the nonsense that people in St. Louis county have to put up with: How municipalities in St. Louis County, Mo., profit from poverty.

Please post any similarly useful resources you run across.
posted by johnabbe at 11:02 AM on November 27, 2014 [2 favorites]


I think it's worth noting the difference between dealing with people you know, with whom you have credibility, and dealing with (for example) a pile-on of idjits on Twitter sent into your path via a hashtag or one of their "celebrities" trying to pick a fight with you. The former may be worth engaging; the latter generally may not be. I don't have any problem picking and choosing battles.

It's also worth noting that I will sometimes engage someone whose mind I am unlikely to change, not to change their mind but to make points to people who are following the discussion. This is especially the case with comment threads on my blog, where for every person who comments there might be hundreds to are just reading along. In that scenario, getting the person with whom I am chatting to acknowledge points is a bonus, not the goal.
posted by jscalzi at 11:08 AM on November 27, 2014 [30 favorites]


Please post any similarly useful resources you run across.

One of the best I've found for dispelling the idea that Brown's testimony is plausible is this chart from PBS showing the discrepancies in eyewitness testimony of the shooting. E.g. only 2 of the witnesses said Brown didn't have his hands up, when 16 said he did. Of course, this is only about the one incident, not the broader systemic issues.

And then of course there's White People rioting over stupid shit.

These won't permanently change anyone's mind, but it at least hammers cracks in their convictions.
posted by dry white toast at 11:20 AM on November 27, 2014 [10 favorites]




I have seen arguments that Facebook is not an ideal medium for reasoned conversation of the sort that could change people's minds on important issues like racism, which I am somewhat sympathetic to. But there is also the issue of if we don't at least raise an objection when something objectionable is said (whether we proceed on to a full debate or not), then we end up being a bystander and thus contributing to the problem, which is a status quo of institutionalized racism and unconscious/unquestioned racial bias.
posted by eviemath at 11:34 AM on November 27, 2014 [2 favorites]


I think there's a difference between someone being clueless, support-the-status-quo racist ("The grand jury obviously had all the evidence, so we should respect their decision," protestations of racial colorblindness) versus someone being maliciously knowingly racist (using racist epithets, general "Let them all kill each other" shittiness). I've been engaging the first type, though generally on other people's FB threads -- I post enough feminist articles that my own friends list has been whittled down in order to keep it a safe-ish space for me on that, which tends to pleasantly flow over into other social justice issues. I'm not sure social media is the right place for dealing with the second type.

On the other hand, I would absolutely unfriend someone in real life if they were saying things that fell into the second category, so I don't have any real-life friends pulling that shit on Facebook. If I did, I wouldn't unfriend them on Facebook but stay friends in real life; that does seem cowardly. Engage fully if you're going to engage at all.
posted by jaguar at 11:39 AM on November 27, 2014 [8 favorites]


I have zero tolerance for zero tolerance. I never listen to myself.
posted by blue_beetle at 11:39 AM on November 27, 2014 [4 favorites]


I have been both comforted and a bit discomfited to note that pretty much no one on my feed has been saying racist crap in response to Ferguson. I really live in a bubble, I guess. I have been pushing back when I see stuff on the margins, and the response has been pretty much "huh, good point." So I guess I'm lucky, but it's also a reminder of how narrow my circles actually are.
posted by lunasol at 11:40 AM on November 27, 2014 [3 favorites]


To be clear, I am quite happy to not have any outright racists as friends, and that's at least somewhat by design. But it does make me look at stuff like comment threads on other people's/page's posts and make me wonder about all the other Americas I know very little about.
posted by lunasol at 11:45 AM on November 27, 2014 [4 favorites]


> I never before considered that racists could have sense talked into them.

I suppose that, statistically-speaking, this must have happened at some point on the internet.
posted by The Card Cheat at 12:13 PM on November 27, 2014


I've never really felt the need to self select due to political views; I do it enough based on other cultural factors as it is. I have outright Tea Partiers on my friends list, because we're actual friends. We may vehemently disagree when it comes to political matters, but we can usually talk it out. The rest of the time, I just unfollow the when they go into a huge tear on something like Gun Rights or Ferguson. Their views may not be my views, and they deserve the right to do their venting as well.

