It seems as though 75% of the time I call out privilege or oppression on the internet (which, in my “talking to people on the internet” life, exclusively means facebook), someone (usually the oppressive person) tells me I “should be nicer, and try to educate people nicely, or they won’t listen to you because you made them mad.” (I am going to use ableism as an example in this post, because people get really mad when I won’t take my time to teach them about ableism beyond a link to google)
This is seriously not my job. Just because I try not to be oppressive, and do not stand for expressions of it, does not give me the burden to make your life easier. I am not always trying to “convert” you. Sometimes I think you’re just being such a horrible person that I can’t stand letting you get away with saying stuff like that. I do not have a responsibility to make the world a better place all the time, enabling people’s personal growth every time I speak, just because I think this world is all kinds of messed up.
You really need to educate yourselves, people. I know it’s hard. It takes like four whole minutes to read the ableism wikipedia page after I tell you “ableism isn’t funny” “‘dumb’ is ableist” or “did you seriously just use ‘retarded’ like that” (TRUE LIFE STORIES WHERE PEOPLE GOT ALL MAD). I cannot overstate how much it is your job, not mine, to make yourself a better person. I am completely willing to provide resources to people who are interested, or elaborate on how the more accepted, and therefore less known to be ableist, ableist language is problematic, provided you ask, and don’t have a defensive fit when I call you out.
When I do this, I am doing you a service, a kindness, if you will, not fulfilling an obligation.
(But seriously, if anyone thinks using “retarded” as a negative slur is anywhere near okay, what the hell is wrong with you? That is one of the most generally accepted to be ableist words in America)
Just because I am angry or abrasive about your ableism doesn’t let you off the hook for you language or behavior. Guess why I’m angry? Because you said something grossly offensive. I have a right to be angry, particularly about that. Being critical of our oppressive society does not diminish my right to still have feelings, or to express them. I’m a person, not an encyclopedia. You being an ass affects me. There’s a problem with people who aren’t angry about unapologetic ableism.
I am not in the wrong because I wasn’t “nicer and nicely told you what you did wrong,” you are always in the wrong for making fun of people with developmental disabilities.
Niceness, in general, is not an obligation. Neutrality should be perfectly acceptable (but is not for women and we will discuss that in the future). I don’t call individuals ableist. I call their language or behavior ableist. I do this very deliberately.
People also seem to conflate my responses to them on their friends’ facebook posts with how I interact with people in real life, and call me unemployable or say I will never affect change with that attitude. You know what doesn’t happen to me in person when I call someone out for ableism? THE PERSON SCREAMING AT ME AND CALLING ME A BITCH. That has never happened when I told someone in person “that was ableist.” I don’t even get people screaming at me in person over racism, and that is absolutely the worst thing you can call a racist white person, in their minds.
Additionally, something supremely problematic is asking people to educate you about certain kinds of oppression only because they experience it. You, hypothetical white person, are essentializing your friends of color when you ask them to explain all the racism to you. Read a book. For crying out loud, read Wikipedia. If you know your friend’s into studying racism, I think that’s generally okay; I assume that is why I get so many questions at this point.