An Invitation for Meaningful Dialogue

Caperton in Feministe:

Cats-and-dogs-together-600x338There’s been a lot of talk lately about dialogue and understanding. Liberals just need to try to understand conservatives, They say. People get defensive when you call them (or, more often, even just imply that they might be) bigots, They say. If we want to get anything accomplished, we need to meet conservatives halfway (in which “halfway” is usually defined as “on their side”), They say. (In this case, “They” for the most part refers to journalists who think that because Their piece is set on a college campus and not a failing coal town in West Virginia, it’s totally novel and not the exact same article journalists have been writing since November 9 and before.) Generally, the response from the liberal camp is, “Fuck that shit,” which is a position I myself have taken before. (I stand by it.) You can’t reason someone out of a position they didn’t reason themselves into. “Actually, no, Latinos aren’t rapists” and “Actually, no, BLM isn’t a terrorist organization” aren’t going to be compelling messages to people who only take those positions to rationalize their own latent (acknowledged or unacknowledged) prejudices. “Supporting a bigoted campaign involves signing off on bigotry” isn’t going to convince someone who is struggling to accept that that’s what they did. It’s hard and unsatisfying, and maybe the New York Times needs to do a Dialogue and Understanding piece about people who are being asked to take on that struggle.

That said, dialogue can happen. Here’s how.

Privileged liberals: Put your privilege to good use.

It’s completely understandable that you might not want to engage with people who either embody or enable bigotry. The ones who embody it are miserable to be around — try spending time with someone who thinks that they’re completely justified in wanting to put Muslims on registries or block LGBT people from services like housing and medical care. And the ones who insist that they aren’t bigoted, because they disagree with registries and religious discrimination, can be almost as bad. For them, having negative feelings about those things, but not to the point that they actually do anything about them, is a mark in the Win column, and asking for anything beyond that — which is what we’re asking them to do — is a direct attack on their character. Having to handle them with kid gloves so they don’t get defensive is a lesson in frustration.

More here.