Why can't you just be nicer?
This is a question I get often. Whether it's from some Nice White Lady whom I've offended with my uppity Negress take on whatever racist bullshit has gone down that day. Or the people who say, OH it's just words ignore them, shine on blablabla.
There is a going theory I hear mainly from White people that if only I personally was kinder, nicer and less angry about everything, nothing would hurt and everything would be okay.
These are the same type of people who after reading something I've written about racism, will come back at me with MLK and Ghandi quotes.
These are the same people who will tell me to be both physically and verbally non-violent like their model POC, don't be threatening. Don't be loud. Don't be angry.
First I'm going to tell you where being nice and trying to be non confrontational and understanding got me.
For years I would never just tell someone to shut their racist asshole mouth.
I spent hours, days and who knows how long trying to gently steer and teach. I would offer up things like, could you please not say X thing around me?
When I was young I had White "friends" who would do things like, if they suddenly smelled something sweet or fruity would look at me, wrinkle their noses and say things like:
"I bet that's some Black persons hair grease"
"Ew why do Black girls wear so much perfume/use cheap lotion."
At which point one of them would make eye contact with me, smirk and say in one of those saccharine sweet tones,
"oh but we don't mean you."
"you're not like those Black people."
Sometimes it wasn't race but size. I remember vividly a good friend calling a girl who was point of fact far thinner than me a cow, then when I asked her fairly politely if she thought I was a cow too, she blew it off with the ubiquitous but you're not fat comments and back handed compliments.
These folks are what us pros call microagressions.
As an adult I call these things passive aggressive bullshit.
At the time, I would try to excuse any ignorance spewed by people who supposedly cared about me. I told myself that they just didn't know anybody, afterall they weren't talking about me.
And then at one point I realized yes they were.
I remember all too often especially going to school in a pretty White place, that I heard all manner of Anti Blackness from people who supposedly didn't know better than to say it, but sure knew what to say to hurt.
I expended a huge amount of energy trying to hide my tears, trying to talk to people who would look at me like I had asked for a kidney and their first born when all I had in fact asked for, was for them to think a little bit or at least save their comments for when I wasn't around.
Guess where that got me?
Here's the big problem I have when people tell me to be nice to racists, sexists, homophobes, fatphobes etc etc.
If the only thing you get out of an emotional (and no emotionalism does not negate the point) rant or whatever thing I've said, is that I'm angry and need to calm down, what are you doing?
You are pointedly ignoring what I've said.
Wait let's put it in another context.
If I came to you and said, hey friend this person punched me in the face and I"m scared and don't know what to do. If I were angry about being punched in the face would that be okay with you? If you had punched me, and I was firm and yes aggressive about why I don't want you to do that again and the repercussions of you doing it again, would that be okay?
It is very telling when you tell someone that they should drop their boundaries to make you feel comfortable.
When White people tell me that they are uncomfortable with my tone when I talk about racism, I see what's important.
It's not important to you that I am okay, it is not important to you that when I state clearly and yes aggressively that I am not dealing with or okay with someone say, telling me that because I'm fat I should die for instance, that it's more important for you to be comfortable.
When you tell people not to be angry or emotional, or strident about things they are passionate about you are missing the point entirely.
You are ignoring the pain of the person speaking, ignoring their experience and doing to them what we as a society abhor doing to people who are abused.
If you assume that if I stay very calm and ask someone very nicely not to behave badly towards me, that the person who is acting badly towards me respects me enough to say, oh jeeze sorry about that.
It would be nice if that's how my world worked but it's not.
Most people are too invested in being right, too steeped in their own privilege and entitlement to acknowledge that they may have behaved inappropriately. Most people, if they are willing to get their racist on in my presence while looking me in the eye, or telling me that they hope I die- those people are not willing to respect me as a human being.
Someone explain to me in clear terms how that is okay?
For all of the people over the years who have taken issue with my tone in my blog when I talk about certain subjects, or things that have actually happened to me not one has ever had enough respect for my humanity to come back and explain their position.
Too many "Allies" have come here patting themselves on the back for reading a blog written by a fat black queer woman and believing that they are perfectly within their right as allies, to tell me how to express my pain or my joy.
In any other instance, if I were a Nice White Lady wouldn't we call that abusive?
I've talked about this before but last year there was an incident where a carload of grown white men not only cat called me but, when I told them No fuck off. They came back around the block screaming racial epithets at me and had my bus not come I believe they were going to get out of their car to harass me.
As many times as I have talked about it (sometimes calmer than at other times) every time several people have taken the time to contact me to tell me to calm down. That, Seattle isn't racist so it must not have happened that way or I took it out of context.
Do you know how many times I've been called nigger or nigger bitch to my face?
Do you know how many times I've had White people tell me to calm down about it, to be nicer, to "ignore" it, or my perennial favorite that it wasn't "meant" that way?
I've asked on many occasions and not one of those people could tell me how someone calling me a nigger bitch to my face, could possibly be "meant" that way.
No one has ever given me a good reason.
Not one of the people who implore me to be peaceful, nice, change my tone has ever apologized for contributing to my abuse.
On the other hand, watch a Nice White Lady get called a bitch or made fun of, and people come out in droves.
Or, some Nice white Person gets mad about something that happened to me, and other Nice White People suddenly are raising righteous fists in anger.
The next time you are tempted to tell me or anyone else to change their tone to make you more comfortable think about this.
If this person was standing in front of me with a bloodied nose and black eye would I be saying this?
Would I want someone to tell me to calm down and be nice after I have been abused?
If you answer no, you have your answer.
If you answered yes, you are part of the problem.
The bottom line is this.
Do not tone police people. Tone policing contributes to the macro and micro abuses of people like me. When you tone police people, you are hurting them. When the story is not about you personally, how it is told is not your decision. Don't beat people with your privilege. More so if you consider yourself to be an ally.
You want to be an ally and be given cookies and hugs for being decent?