Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Tough Discussions: Platitudes Are Not a Response

(This is post number one in a new series I am writing about tough discussions and how not to be an asshole when talking about difficult issues)

I admit the limitations of trying to talk about something real and not Kardashian related on Facebook.

However, I feel the need to say this and it pertains to everyone and to any of the hard discussions you might find yourself involved in down the road.  This applies whether you are talking about the death penalty, abortion, racism, sexism, police brutality—whatever.

Platitudes are not a response.  This doesn’t make them any less true or less valid—but they are a cop out.  They are a way to allude to things without having to discuss the issue in any real way.  They are euphemistic and that cheapens the discussion.  Further, if you are talking to a child, they are a way to confuse the issue.  (We aren’t talking about fucking birds and bees—we are talking about sex.  SEX.)

They are a failure of communication.

When I wrote those posts following Davis’ execution, I was asking for commentary.  I wanted to have a conversation about what happened, why it happened, and responses to it.  I also, desperately, wanted to know that people found this as abhorrent as I did because it was gone almost immediately from the news cycle.  It was gone almost immediately from Facebook.

I felt like this was something that needed to be talked about and comments that amount to various restatements of “you can’t judge a book by its cover” and old school civil rights references with a few doses of religiosity for flavor, does not equal discourse.

These are Farrakhan responses—they will get a lot of “amens” from the crowd (or on Facebook, likes) but they means nothing.

This is probably my fault.  I could have couched my reflections on Troy Davis in different terms but I chose to talk about the school to prison pipeline for black males for a reason.  First, it exists, it is real, and it is wrong.  Second, I had the reasonable expectation that my audience would be willing to at least entertain the ideas because I was talking about children.

People love to tell you how to raise kids--especially when you ask.

That didn’t work out the way I expected it to.  I think putting the discussion in those terms masked what I really wanted to talk about—fear, paranoia, the reality of racism, racial violence, and lynch culture.  We are still there and the fourteenth amendment still does not mean the same thing for people of color that it means for white people.

I could have used other terms—other examples.  I could talk about domestic violence, sexual assault and the way the state punishes and blames women for their victimization.  I could have talked about how fear of the state and fear of the police are further barriers for women of color from even reporting assaults and seeking justice.

I could have talked about other things—more adult things.

If I had, I wonder what platitudes would apply?

Helpful Links
For more information about Troy Davis' execution:
Ann Coulter Being an Asshole
If you feel like you want to do more:

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