This is the almost-final-draft of a section from a book about social justice warriors, identitarianism, and mobbing. For more information and links to other chapters, see How to Make a Social Justice Warrior.
• Unpacking “Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack”
• The Killing Rage of Bell Hooks
• Gendered language and sexism
• How to survive an online mobbing
• How to talk like a Social Justice Warrior, or The thought-terminating clichés of radical identitarianism
• Unpacking “Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack”
When I began unpacking “Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack”, I thought I would be unpacking whiteness theory. To my surprise, I also began unpacking middle-class niceness. I found a clip on Youtube where Peggy McIntosh talks about writing “Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack”. As soon as I saw her, I thought, “That’s a nice middle-class white woman.” Almost as soon as I thought it, I heard her use the word nice—she said, “In 1980, I had read two essays by black women who had lined it out just like a given: white women are oppressive to work with. And I remembered reading those essays with astonishment. They were so factual about it. White women are oppressive to work with. And I had two thoughts in 1980, and I still remember them. One was, I don’t see how they can say that about us. I think we’re nice. And the second, which is outright racist, but this is where I was in 1980, I especially think we’re nice if we work with them. Then I thought, did we fill the reading list and the programs and women’s studies with white people’s stuff? And at first I said maybe, and then I said yes. And I asked myself, if I have anything I didn’t earn by contrast with my African-American friends in this building, show me. And I had to pray on it. And I asked my unconscious mind to answer my questions. And after three months, forty-six examples had swarmed up, most of them in the middle of the night. And if I didn’t flick on a light and write them down, they would be gone by morning, because I didn’t want to know them. They were messing up my view of myself as a person who had earned everything I had.”
Two things struck me: McIntosh created her list through prayer and sleep like a prophet, not a scientist, and what drove her was a need to reconcile her belief she was nice with her awareness that it was not nice to think she was nice because she worked with black people.
Maggie Koerth-Baker at BoingBoing made me think more about niceness, class, and whiteness when she wrote that McIntosh’s essay “completely changed the way I thought about what racism is, and the privileges I experience as an upper-middle class white person.” Koerth-Baker and I live in a state that values niceness so much that Wikipedia has an entry for “Minnesota nice.” A great many nice middle-class white people share Koerth-Baker’s reaction to “Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack”.
I don’t. Since I’m talking about niceness and class, and because whiteness theorists love personal stories, here’s a little about me: My mother was the epitome of white middle-class niceness, a druggist’s daughter from northern Minnesota. My father grew up on a small farm, and while I’ve heard many people speak of him with respect, I’ve never heard anyone call him middle-class or nice. My earliest awareness of whiteness is tangled up in the civil rights conflict, when our family couldn’t get fire insurance because the Ku Klux Klan had threatened to burn down our home and I was bullied in school for being a niggerlover. So far as I was concerned, people who put any stock in whiteness were the enemy, which might be why Project Implicit’s test for race says I have “a slight automatic preference for African American compared to European American”. Or maybe I’m among the millions of white Americans with an implicit preference for African American because I grew up around black people and was never hurt by one. I don’t mean that I thought black people were better than white people—I agree with Malcolm X, who said after he left the Nation of Islam, “I believe in recognizing every human being as a human being, neither white, black, brown, or red.” I only mean that until I criticized whiteness studies, my experiences with black people were good and my experiences with white people were mixed.
When I began to argue on my blog that class matters more than race or gender in a capitalist country, I learned the limit of middle-class niceness. First came suggestions to read “Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack”. When I said I’d read it and agreed with some of its examples but not with its assumptions, niceness ended. I was treated brusquely as obtuse, then viciously as a committed racist. McIntosh’s fans insisted I was denying the existence of racism, which baffled me—if criticizing an ideology about race is denying the existence of racism, then when Malcolm X criticized the Nation of Islam, he was denying the existence of racism.
So I began researching. At the time, there was little analysis of “Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” online—people loved it or hated it. Adolph Reed Jr. helped me see why. In “The Limits of Anti-racism,” he wrote, “Yes, racism exists, as a conceptual condensation of practices and ideas that reproduce, or seek to reproduce, hierarchy along lines defined by race. Apostles of antiracism frequently can’t hear this sort of statement, because in their exceedingly simplistic version of the nexus of race and injustice there can be only the Manichean dichotomy of those who admit racism’s existence and those who deny it.”
Reed’s comparison of anti-racism to a dualistic religion was reinforced by the Reverend Thandeka’s “Why Anti-Racism Will Fail”. Writing about anti-racism training in Unitarian-Universalist congregations, she said the “belief that all whites are racists is based explicitly on the Christian doctrine of original sin…” Her “explicitly” is a reference to one trainer’s writing. There are anti-racists of all beliefs, but even the atheists divide white people between the saved who confess their racism and the sinners who do not.