So it's greatly ironic that the only person who I have blocked due to political views was a fellow Leftist - who turned out to be a genuine bully, and tried bullying me on a particular political view. I'm not down with that at all, so they unceremoniously got the boot.
posted by spinifex23 at 12:17 PM on November 27, 2014 [5 favorites]


I love the blog. It also has some interesting links to explore. Great post.
posted by night_train at 12:22 PM on November 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


White People rioting over stupid shit.

While I think how "rioting by white people" is reported differently, and is also treated differently by police and law enforcement (I'm thinking of for example the pumpkin festival riot thingy), on the other hand the idea that "white People riot over stupid shit" makes me wonder if the riot that happened in Ferguson was in comparison somehow *not* stupid, and that burning down local businesses and so on was justified.

With the Vancouver riots a few years ago after the Canucks lost the Stanley Cup (an example of "White People rioting over stupid shit") it was recognized there were a lot of factors that led to the mayhem, notably availability of alcohol downtown, and that masses of people were encouraged to congregate downtown all day drinking alcohol.

In other words, like Ferguson, where the prosecutor seems to have deliberately tried to create a media event (and perhaps incite a riot), the Vancouver "white people riot" (Vancouver is a multiethnic city, and all ethnicities in Canada are passionate about hockey, not just white people; many of the looters in Vancouver were, for lack of a better term, "not white") was the result of a number of external factors.

The rioters in Vancouver, besides not all being "white," also came from a variety of "class" backgrounds. Students from UBC mixed with revellers from Surrey.

In Vancouver, at least at the outset of the riot, unlike in Ferguson, *lack of police presence* was cited as one of the contributing factors that led to the riot.

Anyway, while obviously rioting and mayhem conducted by a dominant social group (ie, "whites") is reported differently, and receives different treatment from law enforcement, I find it strange that "white riots" are stupid, because that means that somehow the burning down of private businesses in Ferguson was a legitimate response to the social injustice residents of the community are living with, which in part led to the riots in the first place.
posted by Nevin at 12:39 PM on November 27, 2014


Well yeah. Being angry over a sports team winning or losing is stupid compared to being angry about a human being killed in the street and that being declared not a crime.
posted by bleep at 12:46 PM on November 27, 2014 [23 favorites]


I think the point isn't to say the the Ferguson riot was justified, it's too defuse some idiotic notion destroying property is something that "other people" do. And more broadly, that somehow the African-American community are just generally lawbreakers.
posted by dry white toast at 12:47 PM on November 27, 2014 [8 favorites]


I posted this to my Facebook an hour ago and am infuriated by the response: three white men who have defriended others over their overtly racist views, explaining why they disagree with Spectra (quote: "Other people's hateful views are not my responsibility"). My response to their intricately self-justifying arguments: "Hey, whatever, just thought I'd repost a massively popular blog entry by a black person expressing her wishes for your behavior around racism. Make of it what you will." Feeble, yes, but it's the best I could do at the moment. *fumes*
posted by FrauMaschine at 12:53 PM on November 27, 2014


Terrific post by Spectra. Horrible design on her website. Seriously, the pretty but very cluttering background picture PLUS the tiny default font size will mean many visitors (especially older ones who are more likely to have sight issues) will not read the post.

If you want to circulate this (as I have), I suggest you link to her Facebook post which has the same content.
posted by Bwithh at 1:10 PM on November 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


For most people it's not about changing other people's views, it's about making a statement about themselves. In the other Ferguson thread, for example, you had multiple people writing that they were crying. It's totally irrelevant, but it shows how good, sensitive and warmhearted they are.
posted by stavrogin at 1:11 PM on November 27, 2014 [2 favorites]


In the other Ferguson thread, for example, you had multiple people writing that they were crying. It's totally irrelevant, but it shows how good, sensitive and warmhearted they are.

This is kind of a weird thing to say. Maybe they were genuinely touched and crying, and wanted to share their experiences with people who felt similarly. Many people deal with grief by sharing it with others who are grieving. I don't see how it's irrelevant at all. Your implication that people were saying those sorts of things to draw attention to themselves or as some sort of posturing is pretty uncharitable and mean-spirited.
posted by dialetheia at 1:15 PM on November 27, 2014 [11 favorites]


I don't need your condolences. I don't need rash actions that absolve you of the responsibility of facilitating hard conversations with folks I will never be able to reach; I need you to step up in a major way, and leverage the connections you DO have to address ignorance with conversation and interrogate white privilege with compassion.

A white woman that I have never met before came up to me on my way home from work yesterday and apologized profusely about Ferguson. I thought it was utterly bizarre that she did so, and the above quote captures how I feel about it. Whatever sorrow/remorse she has would be better addressed engaging with her friends about it, rather than using a random black person (i.e., me) for absolution. I don't want to be a stand in for all black people (no matter how well meaning this person was), and I don't want to be a teaching lesson.

Of course, I didn't think to say any of this at the time. I was mostly bemused and surprised that she thought it was at all appropriate.
posted by supermassive at 1:21 PM on November 27, 2014 [18 favorites]


Unlike statements that show off how sensitive you are, statements that show off your mean skepticism are cool and make you look cool like Richard Dawkins doing a wheelie.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:23 PM on November 27, 2014 [24 favorites]


Well yeah. Being angry over a sports team winning or losing is stupid compared to being angry about a human being killed in the street and that being declared not a crime.

I'm not even sure if the rioters in Vancouver were angry. I didn't say that people in Ferguson do not have a right to be angry, (and I did recognize that civil unrest in African American communities is reported and responded to differently than "white people" rioting).

I was just wondering that if there are "stupid riots" then does that mean there are "smart" or "justified" riots? Was the violence (against property and so on) justified?

I think fundamentally I have a hard time thinking about "race" in binary terms, eg, "white" versus "black."

And I also think memes, while interesting for about 5 seconds, do not provide any real insights about how to move forward.
posted by Nevin at 1:44 PM on November 27, 2014


(I also recognize that emotions in the US and in this thread are pretty high, and right now this thread is probably not a great time to be debating nuances or finer points, or presenting a differing opinion).
posted by Nevin at 1:46 PM on November 27, 2014


I was just wondering that if there are "stupid riots" then does that mean there are "smart" or "justified" riots? Was the violence (against property and so on) justified?

"Smart" feels like an awkward word for it, but yeah, I'd call the Stonewall riots and Nat Turner's Rebellion justified.
posted by cheerwine at 1:58 PM on November 27, 2014 [6 favorites]


Nevin, you might want to note that it was "White People rioting over stupid shit," not "Stupid riots". That's a fairly important nuance -- the triggering event being described as "stupid" is a different type of judgment than the riot itself being described as "stupid".
posted by Etrigan at 2:00 PM on November 27, 2014 [3 favorites]


I already unfriended all my racist friends and relatives. Now I'm blocking OTHER people's friends.

I'm sorry, but it's ridiculous to think you can change people's minds over facebook. My usual tack on facebook is to draw out crypto-racists until they say something blatantly racist or hateful. My goal is for people to know who they really are, because they're saying it with their real name. People who think they know them will find out where their friends really stand, and have to decide if they want to support that or not.
posted by empath at 2:06 PM on November 27, 2014 [4 favorites]


(I also recognize that emotions in the US and in this thread are pretty high, and right now this thread is probably not a great time to be debating nuances or finer points, or presenting a differing opinion).

That's just.. what are you trying to say here? Comes off as massively patronizing and concern troll-ish.
posted by quadbonus at 2:12 PM on November 27, 2014


I was just wondering that if there are "stupid riots" then does that mean there are "smart" or "justified" riots? Was the violence (against property and so on) justified?

Let me be more clear. Rioting about a sports team or pumpkins IS stupid. Rioting about massive injustice is not stupid.
posted by bleep at 2:24 PM on November 27, 2014 [10 favorites]


I have totally failed at this. I think cynicism enables a disengagement that can be toxic.
posted by PMdixon at 2:48 PM on November 27, 2014 [2 favorites]


In the other Ferguson thread, for example, you had multiple people writing that they were crying. It's totally irrelevant, but it shows how good, sensitive and warmhearted they are.

And what is the relevance this comment, and what are you trying to show with it?
posted by maxsparber at 4:21 PM on November 27, 2014


I defriended one high school acquaintance for saying people in her friends list who disagreed with the grand jury decision were "on thin ice" for being "ignorant" and "spreading lies." She also posted the fake photo of DW where it looks like he was run over by a truck, then refused to take it down once people pointed out that it wasn't actually a photo of him. Sometimes it is clear that engagement is useless.

