Thank you for the feedback

2 Mar

I just received a comment from “Vinny” on a post I uploaded back in November… 2012. (I wonder what he was searching that resulted in this hit on my blog? He certainly didn’t seem any too happy to find it.) I’ll share Vinny’s comment with you first, and then the post, just as I experienced it:

Diversity is BS.You are merely another of the people selling America out . What benefit do you get? Does it make you feel pious and self righteous. I bet it does. You have no real morality, no real ethics so piety and self-righteousness will have to do, yes.You claim not to hate but you hate white people. You call yourself American but you hate America, don’t you? I am no fan of the Klan but I live on the border. I KNOW what is really going on with this issue. You probably can only guess.

Those are some pretty big claims about me as a person–let alone about “diversity.” I found myself wondering if Vinny only read the one post? Or maybe I’ve met him? Perhaps I’ve facilitated a workshop he was in, or we participated in one together?

Either way, I apparently really struck a nerve with him. And I’m not under any delusions that I don’t have strong opinions or sometimes express myself vehemently. So I was really curious which post of  mine provoked Vinny. Here’s the link to the article I posted on: http://jezebel.com/5960366/rally-of-white-power-clowns-drowned-out-by-bunch-of-actual-clowns. You can read my comments on it if you go to 11/16/12 in this blog’s archives. Honestly, I didn’t really say much beyond sharing that I thought this anti-KKK clown rally in response to the KKK’s anti-immigration rally was really cool. And I concluded:

… this reminds me that the way we “do” diversity needs to be diverse. Sometimes, facts and debates are useful. Sometimes personal narratives are effective. And sometimes, laughter says it all. Of course, laughter or facts or stories won’t effect social change by themselves. But they are the diverse catalysts that can help a group of diverse people notice, care and act.

That makes me “pious and self righteous”? This is the proof that I hate white people?

But even as I feel that maybe Vinny is over-reacting and ascribing much more to what to what I wrote than what I wrote, I get his reaction. In my experience, there are far too few opportunities and engage in real dialogue with people who have experiences, perspectives and politics that our different from ours. By “real dialogue,” I mean a conversation that we enter into with mutual respect and a shared intention to hear each other and learn. Note that I didn’t say get schooled/be corrected/realize the error of our ways. I said “learn,” as in reflect on why we believe what we believe (including noticing where that belief comes from), appreciate why another (sometimes unfathomable) perspective makes sense from another point of view, and discern what we believe now, knowing that believing is a verb that changes with time, not a fixed noun. No, more often than not, what I do and see others doing with people who have opinions different than ours about identity, diversity and how to be a multiculture is argue or ignore rather than actually, really engage.

And since practice creates not only expectations and habits but neural pathways, it’s not surprising that simply the fact of another opinion can send us into vehement character attacks. After all, we are what we eat–including our own bile. And here, I’m not just pointing the finger at Vinny. He actually bothered to e-mail his thoughts to me. I too have thought someone was a hater–I just didn’t bother to tell them. I also want to admit that while I don’t see what set Vinny off, that doesn’t mean I didn’t say something that sounds hateful to him. That’s part of diversity: recognizing that I don’t and can’t always “get it.” And accepting the impact I may have, regardless of my intention.

So, Vinny, I do appreciate your writing in. I don’t like your tone or your judgment, but I think I can empathize. And maybe we can actually talk sometime.

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