Peggy McIntosh speaks persuasively to middle class whites and graduates of expensive private schools because she’s one of them—she’s the associate director of the Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College, one of the private women’s schools that have been educating the daughters of America’s elite since the 19th century. Wellesley’s graduates include two secretaries of state. It’s among the US’s most expensive schools—in 2013, a year there costs $57,042. It touts its diversity because less than half of its students are white and nearly a quarter are Asian, but that diversity doesn’t translate into class diversity—as a group, Asian Americans are richer than white Americans.
McIntosh effectively describes Critical Race Theory when she says, “I think whites are carefully taught not to recognize white privilege, as males are taught not to recognize male privilege. So I have begun in an untutored way to ask what it is like to have white privilege. I have come to see white privilege as an invisible package of unearned assets which I can count on cashing in each day, but about which I was ‘meant’ to remain oblivious. White privilege is like an invisible weightless knapsack of special provisions, maps, passports, codebooks, visas, clothes, tools and blank checks.”
Whether she’s playing a rhetorical game when she says she asked in “an untutored way” or was so immersed in Critical Race Theory that she did not realize she had been tutored by her friends “in the building” and her reading, I don’t know. Though she never names CRT in her essay, she mentions “institutional racism”, a core belief of CRT.
Critical Race Theory gave her a way to reconcile her belief that she was nice with her recognition of her not-nice racist thoughts. Like Saul the persecutor of Christians who became Paul the evangelist, Peggy McIntosh the racist became Peggy McIntosh the anti-racist. When she prayed to see the things she didn’t earn by contrast with her African-American friends, she was not looking for things she and those black friends did not earn by contrast with working class people of any hue—her concern was with the forms of injustice that affected her middle-class black peers.
The 1989 version of “Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” begins, “Through work to bring materials from women's studies into the rest of the curriculum, I have often noticed men's unwillingness to grant that they are overprivileged, even though they may grant that women are disadvantaged.”
She starts with the belief that all men are overprivileged and all women are disadvantaged, even though when she wrote, Queen Elizabeth was the fourth richest person in the world, Maggie Thatcher had been Prime Minister of Britain for nearly a decade, and Ronald Reagan’s cuts in social services had made over a million Americans of all races homeless, the majority of whom were men.
McIntosh says, “As we in women's studies work to reveal male privilege and ask men to give up some of their power, so one who writes about having white privilege must ask, "having described it, what will I do to lessen or end it?””
It’s an excellent question. For her, acknowledging privilege is the answer. Once acknowledged, that privilege may be enjoyed—she never considers giving up her job so a less-privileged black woman might have it.
Thinking all white people are racist may comfort recovering white racists, but tests for racism say they’re wrong. Project Implicit’s researchers found that 30% of white people have no racial preference or, like me, a preference for blacks. But their researchers stress that an implicit preference may not indicate meaningful racism, especially in people who’re aware of their preferences. Being human calls for balancing preferences. During the 2008 primaries, the differences between Obama and John Edwards were minuscule, yet white Democrats preferred Obama, and in the general election, Obama won a larger percentage of the white vote than any Democrat since Jimmy Carter. If Project Implicit is right that most white people have an implicit preference for whites, their preference did not translate into meaningful racism when they acted in the voting booth, and may not be meaningful elsewhere.
But suppose McIntosh is right and all white people need to acknowledge their white privilege. What will that do? Adolph Reed Jr. wrote, “In the logic of antiracism, exposure of the racial element of an instance of wrongdoing will lead to recognition of injustice, which in turn will lead to remedial action—though not much attention seems ever given to how this part is supposed to work. I suspect this is because the exposure part, which feels so righteously yet undemandingly good, is the real focus.”
The internet calls this Underpants Gnomes logic. In an episode of South Park, gnomes were stealing underpants. When asked why, they showed their three-phase business plan:
1. Collect Underpants
They had stolen lots of underpants. As soon as they figured out step two, they would be rich. The privilege theory plan looks like this:
1. Make men/whites admit they are overprivileged.
3. The end of prejudice and the beginning of true meritocracy!
McIntosh says, “My schooling followed the pattern my colleague Elizabeth Minnich has pointed out: whites are taught to think of their lives as morally neutral, normative, and average, and also ideal, so that when we work to benefit others, this is seen as work that will allow "them" to be more like "us.””