On the other hand I'm still formulating my reply to the family friend who, after I expressed my dismay at the whole situation, said that "evidence was conflicting" and linked to the convenience store video with the comment "he looks pretty arrogant and intimidating." I want to engage him but don't want it to turn into a defensive shouting match.
posted by grumpybear69 at 5:16 PM on November 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


I find this banal. Facebook is not a medium for political persuasion. This is grandiose thinking.
posted by spitbull at 6:26 PM on November 27, 2014 [6 favorites]


Here's an interesting piece about looting. The property being destroyed is usually not owned by the local community, and many legitimate protests would have gone unnoticed without the threat white sensibilities that comes with property destruction.
posted by twirlypen at 6:30 PM on November 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


There's also this, which advises skipping the Facebook arguments and spending your time and energy more productively.

I feel like the right response (as a white man) is probably somewhere between the two. My old middle school classmate who I've kept in only the vaguest amount of contact with in the intervening 15 years made some racist comments. I briefly attempted to engage, then realized it wouldn't go anywhere, and unfriended her. Our only contact in 15 years has been on Facebook, and seeing picture of her dog was not more important to me than not seeing her racist nonsense that I couldn't change.

If (ugh, I know my extended family, this is a "when") someone closer to me posts something fucked up, I will likely respond on Facebook in the least fighty way I can muster, then immediately pick up the phone to talk to them in a more approachable way about it. Phone calls and in person conversations with people who like/love and respect you can change minds. Facebook posts can, I think, be sometimes used to at least make someone feel enough like an asshole that they feel that their racist behavior is taboo and unacceptable in social situations. Which sometimes is the best you can do.
posted by cheerwine at 7:50 PM on November 27, 2014 [4 favorites]


I have an uncle who has been posting relatively benign, but really ignorant comments on my FB posts the last few days. Stuff like, "it's very sad that this young black man chose to behave in such a hateful and angry manner toward this police, and that's what got him killed. Thank goodness the grand jury saw the truth and sought justice." And as someone who tries to be an ally, and who spends a lot of time engaging with communities of color in the criminal justice context, reading the comments makes me sick.

But I also recognize that I have a responsibility to confront these comments, especially since I can do so from a position of relative power and privilege. I can't just delete the comments and move on. I just haven't been able to figure out how to make him comprehend that even that comment, devoid as it is of any overt racism, is bigoted and hateful and hurtful. I cannot figure out how to start this conversation with him. I've started writing notes to him dozens of times, and then deleted them, because I just can't find the words to even start to explain. My uncle is racist. I know he is. But I also know that he's not going to understand how the comments he's made about Michael Brown and Darren Wilson are racist, or why they're so wrong. And so all I can think to do is to talk about how they've affected me.

Here's where I am right now:
"Uncle X, I'd really appreciate it if you would stop commenting on my Facebook posts, particularly those about issues involving racism and the criminal justice system. I love you, and you know that. But the things you've written in response to my posts the last few days have made you sound mean-spirited and bigoted, and I find your comments hurtful to read. I don't want to see you that way, and so I think it would be better if you didn't say those things to me, or in front of me. I'll make an effort in the future to block you from those posts, but I'd appreciate it if you wouldn't comment on any that you do see. I respect your right to believe whatever you want to believe. I just don't want to hear you talk about it, because some of the things you say have really hurt me. Thank you."

It feels inadequate, but I just can't seem to figure out how to start unpacking the problem with his comments, or with the belief system that underlies them. And I don't want to have a conversation with him that's about whether or not I'm wrong to have my feelings hurt, or whatever. Because it's not about me. But I just don't know how else to engage with him when his whole worldview is so far from anything that would allow him to understand where I and other people who care about these issues are coming from. So I haven't sent the message yet, because I just don't know how to do it.
posted by decathecting at 10:06 PM on November 27, 2014


I think the only interaction I've had with someone saying outright racist things was just a person I did not know commenting on one of my relative's posts about the event. They were the type of person who immediantly admitted that they were racist and were seemingly proud of that fact. They were also they type of person who slung homophobic slurs at the person they were arguing with, and insisted that they were a "real American."

