Theoretically Speaking…

You wish to ally yourself with a marginalized community. You want to learn from them and help advocate for them, because someone you love is in that community and you want to do whatever you can to help. You want to understand.

You might join a group to learn more. Say you join and you read a little and find out there’s some problematic language in common use. You find out that much of the community feels strongly about this, because you’ve read other posts where people have responded passionately.

You decide to ask a question to learn more. Having seen prior responses, you try to phrase your post so as not to offend: “Hi friends, I’m new here, so if I get some of the terms wrong please go easy on me! I’m just asking an innocent question so don’t jump on me, but can someone please explain to me why these terms are so offensive? I just don’t understand it because I see them used all the time. Thanks for being kind in your replies!”

So let’s break that down from another perspective. Let’s say we’re someone in that marginalized community reading that. Here’s a possible translation: “Hi strangers, I’m new here, so if I don’t bother trying to get things right, please allow me to discount your voice based on how I perceive your tone in your response! I’m just asking a not very innocent question so don’t correct me, but can someone please explain to me why these terms are so offensive (before I’ll stop using them)? I just don’t understand it because it doesn’t affect me and I see them used all the time (which makes me think you’re a fringe minority and I therefore don’t have to listen to you about this). Thanks for letting me tone police your replies before you even respond!”

Now is the time on Sprockets when we cherry pick people’s responses for confirmation bias.

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