This morning I read a piece entitled “Social Justice Bullies: The Authoritarianism of Millennial Social Justice” because a friend of mine shared it on Facebook. Given I believe it is very likely I may fall under that bully category–not that I agree with the characterization–I re-read the article’s main points this evening and began writing a comment. Well that comment went all TL;DR pretty quick, so I figured I may as well repost it here (with a few minor edits). Ps. For the sake of my sanity I decided to ignore the author’s commentary on rape culture:
While I would agree with the author that there is certainly a problem when the left becomes overly authoritarian (or really when anyone does; albeit this is a discussion for later), this author seems to then wholesale dismiss ideas about creating safe spaces, acknowledging privilege and its effect on worldview, etc., without defining what he thinks these ideas are or considering why they may be pushed for by so-called bullies. In doing so the author is not exactly engaging in the “productive, open, mutually critical dialogue” yearned. I would posit that it is not outrageous to ask to be able to go into a classroom or workplace or conference where misogyny or homophobia or racism, etc. and et al, are not allowed to run rampant. Intentionally creating a safe space is about creating a welcoming environment where marginalized folks, especially, feel valued, welcomed, and encouraged to participate in a way society does not otherwise do. Why is that so bad–serious answers are respectfully requested.
Furthermore, understanding how privilege affects worldview and whatnot is crucial, I would argue, for honest and open dialogue. My worldview is shaped by the fact that I am white, well-educated, come from a relatively well off family, cis-gendered, and heterosexual etc., but also by the fact that I am a woman, especially one who lives in an area hostile to the values and rights I hold dear. Acknowledging privilege is not to disparage others… though when a tone deaf article is written or speech given, etc.,–see recent sexist BS about the WWC for timely examples–more likely than not it will get called out as misogynistic, or otherwise, as applicable. What the author seems to imply always happens to is when something tone-deaf or intentionally offensive is used to tar an entire community, which is by no means certain, and often lamentable.
Still I do not agree with this author that this calling out is inherently bad. Indeed, I would say the author fails to note that the calling out, for lack of better phrasing, often serves as a launch pad for conversation… for that dialogue so yearned (though again it unfortunately does not always and instead devolves into sometimes deplorable conduct). Furthermore, the author fails to note that when the calling out turns into petty, name-calling foolishness, it is in turn often called out or put in check (though again not always). Examples would be devolving to call Sarah Palin, et al., c*** or bimbo barbie bitch, etc. Though unfortunately liberals can be just as bad as conservatives in terms of the demeaning language they use instead of debate, etc., I would not agree that this is unique to the alleged social justice bullies. And frankly, I would call that being human. We are not devoid of emotion or passions, and sometimes we fall prey to them as they overtake reason.
Lastly, in checking my privilege, in admitting i am not omniscient when it comes to others’ experiences, and in allowing others a space to talk about what they experience–be it as a black person, a trans person, an undocumented person, a religious minority, etc., or as someone who’s identity intersects these demographics–without debating them, without trying to explain to them why they are wrong, or immediately going on the defensive when the wrongs my community has done theirs are brought up, etc., even if not in my lifetime or never by me, I would argue I am partaking in a critical discussion. It may not be the conventional debates we claim are the hallmark of civilized society, but there is a shitload I can learn just by helping create a safe space and listening–AND only listening.