Minnich is another white academic who works at exclusive schools. She’s very right when she says, “when we work to benefit others, this is seen as work that will allow "them" to be more like "us.”” Neither Minnich nor McIntosh notice that working class white people also see middle-class do-gooders doing “work that will allow "them" to be more like "us””. McIntosh and Minnich’s focus on people of color either makes “overprivileged” working class whites invisible, or they cannot imagine that what they see as “morally neutral, normative, and average, and also ideal” is not whiteness, but middle-class niceness.
At the end of her introduction, McIntosh says, “I have chosen those conditions that I think in my case attach somewhat more to skin-color privilege than to class, religion, ethnic status, or geographic location, though of course all these other factors are intricately intertwined.”
Her mention of class should matter, but you’ll find no class considerations in what she wrote after she began praying. Most of her points boil down to a simple truth that may be implied in #36 on her list: "If my day, week or year is going badly, I need not ask of each negative episode or situation whether it had racial overtones."
If that means she never has to wonder whether a white person treated her badly because of her race, she’s right. But if she thinks white people never have to wonder if an unpleasant encounter had racial overtones, she should notice that people of color commit hate crimes too.
From “McIntosh as Synecdoche: How Teacher Education’s Focus on White Privilege Undermines Antiracism”, by the Midwest Critical Whiteness Collective (Timothy J. Lensmire, Shannon K. McManimon, Jessica Dockter Tierney, Mary E. Lee-Nichols, Zachary A. Casey, Audrey Lensmire, and Bryan M. Davis):
McIntosh suggests that the privileges might be divided into different categories, but she does not tell us how to categorize them. There is little about the order of the list to help us make sense of the key aspects or contours of white privilege.
Further, our confusion was also grounded in how McIntosh describes privilege. First, she seems to assume that lessening privilege for white people would also, in some direct way, lessen oppression for people of color. We found this especially puzzling since a number of privileges on McIntosh’s list seem better characterized as human rights, to which she refers as “what one would want for everyone in a just society”. In the case of such privileges, it seems that the struggle should be to guarantee them for everyone rather than lessen them for some.
Second, even as McIntosh gestures toward systemic oppression, her text focuses overwhelmingly on conceptualizing privilege as individual and seems to equate individual white people coming to understand their white privilege with overcoming systems of racial oppression. Stated differently, while reading and working with McIntosh’s piece might be a consciousness-raising exercise for individual white people, her text provides limited help with understanding and undermining systemic white supremacy. There is no call to activism, unless activism is conceived of as individual white people somehow lessening their own white privilege.
In my first attempt to unpack McIntosh’s unpacking, I embraced the subjectivity that Critical Race Theorists advocate and arranged her list like this:
1. Items with some objective truth
2. Items that do not apply to the white working class
3. Items that were no longer true when McIntosh wrote
4. Items that are purely subjective
I tried discussing them all and found I was repeating myself, so I’ll only include a few of the first two.
Examples of items with some objective truth
“1. I can if I wish arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time.”
There’s an old joke realtors tell: “What are the three most important things when selling a property? Location, location, location.” McIntosh’s black colleagues at Wellesley would’ve had trouble avoiding white people—the 2007 Census Bureau estimated the town’s racial makeup was 84.6% white, 10% Asian, and only 2.2% black. If unequal racial distribution is a sign of racism, Wellesley, Massachusetts is one of America’s most racist towns.
But the privilege of being in the company of people of your race most of the time depends entirely on where you are. Wikipedia’s list of U.S. communities with African-American majority populations includes two large cities, three small ones, and over 100 towns.
Whether McIntosh thinks voluntary segregation is a privilege that should be eliminated or a right everyone should have is not clear.
“3. If I should need to move, I can be pretty sure of renting or purchasing housing in an area which I can afford and in which I would want to live.”
A 2013 HUD study found “African-American home buyers learned about the existence of 17 percent fewer homes and were shown 18 percent fewer properties. On the renters’ side, 11 percent fewer units were “advertised as available” while they were shown 4 percent less units than Whites. Hispanic testers faced less discrimination, with renters learning about 12 percent less of available units, although they were shown 7 percent fewer available rental properties.”
Though McIntosh said she was considering class in her list, she overlooks a simple fact: middle class black people will still have an easier time finding a place in an area they can afford and would want to live than any poor person.
“6. I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely represented.”
White people are disproportionately represented because the media’s run by the rich, and the rich continue to be disproportionately white because the US has little class mobility. The people who can afford the most prestigious drama, film, and journalism schools will be disproportionately white until there is, to use Martin Luther King’s phrase, “a radical redistribution of economic power”.
Examples of items that do not apply to the white working class
“5. I can go shopping alone most of the time, pretty well assured that I will not be followed or harassed.”
