hate

Allyship does not mean seeing yourself as worthless

There are people who like to make others feel worthless. Some of them use the language of social justice to get away with it. 

Often, this comes in the form of proclaiming to hate allies and then demanding unbounded deference from allies. This is typically conflated with accountability, but it’s not the same thing at all. 

Hatred and accountability are different things. Accountability as an ally means, among other things:

  • Listening to the people you’re trying to support instead of talking over them.
  • Making good-faith efforts to understand the issues involved and to act on what you learn.
  • Understanding that you’re going to make big mistakes, and that sometimes people you’re trying to support will be justifiably angry with you.
  • Accepting that your privilege and power matter, not expecting others to overlook either, and taking responsibility for how you use both.
  • Facing things that are uncomfortable to think about, and handling your own feelings about them rather than dumping on marginalized people.
  • Being careful about exploitation and reciprocity, including paying people for their time when you’re asking them to do work for you.
  • Understanding that marginalized people have good reason to be cautious about trusting you, and refraining from demanding trust on the grounds that you see yourself as on their side.

When people use the language of social justice to make others feel worthless, it’s more like this:

  • Telling allies explicitly or implicitly, that they are worthless and harming others by existing.
  • Expecting allies to constantly prove that they’re not terrible people, even when they’ve been involved with the community for years and have a long track record of trustworthiness. 
  • Berating allies about how terrible allies are, in ways that have no connection to their actual actions or their actual attitudes.
  • Giving people instructions that are self-contradictory or impossible to act on, then berating them for not following them.
  • Eg: Saying “Go f**ing google it” about things that are not actually possible to google in a meaningful way
  • Eg: saying “ shut up and listen to marginalized people” about issues that significant organized groups of marginalized people disagree about. https://www.realsocialskills.org/blog/the-rules-about-responding-to-call-outs-arent
  • Eg: Simultaneously telling allies that they need to speak up about an issue and that they need to shut up about the same issue. Putting them in a position in which if they speak or write about something, they will be seen as taking up space that belongs to marginalized people, and if they don’t, they will be seen as making marginalized people do all the work.
  • Giving allies instructions, then berating them for following them:
  • Eg: Inviting allies to ask questions about good allyship, then telling them off for centering themselves whenever they actually ask relevant questions. 
  • Eg: Teaching a workshop on oppression or a related issue, and saying “it’s not my job to educate you” to invited workshop participants who ask questions that people uninformed about the issue typically can be expected to ask.
  • More generally speaking: setting things up so that no matter what an ally does, it will be seen as a morally corrupt act of oppression.

Holding allies accountable means insisting that they do the right thing. Ally hate undermines accountability by saying that it’s inherently impossible for allies to do anything right. If we want to hold people accountable in a meaningful, we have to believe that accountability is possible. 

Someone who believes that it’s impossible for allies to do anything right isn’t going to be able to hold you accountable. If someone has no allies who they respect, you’re probably not going to be their exception — they will almost certainly end up hating you too. If someone demands that you assume you’re worthless and prove your worth in an ongoing way, working with them is unlikely to end well.  

If you want to hold yourself accountable, you need to develop good judgement about who to listen to and who to collaborate with. Part of that is learning to be receptive to criticism from people who want you to do the right thing, even when the criticism is hard to hear. Another part is learning to be wary of people who see you as a revenge object and want you to hate yourself. You will encounter both attitudes frequently, and it’s important to learn to tell the difference. Self-hatred isn’t accountability.

Tl;dr If we want to hold allies accountable in a meaningful, we have to believe that accountability is possible. Hatred of allies makes this much harder.

Image description: A sign with text "allyship does not mean seeing yourself as worthless".

Don't hate former versions of yourself

So, I see this kind of thing a lot:

  • Wow, I can’t believe I used to like that
  • I was such a loser when I was 13
  • What was WRONG with me
  • I just found some of my writing from the 90s. How embarrassing. 

And here’s what I always want to say when people say things like that: You didn’t suck then. Your old writing is nothing to be ashamed of. Your youth is nothing to be ashamed of.

You were a person, and you were younger and knew less than you do now. That’s a good thing. It means you’re still learning.

But your younger self was worthy. Good. Deserves respect. And so do other young people who are similarly young and inexperienced, and who similarly have a lot to learn.

When you don't hide

Some people are bullies. 

Many bullies target people who have apparent stigmatized characteristics.

If you choose to stop hiding a stigmatized part of who you are, some people will be actively mean to you who weren’t mean before.

For example:

  • If you are gay, coming out will make some homophobic bullies more interested in hurting you
  • If you are autistic, stimming in public will make some ableist bullies more interested in hurting you
  • If you wear clothing associated with a stigmatized religion, some bigoted bullies will be more interested in hurting you

This is not your fault, but some people will blame you. Some people will tell you that you brought it on yourself by being visible. You didn’t. Bullying happens because mean people choose to hurt others. 

You were already getting hurt by bullies, because hiding hurts too. The way bullies hurt you when you are more visible is a different kind of hurt. Both are equally real.

Some people in some situation find hiding more bearable. Some people in some situations find being visible more bearable. Both are valid. It’s a personal choice. And the consequences are never your fault.

Hate joke example

Content warning: This post is an example of a racist hate joke. Some of y'all might be better off skipping this one.

Anonymous asked realsocialskills:

When I was in middle school there was a racist ‘personality quiz’ joke that was framed as an innocent question, “Which would you rather have: vanilla or chocolate ice cream?” If you said you like chocolate better, it meant you preferred oral sex with a black boy. Trust me, white girls quickly changed their answers when they realized what the implication was.

realsocialskills said:

Wow, that’s horrible. And it’s a particularly clear example of a hate joke. (I bet most of those same girls vehemently denied that they could ever have any racist attitudes.)

Remembering that you are not alone

April is a brutal month.

There’s a lot of hate directed at autistic people, during April.

The same people who bullied us in high school, have Awareness events in college. They think they’re better than us. They put on rallies and events telling the world how awful it is that we exist.

At the same time they lament our existence, they ignore our presence and voices. They don’t really understand that autistic people are real. They just wish that we weren’t.

And, during April, it seems like everyone is in on it. Even people you otherwise like. Even people you thought better of. It’s everywhere. You can’t get away from it. It’s scary and humiliating, and it can be overwhelming.

It isn’t actually everyone, though. Not everyone hates you for being disabled. Not everyone wants to erase you. Some people understand. You are not alone. And it helps to remember that.

Even the hate only goes down to a certain point. It’s possible not to believe them. It’s possible to create space for yourself that that they can’t touch. Keeping that in mind helps, too.

And you’re already real. You’re already worthwhile. The people who think you need a cure to be a person are wrong. You are a person. The people trying to convince you otherwise are being horrible.

You are not alone. Try to keep that in mind as much as you can, and reach out to the people who can support you.

A red flag: hate-based closeness

A red flag: hate-based closeness

Hating all the same things is not a good basis for a relationship. 

You can have a lot of fun ranting about how awful certain things or people are; you can also feel satisfied in a darker sense by the hate. But you can’t build on that; it’s not a foundation for closeness. 

You also have to have love; you have to care more about the thing you are building than the thing you are tearing down.