I'm quite glad that I do not see this activity very often at all, but it did remind me that I've been in a bubble for many years which has sort of made me associate this sort of behavior as stuff that happens "elsewhere." I think many people might actually have attitudes like this, and some might come to the conclusion that because they don't see these behaviors in their daily lives those attitudes must have disappeared.

I am quite sure that trying to change the viewpoint of the aforemented commenter would have been very difficult to impossible, but the fact that he was engaged by at least one other person may make other people who see those comments realize that these types of stances on race still persist today, and might rethink their attitudes towards events like Ferguson.
posted by Xylos at 10:15 PM on November 27, 2014


I was just wondering that if there are "stupid riots" then does that mean there are "smart" or "justified" riots? Was the violence (against property and so on) justified?

"A riot/property damage has never fixed anything. Except for the Boston Tea Party. Or the Bastille. Or Stonewall. Or the Berlin Wall. Etc." source
posted by Dysk at 4:09 AM on November 28, 2014 [5 favorites]


People are unfriending each other on Facebook over this??? Sounds like shit just got real.
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 6:44 AM on November 28, 2014 [4 favorites]


Here is where I began to realize that the "un-friending" people (especially relatives) became very, VERY important in my circle.

I am white. My son is black.

I grew up with some classic racists and bigots (extended family) and some more "polite" racists in denial or blind to their bias. I come from three generations of law enforcement officers. So, my unfriending has come from a few of them as I have come out in favor of more accountability for law enforcement, more community policing, etc. Their loss.

I haven't unfriended anyone (I don't feel obligated to friend anyone if I don't feel comfortable with them, even if they are a blood relation.) However, I also interact on FB with many other transracial families through marriage and adoption, including adult adoptees or adults who grew up in transracial families. We support each other, challenge each other, educate each other, vent to each other, and share strategies. I only know, maybe 15% of the people in that circle in real life (it's a global community and it's large). I've watched them wrestle with whether to un-friends and family who are posting everything from slightly racist or denial of racism in Ferguson memes to some pretty blatant and horrendously racist things.

So is it a big deal when members of my group "un-friend" over this kind of thing? Yes.

Frequently, it is the first place where feelings and opinions that would normally go unsaid in polite or infrequent conversation come up. And, for some white parents of black kids, it is the first time where they are confronted with the realization that just adopting and loving a black child does not automatically change the opinions of the members of their in real life social network. Often, they see your child as "one of the good ones" or "the exception to the rule" which is, in reality, not a compliment. ("Oh honey, I don't even consider your son to be black." Um, what?) It is often the first place where they are asked to take a stand, to choose a side, to advocate for their child/ren.

It can be a very big deal. Yeah, it's only FB, but it's the platform that makes the invisible more visible in this situation. And it can be a big deal.
posted by jeanmari at 9:47 AM on November 28, 2014 [5 favorites]


Facebook is not a medium for political persuasion.

I suspect you're old enough to remember when people were saying the same thing about the Internet. For a huge number of people today, Facebook is, functionally speaking, the Internet. Are the youths peeling away from it to go to Tumblr or Instagram or whatever the new thing is? Sure. But there are still a lot of people for whom unfriending someone on Facebook means that they're essentially cutting them out of their lives. Claiming that it's not a medium for anything is like railing against the telephone as a meaningful method of "real" communication.
posted by Etrigan at 9:56 AM on November 28, 2014 [9 favorites]


But I also recognize that I have a responsibility to confront these comments, especially since I can do so from a position of relative power and privilege. I can't just delete the comments and move on. I just haven't been able to figure out how to make him comprehend that even that comment, devoid as it is of any overt racism, is bigoted and hateful and hurtful.

decathecting, you may have tried this already, but my response to those sorts of comments has been along the lines of "Being arrested may be an appropriate consequence for being rude to a police officer. Capital punishment is not."

