There’s a phenomenon that seems to happen on Twitter fairly regularly.
A large-ish account that’s known for anti-racism/sexism/homophobia work gets a fairly uninformed question from a white/male/straight person, boosts it, and calls for “allies” to come educate that person.
(I’m not talking about trolling/BS “devil’s advocate”/”debate me!” assholes – who, honestly, are best ignored and blocked. Really, why are you boosting some bigot with 17 followers? What does that accomplish, exactly? I’m talking about people who genuinely seem merely ignorant rather than evil and who also genuinely seem to be open to becoming more informed and educated.)
I’m not sure it’s terribly effective. And here’s why.
First of all, 280 characters is not enough to have real conversation about anything. It’s great for sharing news articles and memes, “YAY YOU!” type posts, what a cute pet/kid, and funny asides (although you have to be careful about sarcasm – it doesn’t tend to translate well unless EVERYONE reading it knows you and knows what you mean – that’s some double-black-diamond social media use there, kids, so consider yourself warned).
Second, for every white/male/straight “ally” who shows up trying to draw the OP (original poster) out and share information in a way that the OP can be receptive to it, there are at least three “allies” who don’t appear to have much experience in these types of conversations and how to educate without being condescending or rude, who then pile on and insult the OP.
And then everyone – include the large-ish account – acts surprised when the OP gets defensive and doesn’t seem to take the lesson to heart, which cues an even greater pile on.
(Reader, I have been that person trying to help the OP who quickly gets drowned out by the more-righteous-than-thou insult squad. Charlie Brown, meet football.)
Y’all just attacked that person publicly. What did you think would happen?
The best boss I ever had, who taught me everything I know about managing people and taught me well, shared, as one of her first lessons: “Praise in public, correct in private.”
For 99% of people, strangers jumping all over someone on Twitter (aka “in public”) when s/he is just starting a journey to un-learning racism, sexism, or homophobia is going to backfire.
Yes, that does mean that the OP is looking for help in the wrong place, and that’s on them.
But if you, as an observer, really want to help the OP, I truly believe that the best thing you can do is share some resources for them to check out that helped you in your own journey and/or direct them to find a local group made up of real people the OP can meet with and talk with and get to know in person (a SURJ group, a consciousness raising group, a gay/straight alliance or PFLAG). You know, if you actually want to help them learn, grow, and change their minds, as opposed to merely signaling your own right-on-ness on Twitter for clout.
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