I'm pretty liberal these days. I've mentioned before that I got into liberal groups thinking, "Hooray! At last, a place of tolerance and less thought policing!" Hahaha. People are people, and in groups there are things they pretty much always do. Policing the group boundaries is a part of that, and you don't necessarily need a list of dogmas or an Inquisition to do it. In fact, all the lack of those things does is make it harder to tell what offenses are going to get you in trouble.
One of the dogmas of progressivism is that if you are the victim of oppression, you are allowed to be angry. No one is allowed to tell you not to yell and shout, because that's tone policing. And I agree with this on a basic level. Obviously if you're suffering pain and trauma, you need to be able to express that. Being rushed toward forgiveness is unhelpful.
What bothers me, though, is that more and more things are considered tone policing. Anger is virtuous. Kindness is "both sides" rhetoric, which takes the side of the oppressor.
I have two examples lately. The first was when Melinda Selmys wrote a post about how some women in the white nationalist movement may be victims of ideological abuse, and so you might consider, if you feel safe doing so, maintaining some sort of distant ties.
She was met with rage and accused of "hugging Nazis." Jewish people said that she should let them decide whether she could maintain ties with such a woman or not. After all, the only reason she could be so casual is that she's not a victim of their oppression.
I felt and feel that Melinda's bona fides as an opponent of white nationalism are clear. She's not saying it's okay to be a white nationalist or that they're not that bad. She's saying that you might be able to rescue someone from a toxic belief system and that's a good thing to do. Attacking her feels like friendly fire. If you're going to attack and demonize your allies for not drawing exactly the lines you do, you'll wind up with a lot fewer.
The second instance is a post in a group of autistic people and some of their parents. I'm a little nervous sending parents to this group, even though it's incredibly educational, because they often get yelled at for mistakes they make out of ignorance. I don't want to introduce parents to autism acceptance and immediately turn them off it because the group demonizes neurotypical parents.
Someone said as much in the group this morning. Something like, hey, let's remember that not all parents who come in here being ignorant are the enemy. They just don't know we don't like puzzle piece symbols and ABA or why, so let's instruct them kindly instead of yelling at them and kick them out of the group.
So naturally everybody yelled at her and kicked her out of the group. Anger isn't just allowed, it's a requirement. Kindness isn't just unnecessary, it takes the side of the oppressor. The only way liberation has come is through "fighting for it."
I understand that nonviolence and gentle outreach isn't the answer to everything. Sometimes you have to push harder than that. But when you're a tiny minority and you're not armed or otherwise in an advantageous position, you can't win simply by being madder than everyone else! You may manage to shame other progressives into not arguing with you, but you're not actually converting very many people.
Having and voicing your feelings is important. But winning is also important. If you want to end the injustice you're dealing with, you need converts. And converting people doesn't happen simply by spraying out your raw feelings and shaming them for not liking it. It doesn't happen by stereotyping everyone who is not in your group as oppressors even when they're potential allies, and attacking them for being ignorant about something they've never heard of before.
There are a lot of ways toward liberation. Some people want to march in the streets. Some people invite a prominent neo-Nazi to Sabbath dinner till he changes his ways. And I totally understand that not every way is for every person. And that we shouldn't act like radical outreach is the only way and that all black people have to hug KKK members in order to convert them.
But if you do want to do those things, you shouldn't be shamed by your own side for it. These things are risky but they do sometimes work. And does it matter how your liberation comes so long as it does?
Well, that's what I think anyway.