Monday, June 30, 2014

Different tactics

This video is another in a series of BuzzFeed videos that try and make the same point. I think it works very well, but I also think that the reactions to these videos are interesting.

This video, “If Black People Said The Stuff White People Say” is just like the video I posted a couple weeks ago, “If Asians Said The Stuff White People Say”. Both videos explore “the silly things white people say” to non-whites. “It’s a common enough tactic: Turn language around to highlight how ridiculous it really is. When it works—and I think this one does—it can be quite effective.”

So there’s nothing particularly new about this video, and there’s probably no end to similarly-themed videos that could be made. Maybe that’s as it should be, because the one thing that’s struck me the most was the howls of outrage coming from—well, let’s be honest here—people like me: White, middle class males.

The easiest and surest way to get a white person to switch into ardent defensive mode is to challenge his (or her) privilege: They not only refuse to acknowledge any validity in what you say, they attack YOU for being racist, sexist, etc. This is why, unlike my more warrior-like ideological brothers and sisters (well, maybe cousins…) on the Left, I almost never even use the word privilege, let alone talk about it in the context of what someone in the majority is doing wrong. It’s tactics, really: I know they’ll shut down if I use the word or argument, so I choose other, less threatening routes.

And that, I think, is the strength of videos like these. Sure, there will be some who will swing into full-on defensive mode no matter what, but most people, probably disarmed by the humour, may at least get a glimmer of recognition of how their behaviour toward people who are different from them can be, well, improved, we’ll say.

Discussions of privilege and how best to combat it have their place—absolutely they do—but if the goal is to effect change, then other, less confrontational, approaches are likely to be more effective. Which is why videos like this can help.

Ultimately, though, nothing can replace one-on-one interaction as a means of education and enlightenment, because people find it very hard to be prejudiced against people they know and like. Sure, sometimes when a person of privilege says really stupid things it may be tempting to knock them upside the head, but that isn’t terribly helpful. Maybe show them a video instead.

It couldn’t hurt.

No comments: