I suspect I’m in the minority, but I’m much more polite online than I am in person. The anonymity of the internet makes me more patient with insults and idiots. Not least because sometimes the most confrontational conversations end up working out.
This was not one of those occasions.
In my article “Anti-Racism Is Becoming Troublingly Racist”, I lay out my frustrations with the excesses of modern day anti-racism, and the damage it’s doing to race relations. It’s kind of funny in places, but it’s more of an “if you don’t laugh you’ll cry” funny than an “I’m not taking this seriously” funny.
Mike was one of the first people to comment, and let’s just say he failed to read the room:
The best way to make omelets is to start by breaking eggs. Yeah, we’re getting it mostly wrong on a lot of levels right now. But all we have to do is keep trying, and we’ll get better. I understand your frustration, but remember to treat it like the temporary emotion that it is. Just take this issue one day at a time. And when it’s REALLY getting on your nerves, one BREATH at a time. LOL
Reading this again months later I still find it infuriating. The stupidity of a “let’s just throw stuff at the wall and see what sticks” approach to racism or any serious problem. The glib dismissal of an issue that is (obviously) important to me “Yeah, we’re getting mostly wrong on a lot of levels right now. But…“. The assurance that he “understands my frustration” when he very, very obviously doesn’t. The non-ironic use of LOL by somebody who is over 15 years old. It’s a perfect storm of all the things that annoy me.
I honestly considered saying something more polite, or better yet, saying nothing at all. In fact, this response is far more polite than it would have been if I’d spoken to him in person. But I couldn’t resist saying something. I’m only human after all.
I’m not sure if this is just a failed attempt at humour, sorry if it is, but otherwise it’s one of the stupidest, most condescending things I’ve had the misfortune to read in quite a while.
Mike wasn’t pleased.
Insulting people who respond to you is not the way to build…ANYthing. Blocked. And please block me. Thanks….whatever you call yourself.
The thing is, he’s right. Part of why I spend so much time talking to people online is that I want to build something. Understanding maybe. I admit that this isn’t the way to do that.
But there’s also a cost/benefit analysis happening. How much energy will I need to exert to get through to this person? How likely are they to think seriously about these complex issues? How far can I trust a grown man who writes “LOL” in conversation with a total stranger?
This kind of analysis goes on in person too. Maybe you’ve had a conversation with somebody about a minority issue and it’s blown up in your face for reasons you didn’t understand. If so, let Mike be an example of how not to handle these kinds of conversations.