I’ve been a clerk, so trust me: Good clerks try to watch everyone to be helpful and to reduce theft. Even the most racist clerks know they should watch white shoppers. White people do not get a shoplifting pass—believing in one might explain why celebrities like Lindsay Lohan and Winona Ryder get caught, but I suspect they thought they had a wealth and fame pass.
Mcintosh’s “most of the time” means she thinks being harassed is the most common experience for black shoppers. I suspect another form of privilege applies: Middle-class white people like McIntosh have the privilege of not noticing what the people who serve them are doing. Working-class white people know clerks watch them.
“9. If I want to, I can be pretty sure of finding a publisher for this piece on white privilege.”
She has already forgotten the published essays by the black academics who helped her see her racism. Anyone working at Wellesley could be pretty sure of publishing an essay, because credits and writing ability, not race, matter most in publishing. A white teacher at a less-prestigious school would have a more difficult time than any of McIntosh’s colleagues.
“25. If a traffic cop pulls me over or if the IRS audits my tax return, I can be sure I haven't been singled out because of my race.”
If she thinks working class whites don’t get harassed by cops, I’ll happily tell her about cops harassing me when I was young and drove a used car. I haven’t been able to verify her claim that the IRS was auditing a disproportionate number of black people, but if the IRS was targeting people based on income, the disproportionate number of poor blacks would make a class injustice look like a race injustice to people who think in terms of social identity.
After McIntosh lists 50 white privileges, she says, “Being of the main culture, I could also criticize it fairly freely."
In the 20th century, the people who were not free to criticize our culture were pacifists arrested in wartime and socialists denied employment during the Cold War. The most famous of those—Eugene Debs and the Hollywood Ten—were white men. The US has had black critics since Frederick Douglas. All of them were free to criticize, and criticized well.
McIntosh says, “…the feeling that one belongs within the human circle, as Native Americans say, should not be seen as privilege for a few. Ideally it is an unearned entitlement. At present, since only a few have it, it is an unearned advantage for them.”
If you accept her premise, it’s not “the few” who have the “feeling that one belongs within the human circle”. It’s the white majority. The language of privilege theory seems to have confused her—she writes as if the US in the 1980s was ruled by a white minority like South Africa under apartheid.
McIntosh says, "Many, perhaps most, of our white students in the United States think that racism doesn't affect them because they are not people of color; they do not see "whiteness" as a racial identity."
I’ve never met a white person who did not know their racial identity was white. White racists value that; the rest do not. Privilege theorists want to teach whiteness to white people to make them admit they’re “overprivileged”, but that only reinforces the social construct of race. Race will go the way of all bad ideas when people move on from it, but no one clings harder to the construct of race than identitarians.
McIntosh says, “Keeping most people unaware that freedom of confident action is there for just a small number of people props up those in power and serves to keep power in the hands of the same groups that have most of it already."
She still can’t decide if she’s talking about a majority or a minority. White people in the US are not “just a small number of people”. Had she been talking about capitalists, she would be accurate. In “Why Anti-racism Will Fail”, Thandeka notes, “First, 80 percent of the wealth in this country is owned by 20 percent of the population. The top 1 percent owns 47% of this wealth. These facts describe an American oligarchy that rules not as a right of race but as a right of class. One historical counterpart to this contemporary story of extreme economic imbalance is found in the fact that at the beginning of the Civil War, seven per cent of the total white population in the South owned almost three quarters (three million) of all the slaves in this country. In other words, in 1860, an oligarchy of 8,000 persons actually ruled the South. This small planter class ruled over the slaves and controlled the five million whites too poor to own slaves. To make sense of this class fact, we must remember that the core motivation for slavery was not race but economics, which is why at its inception, both blacks and whites were enslaved.”
McIntosh says, “Although systemic change takes many decades, there are pressing questions for me and, I imagine, for some others like me if we raise our daily consciousness on the perquisites of being light-skinned. What will we do with such knowledge? As we know from watching men, it is an open question whether we will choose to use unearned advantage, and whether we will use any of our arbitrarily awarded power to try to reconstruct power systems on a broader base."
What we know from watching men is that when they understand inequality in terms of rights, they share those rights—black people and women got the vote because white men realized participating in democracy is a human right. Building a fair world can’t be done by talking about taking privileges away. Who wanted the right to vote taken from white men? Who wanted the right to marry taken from heterosexual people? It’s nice to think that everyone will be equally privileged someday, just as it’s nice to think everyone will be above average and everyone will give 110%. But the problem of injustice calls for more than being nice. It calls for being just.
