Oh no! You were called out on shitty behavior and now you not only feel ignorant, and silly, but possibly a lot of other feelings, including defensive. I’m not going to pull my punches in this post where I tell you what your next steps should be and how to not make things worse for the people who just called you out.
As a person existing at most of the intersections of intersectionality I’ll tell you, I’m tired. People seem to think that being well versed in race issues means they can be ignorant and defensive in areas around gender, sexuality and more. You, are wrong. So, this piece is going to be going over a range of things that can be applied to being called out in relation to any shitty behavior. Let’s get started!
When you are called out about something most people react starting with their feelings. Feelings are valid and you should totally process those. And yet, this is a moment where its not about you. Your friend/family member/acquaintance is so uncomfortable about your lack of knowledge/care around a part of them or their experience, that they have pushed through; discomfort, worries over rejection, not wanting to be hurt, to be vulnerable enough to share with you. Keep that in mind.
Imagine you go to someone’s house hating Lima beans. Your friend knows this. You get there and they have made succotash for dinner as their first time trying to cook for you. You now have two options.
- Tell them you hate Lima beans, being vulnerable and having feelings around being a bad guest and not supportive of your friends attempt.
- Eat the Lima beans, cringing and feeling like your friend doesn’t care for you.
So you decide to do 1. because you really can’t let it go. Your friend then launches into 15 minutes of how sorry they are and didn’t know, and they are new to cooking, and wish they knew more, ect. This not only puts more emotional weight back onto you, but really you just desperately want them to say “oh sorry, Lima beans are off the table” and pull a dish from the fridge so you can both go back to your hang out.
Lima beans and you
That’s what it can be like, except for it being Lima beans it’s about that person as a human being. It worse. When being called out it’s natural you are going to have some feelings about it. But, your friend just wants you to remember in the future and move on. Still, you NEED to process these feelings. That’s when you find a different friend and process all the feelings of disappointment and shame.
A companion was recently describing to me a system of care. The most hurt person is in the middle. As you have feelings about their situation, you want to bring that discomfort OUTWARDS onto people with less deep feelings about it.
Personal example. I hate the phrase “I’m sorry.” In American culture in response to chronic issues, physical or otherwise. I have chronic pain and at it’s worst the LAST thing I wanted to hear was “I’m sorry.” Or “ it’s so hard watching you in pain” Why? Because suddenly I’m holding my own emotional weight AND yours! You know what’s harder than watching someone in pain? Being in pain. Overtime I avoided people who couldn’t be strong enough not to give me their emotional pain while I struggled.
In this example the friend should have instead explored their feelings of how hard it is to be there for an ill person, with someone else. Perferably someone with less stake in this part of my life. My friend shouldn’t go to my SO for example, complaining. They KNOW it’s hard. Put that weight on someone who has the strength to support you, a friend with no ties to the chronically ill.
“Ugh I’m trying to be a good person and it’s so hard!!”
“ oh, shit, that sounds really fucking hard. I’m sure they appreciate it.”
“Yeah, I just wanna be there and helpful”
Your feelings matter, just my hurt is bigger and adding to it is cruel.
I served the Lima beans, now what?
Ok, so you fucked up and your friend told/reminded you. You have decided to explore your feelings on the topic with another friend and have shown your friend you care about them by ordering pizza, but what now?
You have two big options.
- Learn about Lima beans and how not to cook with them.
- Pay someone to cook when your friend comes over.
What you shouldn’t do, give your friend lima beans again.
Option 1: Learning
So you’ve been called out and see you have a blind spot. That blind spot may be, pronouns, biology, women’s rights, black culture, black history, treating the chronically ill and this is a moment for you to change it.
The amount of info might be overwhelming. Start small. Many people have been making work on this and there is tons of 101s. Deep dive into tumbler, deep racial discourse or acedemia may be too much. Start with YouTube. Who do your friends watch and why? Join facebook pages with these topics. The ones on humor and lightness tend to be easier to get into. Maybe a meme page. Memes are great for learning about a community in a dry humorous way that is very open and causal about their experience.
See a meme you don’t understand? Look it up. See a term you don’t know? Find an article about it. Maybe the term FFS means nothing to you. You look it up and see it means female feminization surgery. What does that mean? Why would someone want it? Maybe check out a youtubers journey. Read about the surgeries. Learn about how we use facial cues to decide gender on an unconscious level.
Now when your trans friend comes to you scared before surgery, they don’t need to walk you through that. You can just be there.
The important thing to do is to make sure you aren’t simply leaning farther into your own biases. Check out sources of people who actively disagree with your world view and experience. Ask your minority friends who they watch/read/listen to. Find a trusted source and take their recommendations.
Other places to learn
Join support groups. Join a group on campus. Expand your roster of friends. Read blogs and books on the topic you were called out on. Have conversations with folks one or two spots removed about it. EX talk to a mutual friend about your confusion on black culture. Get a some group together to learn about/discuss sexuality.
Most importantly, you will make mistakes. You will learn things wrong, or from the wrong people. Don’t be afraid but when you get called out as your are learning, have your feelings and then dig in more. WHY was I wrong? Was I treating this group like a monolith? Is this person simply more radical than I’m used to? (They may have views that are a bit… more intense than your are used to. That shouldn’t be dismissed nuance is hard but that’s what this requires)
Be open about your learning journey. Don’t speak out of your ass when you don’t know something. Got it? Good.
Option 2: Paying someone to do it for you
Just like when your lights go out and you can’t fix it yourself, you have to pay a professional. This is the same with intersectionality/diversity/allyship work. Maybe you don’t have the time to sort though tons of websites and reach multiple books of race relations. Maybe you are just overwhelmed. Maybe you just want someone to do it for you. Great! Pay a professional (that can be with money/goods/trades/ect) to do it for you. Many people have come up with great and easy to digest content (insert shameless plug here) and make a living doing so!
It’s their job to have the conversations you don’t want to, to do some of the heavy lifting, researching and processing for your ease. But like any profession you need to pay for that service.
There are many many people out there doing that work, obsidian withstanding, and you should check them out!
No matter what route you decide to take after being called out, it’s important that you remember a few things.
- Take the pain away from the hurt person
- It’s ok to make mistakes, it’s not ok to not fix it
- You must do the work, or pay for it to be done
- Lima Beans are the worst
Professional Resources to get you started
- Stefan sanjati
- Ash Hardell
Race and Diversity (specifically black Americans)
- This Blog!
- Very Smart Brothas
- Shadow and Act
- For Harriet
(These are personal recommendations, Grey is less well versed in other areas. ) Leave your suggestions for fellow readers below! What 101 resources have you found?