I recently commented on an animated thread on another social platform. I shouldn’t have. It was a weigh-in about Rock v Smith at the Oscars of course. Hundreds of comments thick, I waded in.
I was torn in my reaction, internally. Wrong? Right? I dunno? Most women seemed anti-Will.
And a woman shared a viral post from a Black woman that outlined a Black woman’s perspective.
It was a revelation to me-the Black vs Non-Black divide in reactions.
I thought I said:
Thank you for sharing that thought-provoking post. I didn’t understand this perspective before. I’m going to ponder these words. Thank you for sharing.
That’s not what was heard.
I was told my comment was “gross”, to “stay in my lane”, and I had racistly complimented a Black woman for “speaking so well”.
I was mortified & tried to explain myself. I wasn’t rendering a judgment: I was struck by the viral opinion post. And I had even shared it because the words expressed had lingered with me. I didn’t say she ”speaks so well” or even think it or even imply it.
It just made things worse. Why was I discounting my critic’s opinion when she is Black? Why was I telling her about how I “do the work” as a woke ally (by sharing that viral post)?
I went haywire. The more I tried to explain, the worse I made it. I was told I (Asian) was trying to lump together all women of color?
I just kept digging the hole. My friend Mel said something wise:
Sometimes to be a good ally, you need to give up your ally status.
Just say you’re sorry for the damage, thank them for their emotional labor. And move on.
To (strive to) be an anti-racist ally, you need to listen. Not explain. That’s it. Maybe the other person was mistaken. But it doesn’t matter. To support & recognize someone’s struggle, you can’t invalidate it.
That goes with everything in life.
When people hear something you did not (mean to) communicate, take a step back.
“I’m sorry” (full sentence ) is more healing than “No, that’s not what I said.”
Sometimes to be a good ally you have to let people think the worst. You have to be willing to lose your ally status to be a good ally.
Originally published on Instagram on April 1st. The exchanges on social were condensed into a micro-blog post on Instagram. But I decided to just re-post here, word for word.