• The Killing Rage of Bell Hooks
Bell Hooks, the nom de guerre of Gloria Watkins, is an anti-racist feminist whose writing inspires many warriors. The opening essay of her Killing Rage: Ending Racism is fascinating, though not for the reasons she offers. Think of her as a Nabokovian unreliable narrator, and it’s both sad and hilarious. It’s the story of a ticket mix-up on a plane. A white man has a ticket for a seat, and due to an error, a black woman believes the seat is hers, though her ticket says otherwise. To Hooks, the whites who observe what happens are complicit in racism because they don’t ignore the ticket and accept the black woman’s word.
It never occurs to her that she might be mistaken. She defines herself as an anti-racist, and therefore she finds racism to oppose wherever she goes. Like many middle class blacks, she has an especially odd take on Malcolm X—she talks about his rage rather than his advice to respect everyone, and she prefers what he said when he served the Nation of Islam to what he said when he left it.
Her double-standard on class is shared by many of her fans. She says class matters, but she expects full deference from people who wait on her. If working-class folks are trying to finish another task before getting to her or make a mistake when they’re helping her, it’s because of their racism—or in the case of black workers, their internalized racism. If people always served me instantly and perfectly, I would give her claims more weight.
This is not to say Hooks has never faced racism. The old joke applies: Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you. The tragedy of racism is that people who might be its victims have to wonder if they’re its victims whenever a person of another race does anything that hurts or hinders them.
I didn’t start Killing Rage expecting to agree with her, but I expected to find some substance for her beliefs. Her desire to liberate subjectivity explains why there’s not.
There’s little criticism of her work, probably because it’s so very subjective. In “What Are the Drums Saying, Booker?: The Curious Role of the Black Pubic Intellectual”, Adolph Reed Jr. included her in his general critique when he said, “West, Dyson, et al, use the public intellectual pose to claim authority both as certified world-class elite academics and as links to an extra-academic blackness, thus splitting the differences between being insiders and outsiders. In the process, they are able to skirt the practical requirements of either role—to avoid both rigorous, careful intellectual work and protracted, committed political action. … In rejecting all considerations of standards of evidence and argument as expressions of naive positivism, the cultural politicians get to make the story up as they go along.”
Reed’s only specific reference to Bell Hooks is “Dyson and Watkins/hooks are little more than hustlers, blending bombast, clichés, psychobabble, and lame guilt tripping in service to the “pay me” principle.”
Like a teenager who has just discovered e. e. cummings, Watkins prefers to have her pseudonym lower-cased, but the convention of capitalizing names is useful for reading comprehension, so I’m treating her as though she were any human. No more insult is intended than a Quaker calling a king “friend”.
• Gendered language and sexism
Social justice warriors believe words shape the way humans understand the world, so if everyone used the right words, the world would become wonderful. The notion that language shapes us is older than identitarianism—it’s commonly known as linguistic relativity, Whorfianism, or the Sapir-Whorf Theory. The belief in the transformative power of language is behind the changing names for black folks: colored, Negro, Afro-American, African American, and People of Color are all attempts to find the name that will create respect for black people. The feminist rejection of “girl” in favor of “woman”, the hate for the generic “he”, the love of capitalizing “Black”as though it were a nationality instead of a race, the insistence that using “man” instead of “human” erases women, and using terms like “the n-word” instead of simply saying “nigger” are all manifestations of linguistic relativism. What warriors don’t know is the theory has been generally discredited. There seems to be a slight effect of language on people’s attitudes, but the effect is small and short-term. George Orwell’s 1984 is brilliant fiction, but its assumption about controlling people by controlling language is only fiction.
Studies of countries with gendered language show little correlation with sexism. Persian and Turkish are genderless languages, but Iran and Turkey have less gender equality than any country that uses a gendered language like Spanish in which nouns are considered male or female. Iran and Turkey also have less gender equality than most countries that use a “natural gender” language like English which has gender-specific pronouns but does not assign gender to nouns.
Here are the top five countries for gender equality and the kind of language spoken, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap:
1. Finland (tie with Iceland), genderless
2. Iceland (tie with Finland), natural gender
3. Norway, natural gender
4. Sweden, natural gender
5. South Africa, genderless
• How to survive an online mobbing
Ever since the Ku Klux Klan targeted my family, I've despised mob justice, no matter what the offense or whether the mobbing happens online or off. And yet, to my shame, I participated in online mobbing when I thought it was for a good cause. I failed to understand the negative form of the Golden Rule: Do not do unto others what you would not have other do unto you. Or, if you enjoy conflict but have a protective streak, consider this version: Do not do to strangers what you would not have done to your family and friends.
