There’s an old Trini saying that goes:
If it falls in your garden, water it.
I’m reminded of this saying every single time someone in a marginalised group makes a critical statement about a privileged group.
If a black person posts something about white people, you can bet your bottom dollar someone will be along shortly to derail the thread with “Not all white people…”. If a woman criticises commonly observed male behaviour, she gets “All men don’t…”. If a person from a disadvantaged community makes a declaration about interacting with those from a more privileged class, count on a member of that privileged class to appear and dismiss the entire statement based on the fact that they don’t do those things.
Here’s the thing: No thinking person making a broad statement about any group truly believes that every single member of that group behaves in exactly that way. What someone is saying when they declare that white/male/rich/etc. people are (for example) prejudiced/oblivious/privileged/etc. is that a significant amount of people in that group are engaging in problematic behaviour. The exact number of problematic individuals required to qualify as significant is somewhat subjective, but if there are a multitude of articles, posts and tweets about the same types of behaviour from certain privileged groups, it’s safe to say there is a real problem.
In the name of actually furthering the discourse and (hopefully) eventually seeing real progress (as opposed to just creating more practice for the already accomplished mental gymnasts of the world), I offer the following suggestions:
When you see a post referring to a privileged group to which you belong that does not apply specifically to you, instead of diving in head-first to dismiss and derail the point with anecdotal evidence applying only to you and your friends, try something new. Try taking a moment to actually comprehend the issue at hand. Is it a problem? Is it something that can be addressed, particularly by an enlightened member of said group? Are you interested in being that enlightened individual?
If your answer to all of those questions is “no”, mosey on. It’s not about you, it doesn’t fall in your garden and you are therefore not responsible for watering it.
If, however, you answer yes to those questions, consider taking the energy you would usually waste deflecting and using it to help your fellow whypipo/dudebros/richfolks/etc. pull some weeds. That way, folks will no longer have a reason to write/talk about your particular group doing that thing that you don’t do.
Or, you can ignore this sage advice and continue to inadvertently prove your privilege by wading uninvited into threads about your privilege to silence marginalised voices. If that’s the way you choose to go, don’t be surprised when the folks you’re seeking to convince decide to sit back and sip your white/male/rich tears. Because the thing about trying to defend yourself against an assertion that isn’t necessarily about you is that you automatically make it about you.
After all, as they say in the US: