Saturday, May 9, 2015

A wrongheaded reaction to internet racism


Obviously the odds of persuading anyone of anything they disagree with are always pretty slim. If you want a good reason to block internet racists, this is probably it.

What does not work, however, is for a white person to complain that fighting racism is some kind of onerous burden that they should not have to bear. You know what's even more unpleasant and inconvenient than yelling at someone on Twitter? Getting murdered by white supremacists!

This isn't to say that white people therefore have some kind of affirmative obligation to wage perpetual scorched-earth internet war against bigots. Some people have the luxury of doing this; other people need to use their free time more productively.

But I think it's worth bearing in mind that as futile as the task of persuasion can be for friends, it's even less productive with strangers. Our relationships are precious, and often the only leverage we have when trying to pry someone out of a toxic culture. Sometimes the best way to shame someone is, as Allison suggests, simply cutting them out of your life -- often they'll know why it happened. But sometimes you may be the only person whose voice of disapproval would matter to someone else, and the only person in a position to pressure them to change. That is not an opportunity we should throw away simply because it's hard.