I learned that the hardest way. I don't know if I made every mistake the target of a mob can make, but I made the most common ones. This is the post I wish I had read the day before I was mobbed:
The internet does not read charitably. Making that problem far worse, many web sites follow the first law of tabloid journalism: If it bleeds, it leads. Whether their audience is liberal or conservative, feminist or men's rights, white or black, Christian or Jewish or Muslim, gay or straight, scifi fans or fantasy fans or romance fans, they know one truth: Outrage is google juice, because outrage junkies need their daily spike.
If you are targeted, the outraged will denounce you at your sites and theirs. What you said will be exaggerated for maximum effect. If you were pseudonymous, people who usually defend pseudonymity will proudly hunt down your real name and share it. If you're female, you will probably get rape threats. Regardless of your sex, you may get death threats—online if you're lucky, in your workplace or delivered to your home if you're not. Attempts to destroy your career may include calls to your bosses. When you have been declared a transgressor, you become an Other and the mob will excuse almost anything a mob member does to you.
You'll get two kinds of mobbers, haters who want to abuse and threaten you, and concern trolls who want to enlighten you. If the only mobbers were concern trolls, you could treat them like evangelists at your door. But the haters will be far more noticeable. When a lynch mob screams that you've rustled a horse, the ones who would like a nice talk over tea about whether you found the horse or even know that a horse went missing will be far less noticeable than the ones waving nooses.
The most important thing to understand is that you will go a little insane. At the very beginning of the mobbing, when the right response is crucial, adrenalin will kick in and you'll shift into fight or flight or freeze response. You'll be torn between anger over being attacked and despair for the consequences to your reputation. You will desperately want to do anything that will make things better, but you won't have a clue what that may be.
Your instinct to make the mobbing end immediately will be more correct than you will know at the time. The longterm psychological efforts of mobbing can be so horrible that most members of a mob would be ashamed if they knew what they were doing, no matter what they thought you had done. Most mobbing targets have to deal with some degree of adjustment disorder. Some kill themselves. During and after a mobbing, you may have trouble sleeping. You may eat or drink more. You may be unable to focus on your work. The depression and obsession that can be caused by a mobbing may drive away the friends who had stood by you during the mobbing, starting another and deeper cycle of depression and obsession.
Which is why I'm sorry to say there's no perfect solution.
But I can tell you how to keep from making a mobbing worse.
1. If you think you were wrong, or you are willing to lie for peace, apologize. Don't try to justify or explain what you did. Apologize without reservation, accepting full blame for what you did. Show that you understand your mistake, you are ashamed of it, and you know you do not deserve forgiveness, but you hope you'll be given a second chance.
Your apology will be scrutinized. The most extreme outrage junkies may not forgive you, but most members of the mob will be pleased that you've seen your sin and want to be part of them.
2. If your sense of pride or integrity will not let you apologize, follow this general guideline: Do not hide, and do not engage.
Your goal is to survive with the least damage. Flames spread too quickly on the web for anyone to put out every one. Trying to fight the flames is far more likely to fan them than end them. You must let the fire burn itself out.
But you can't do that by hiding. The mobbers will make and share screencaps of what you said. Any attempt to hide will not only be futile; it will further enrage the mob as it thinks you are trying to escape from justice.
Follow these steps:
1. Do not shut down comments on your post. The outraged people want their chance to speak at the site of the outrage. By letting them vent at your site, they will vent less elsewhere.
2. Add a note to the beginning of the post and in the comments saying that you're leaving the comments open so people may respond, but you won't reply to anyone now because you need time to consider what they say. If you're aware of specific errors in what you said, mention them, but don't try to say more.
3. Do not try to defend yourself. To the outraged, you are now the face of all they think is evil. You are not a human being. You are the effigy they may pummel because they can't hit Satan or whatever they have decided you represent. Nothing you might say will change their minds—they're attacking you because they are committed to a worldview. Anything you offer in defense will become fuel for their fire.
4. Tell anyone you care about to stay out of the mobbing. Anyone who defends you will only become the mob's next targets.
5. While the flames burn, spend time with people offline. Go for walks or bicycle rides or something that's physically and mentally engaging. Clean your home. Volunteer to help someone have a better life. Make art. Remind yourself that the people who treat you as inhuman can be treated in a similar but better way, by being ignored.
6. If you suspect the mobbing is hurting the quality of your life, talk to someone you respect, a psychological counselor or a religious person or anyone whose advice you'll seriously consider.
• How to talk like a Social Justice Warrior, or The thought-terminating clichés of radical identitarianism
Ally: A person of a different social identity who believes in identitarianism. Examples: Men may be feminist allies, white people may be allies of people of color, etc.
Appropriation/cultural appropriation: In anthropology, a term to discuss how cultures adopt ideas from each other. As John Stuart Mill noted, “There is no nation which does not need to borrow from others.“ To identitarians, appropriation is exploitation of oppressed cultures. For example, when twerking became popular, white pop star Miley Cyrus was accused of appropriating black culture. In the comments at Jezebel, Specular wrote: “You can't have this one both ways: either pop music created by non-dominant cultures is open to enjoyment and emulation by people outside that culture, or it is off limits to anyone not from that background and we therefore can't complain about limited sales and/or industry recognition. It's like when the folks over at Queerty complain that hipsters "stole" camp from gay people. It's not "progressive" in any sense, it's straight up genetic determinism and IMO not something to be proud of.”
Call out: To publicly accuse people of language or actions that promote an ism.
Cis/cisgender/cissexual and trans/transgender/transsexual: Trans people believe their gender is different than the sex of their body. Cis people believe their gender is the same as the sex of their body. Transsexual people have modified their bodies to make them more like the gender they believe is theirs. Cissexual people don’t change their physical gender. The terms do not refer to sexual preference; trans men and women may prefer people of the same gender or another, or have no preference, just like cis men and women.
Cishet: A cisgender heterosexual.
Classism: Prejudice against people in lower economic classes. Used to treat class as a social identity. LowEndTheory wrote, “The problem with making class oppression explainable by way of discrimination is that, as a group, poor and working class people aren’t poor and working class because they’re discriminated against. You can stop discriminating against poor people, that is, without changing the fact that we live in a society in which a very small collective have a whole lot more wealth than the great majority of others. Hell, if you want to get creative, you can even send a couple high-SAT-testing poor people to college so that they can mobilize toward the middle class and thereby make a system that makes so many people so poor have the appearance of fairness, even benevolence.“
Internalized misogyny/racism: Anyone of a social identity who disagrees with a warrior is suffering from an “internalized” ism that makes them blind to the warrior’s truth. A slightly gentler term than “race traitor” or “gender traitor”.
Intersectionality: Suffering from two or more kinds of oppression. Intersectionalists use this word to grasp that, for example, a poor gay person has to deal with being poor and gay.
Kyriarchy: Coined in 2001 by a Catholic feminist from the Greek words for “master” and "rule or dominate”. It’s an attempt to understand power in more complex ways than patriarchy. You may think kyriarchy is a redundant word for hierarchy, but the word’s users don’t object to all hierarchies—they only object to hierarchies that aren’t proportionate in race and gender.
Microoppression/Microaggression: A small act that makes a person of an oppressed identity feel oppressed.
Patriarchy: Rule by men.
People of color/POC: In the 19th century, people of color were African-Americans, but now the term includes anyone who is not white. Its advocates say it is more respectful than minority, which implies smallness, and non-white, which defines people in terms of what they are not. There’s no corresponding term like people of whiteness or people without color for white people.
Privilege: The absence of oppression. Straight white males are considered the most privileged people in the USA.
Racism/systemic racism: In a country with a dominant racial group, the prejudices of that group are seen as supporting that group’s dominance. Not to be confused with legal racism.
Rape: For some feminists, rape is a sexual act in which consent was not explicitly given.
Safe space: A place where people of an oppressed identity may segregate themselves.
Insults and Terms to Control the Discourse
Anti-feminist: Used by identitarian feminists to say other feminists are not true feminists. A variation of the no true Scotsman fallacy, which is named for an old joke in which a Scotsman defines what a Scotsman does, then is told of a Scotsman who does otherwise and declares the other is no true Scotsman.
Bro dude/bro-dude/brodude: A heterosexual man who enjoys sports and is assumed to be anti-feminist. The name comes from their habit of calling each other “bro” or “dude”. The “bro” is added to clarify that the reference is to males, because “dude” can refer to either gender in some communities.
Check your privilege/Your privilege is showing: A reminder to people who disagree with identitarians that their social identity will be held against them.
Derail: To go off-topic. Geek Feminism says “Derailment occurs when discussion of one issue is diverted into discussion of another issue, often by the group who were being called out about their bad behavior in the first place.” The idea may come from academia, where lecturers try to keep students’ questions and comments from affecting their lesson plan. Note that disagreement is “bad behavior.” Warriors do not think going onto other people’s sites to call them out is derailment.
Discussion/conversation: Discourse that keeps to an agenda.
Educate yourself/I’m not here to educate you: A common retort. Warriors want to teach their faith, but because that faith rejects objectivity, they have nothing to support it. The response that causes them the least cognitive dissonance is to say they are not trying to do what they are trying to do.
Derailing For Dummies’ “Derail Using Education” says phrases like “If you won’t educate me, how can I learn?” are wrong because “you’re placing responsibility for your education back onto the marginalized person. As they are obviously engaged with these issues, and care about them, they are hopeful that privileged people may one day start listening and taking on board what they have to say.” This inverts the usual expectation that a person making an assertion should be able to support it.
