Last Sunday, I laid out what I thought a proper space for “politically incorrect” questions and opinions would look like, because such a space can go drastically, cruelly, wrong. Now, I’ve decided to make one. I’m making a subreddit where those questions and opinions can get answers.
There are many reasons people might have a question about race, sex, disability, or related issues they’re afraid to ask their friends, family or teachers. They may not know how to phrase it respectfully. They may have a question that they know will offend but that they’re desperate to know the answer to. They may actually be bigots who are looking to make people mad. For whatever reason, I think there should be a space where, if they abide by principles of respect, civility and good faith, they should get their questions answered. The subreddit I intend to create will be an educational and discussion-based place. Questions will be answered without judgement. Answers will explain how and why some actions or word are appropriate or not, and place questions of bigotry or prejudice in their proper academic, sociological, political, economic and historical context. They will inform and educate while minimizing harm to the relevant marginalized groups. They will include concrete tips, approaches and scripts, so as to really help people move forward in the world. They will be respectful, civil and charitable, perhaps far more charitable than what is deserved. After all, charity can be totally badass activism.
This will be its own space, with its own rules. I do not think these rules make sense elsewhere, nor should people have to abide by them elsewhere. But I like the idea of a place where everyone agrees to be just ridiculously civil and respectful, to use their emotional energy or their privilege or their desire to educate to great effect. This is not the only form of education and activism. There are many others, which are crucial and vital and must exist as well. But this is a form that I think there isn’t enough of. Tumblr upon tumblr will tell people that it is their job to educate themselves about social justice issues. That may be right. So this is one place they can do it.
Some of the rules:
- No slurs unless you’re asking about them
- Disrespectful/cruel/obnoxious questions and comments get deleted
- Unhelpful/uncharitable/not-intended-to-educate responses get deleted, even if they’re completely correct
- The mods enforce these rules and give users suggestions on how to be more respectful or helpful.
You can find more of the rules here and at the actual subreddit when it goes live.
If you think this is important and useful, if you agree largely with what I’ve written here, and you want to get involved, look out for the link when the subreddit goes live! And if you want to be even more involved, I want you to be a moderator for the subreddit. Just answer a few questions here, and if you have the same vision I do, you’re in!
I think this could do some real good. Here’s hoping!
P.S. If anyone is wondering why I think this is so important, here’s something I wrote in a blog post about Social Justice education some time ago:
I do not deny for a second that it can seem like a waste of time, that it can be painful, and that rather more often than we might hope, the people we’re arguing with are not arguing in good faith. That is why we leave it to individuals to decide whether it is worth their time and effort. But those not willing to do this kind of work should not stand in its way. They should not base their arguments on assumptions others do not share and be surprised when they are not understood. They should not make it more difficult for others to do the challenging work by interrupting ongoing conversations with jeering and mockery. And most of all, while there are perfectly good reasons to stop being able to have a conversation or to not enter one in the first place, no one should engage in arguments with people who might be persuaded if they have no intention of taking the process seriously. Ideas rise and fall every day in the public sphere, and there’s no reason to lose arguments or adherents because some don’t think the work of public reason is worth doing properly.
If you want to know more about my take on activism, social justice, better arguing and charity, check out these links:
- Being Charitable
- Charity is Totally Badass Activism
- When I Say Charity, I Really Mean Due Diligence
- Bridging the Gap: Inferential Distance and Social Justice
- Worth Talking To
- All-or-Nothing is All Wrong
- Don’t Make it About Identity
- Call Harm, not Foul: Being Careful About Language, Especially Calling People Racist/Sexist/Etc
- Acknowledging Counterarguments
- When to Consider Reconsidering Your Position
- The Privilege of Charity, Part I
- The Privilege of Charity, Part II
- An Example of Steelmanning: The Issue of Gay Marriage and Polygamy