THE IMPORTANCE OF KINDNESS *IN CONTEXT*
Tensions are high again.
- •We've been seeing a lot of discussion about kindness in the past few days - impassioned pleas for kindness and patience in the discussion of heavy important issues like racism and sexism.
- •On the surface, these arguments seem valid. Kindness in general is certainly important. Love and compassion are beautiful virtues. But in the discussion of issues like racism and sexism, issues that are by definition questions of inequality and disparity, demanding "kindness" from the people on the bum end of those issues is not "kind".
- •Let's take it in comparison with another seemingly benign action: telling a woman to smile.
- •If you're a photographer at a wedding, go ahead and tell women to smile. It's appropriate in this context.
- •But if you're a strange man on the street, and you see a woman you don't know walk by, DON'T tell her to smile.
- •Bc though you might mean it in what you think is a nice way ("You look so beautiful when you smile" or "I just want you to be happy"), what you're actually doing is very condescending.
- •You're saying, from a position of inherent power as a part of the dominant group, "I expect you to perform and behave in a certain way, to please me."
- •Similarly, telling people to be "kind" as a white man in a discussion about racism and sexism is incredibly condescending.
- •There is an inherent problem when a white person makes a list requesting kindness and calm, unemotional discourse on issues as turbulent and unequal as racism and sexism.
- •There is an inherent problem when a white person says they prefer arguments that are "educated and well-spoken and calm," words which are racially coded to mean "white-sounding."
- •Of course you have the privilege of sounding calm and educated and well-spoken when discussing racism and sexism as a white person. You are discussing systems that are designed to work to your advantage.
- •There is an inherent problem when a white person invokes the names of nonviolent activists of color as the model examples of protest.
- •You are, without realizing it, refusing to acknowledge the voices of oppressed people - people oppressed by a system which demeans and disenfranchises them with one hand while privileging and elevating you with the other - by insisting you will only respond to a message that is presented in a manner you find inoffensive and, thus, palatable.
- •Can you even name any protesters of color who were not peaceful? Besides Malcolm X? Could it be bc they were killed? And how many of the peaceful protesters who mentioned were shot/killed despite their nonviolent message?
- •Just. Always remember the context. It's important.