Angrily telling people you won’t help them can be an effective way to win converts. It encourages confused people to immerse themselves in identitarian writing.
Gatekeeper: Anyone who is thought to have the power to control admittance to a community. In publishing, editors and reviewers may be called gatekeepers.
JAQing off: Questioning the agenda. “JAQ” stands for “just asking questions”. Rationalwiki defines it as “1. the act of spouting accusations while cowardly hiding behind the claim of "just asking questions." 2. asking questions and ignoring the answers.”
Robby B at Atheism+ points out:
I understand how tempting it is to notice a common motif in the rhetoric of an Enemy, coin a name for that motif, and then use that name as though it on its own served as a magic word for banishing the Enemy and dispelling its arguments or insinuations. But in this case we already have names for the instances of "JAQing Off" that are problematic:
(1) When someone asks questions in a way that is meant to suggest a specific answer, we can criticize it as a leading question.
(2) When someone asks questions in a way that assumes a questionable premise, we can criticize it as a loaded question.
(3) When someone asks questions to dismantle a view no one holds, we can criticize it as a straw-man fallacy.
(4) When someone tries to implicitly defend a position by attacking an opposing view, we can criticize it as a false dilemma fallacy.
(5) When someone insinuates a conclusion rather than stating it explicitly, we can criticize it as a suppressed conclusion. (Likewise for suppressed premises.)
… and so on.
Misogyny: Sometimes used in its dictionary sense of “hatred of women”. Usually a synonym for “anti-feminist” and “anti-woman” to suggest an active and extreme hatred of women.
MRA: People who identify as Men’s Rights Activists. Used by identitarian feminists for anyone who disagrees with them.
Neckbeard: A sexist man. Literally, a man with a neck beard, which is associated with being overweight or poorly groomed. Feminist warriors refer to a neck beard in the way male chauvinists refer to hairy legs.
Oppression Olympics: Competition to see who is most oppressed and should be deferred to in discussion.
Punch up, not down: People without privilege may insult people with privilege, but people with privilege should not respond.
Shaming/Body-shaming/ Fat-shaming, Kink-shaming/Slut-shaming: Criticizing someone for something identitarians believe should not be a source of shame. At its extreme, this means no one should suggest anorexics or fat people should modify their behavior, or that a fetish might be harmful, or that women in revealing clothes should ever dress more modestly.
Shitlord/Shitlady: Someone who says or does something an identitarian doesn’t like. The term may have begun in a group called Shit Reddit Says. It has been adopted by some of the people it’s intended to mock—I recently saw a picture of an interracial couple proudly wearing their Shitlord and Shitlady T-shirts.
Showing your ass: To say or do something that, to a warrior, reveals prejudice. Like “neck beard”, "showing your ass" surprised me when I first heard it because it suggests the human body is shameful. Then I remembered identitarianism’s middle-class roots, and the implied desirability of modesty made perfect sense.
Splainer/mansplainer/whitesplainer/cis-splainer: A person of an oppressing identity who explains something that contradicts an identitarian. An example of ad hominem (“to the man”), which is dismissing an opponent on the basis of who they are rather than what they say—a mansplainer is a man whose explanation may be ignored because he is a man.
People who use the terms do not claim to be femsplaining, POCsplaining, or transplaining.
TERF: Trans-excluding radical feminist. A feminist who thinks cis-women and trans-women have different social identities and therefore trans-women, like men, may be excluded from a feminist group.
“Tone argument” or “tone policing”: People who suggest warriors would be more effective if they were civil is considered a concern troll and derailer who only wants to weaken the discussion. Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, and Fannie Lou Hamer would’ve rejected that idea in an instant. Malcolm X said, “Be peaceful, be courteous, obey the law, respect everyone; but if someone puts his hand on you, send him to the cemetery.” The strength of the second part makes some readers miss the stress on the first: Until people put a hand on you, treat them with respect. If they put a hand on you, defend yourself—and stay respectful. (As he probably knew, "Do not speak ill of the dead," is attributed to the Prophet Muhammad.)
People who cite the tone argument tend to be university graduates. Working-class people have an old response to rudeness: “Didn’t your momma teach you no manners?” But warriors think common courtesy is too common to apply to them. After the flamewar called Racefail 09, Jay Lake wrote, “Any cause that requires mockery and abuse to advance itself isn’t one I need to engage with, regardless of my basic beliefs or agreement with the underlying goals.”
Want a cookie? A response to anything a warrior thinks does not deserve acknowledgement or credit.