It doesn't always work, but it may be worth a shot.
posted by jaguar at 10:25 AM on November 28, 2014 [5 favorites]


I don't really agree with her. By un-friending these types of people you are not allowing their toxic racism to be in your "space", and I think that's valid. I can be anti-racist by posting articles for others to read and making comments (on Facebook) without allowing negative racists to be on my FB feed. But more importantly, I think to be actively anti-racist one should be engaging in society- challenging people who say/do racist things, making friends with people of color, educating oneself via books and other media, immersing oneself in other cultures, traveling, being involved in demonstrations, signing petitions, etc. For me, Facebook is a place for friends/relatives and people I like and respect; I wouldn't invite blatant or "benign" racists to dinner and converse with them, and I don't want to read what they have to say on Facebook.
posted by bearette at 11:15 AM on November 28, 2014 [3 favorites]


I don't unfriend people over simple political differences for the most part, otherwise I'd end up defriending more than half my family- except unapologetic racism and bigotry, or serious hatred wrapped up in religion or patriotism, which are pretty antisocial beliefs, honestly. Most people hold some problematic views if examined, myself included, and that doesn't automatically make someone a bad person or incapable of dialog or empathy. But Ferguson and the related politics it has revealed have resulted in one friend becoming unhinged and verbally abusive. I'm fine with disagreement, and I agree with the idea that engaging is worthwhile if you are grounded and come from an ethical and compassionate place, but not going to lose sleep over disconnecting with people who are unapologetic jerks.
posted by krinklyfig at 1:53 PM on November 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


But I'm also asking how I, as a white ally, can help the people trying to make this better without taking up the space of Black people trying to make their voices heard. Apparently engaging with my friend is how I do that.
posted by dry white toast at 1:45 PM

eponysterical?!
posted by gusandrews at 7:29 PM on November 28, 2014


For the record, this works. And more to the point the people it works on aren't always the people you expect - which is what makes using Facebook effective. For every person who says something in your network there are probably three who agree with them who don't. And the three are easier to peel away than the one. (And if you've been pruning, you've probably left the three).

Personal experience was earlier this week. One of my friends lives in St. Louis and is very much anti-the riots, and complained about the riots starting back up earlier this week. I didn't say much at the time (she was also dealing with a family medical emergency) but put together a long and exhaustively linked blog post on the systemic inequality and oppression that lead to Ferguson problems and posted it to my Facebook. I've yet to hear back from her, but I know it's changed minds of other friends. Facebook is at least a semi-public medium, and lurkers, and what they hear, matters. Especially as the lurkers are likely to be less engaged and less likely to research, and more likely to pick things up through osmosis.
posted by Francis at 6:39 AM on November 30, 2014 [5 favorites]


I've been debating, arguing, refuting a lot on FaceBook this past week and it's kind of pointless. For every mind changed, 20 more are entrenched. It's actually been on two topics, Ferguson and race, and a local transportation issue. I can't believe the number of blocks I've gotten over espousing a different view. The more evidence-based the claim, the more likely I am to be blocked. I don't me correct or right, but rather containing evidence to support my claim. It's depressing and horrible because it just shows how walled off people want to be from opposing viewpoints. I don't think Spectra is wrong, but it's not so simple. So, liberals don't block their conservative/racist friends. They engage, they get blocked instead. The cycle repeats

Something I've seen rise up in just the past few weeks is the "my opinion" clause, where people state something that is factually incorrect and easy to disprove, and append it with "(my opinion)" or some variation. It doesn't matter what you say, because it's "their opinion", making it sacrosanct. How do you get past that?

I've changed one mind once on Facebook, and it was only because a fairly liberal friend had said something stupid. When confronted, he realized his thinking on it was wrong. He probably would have come to that conclusion anyway, as he is a smart guy. So yay.

The only thing I wonder is how many people went to work today with a new, negative light on their coworkers because of overtly racist views. At least I'd like to think that will happen, but probably not. I have been agog all weekend by the things openly said by people with their names attached.

I hate humanity this week.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 1:03 PM on December 1, 2014


Why debate and argue? Just repost anything you like by Cop Block, Filming Cops, etc., make their posts pretty palatable, humanize the victims regardless of race, etc., maybe pages covering other race related topics too. And delete any obnoxious comments so nobody else needs to deal with them.

Individual arguments might not change their minds, but an unending sequence of news stories about murders, sexual assaults, etc. that cops grandparents, kids, etc., sexually assaulting women, etc. and get away with has more chance.
posted by jeffburdges at 12:36 PM on December 13, 2014


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