To be honest,
I debated sending this to you for about a week before deciding to go ahead.
Because, especially given the current situation, this is a topic RIPE for misunderstandings.
1. There is an important message in here that hopefully might encourage you
2. If anyone chooses to misunderstand again, it’s best they left anyway.
The story requires some background, however:
I’m talking about my email about Daryl Davis, the black musician who befriended and helped 200 former racists leave the Klan.
Not long after I sent out this story, I was cussed out by an angry troll for sharing.
In response, I sent a light-hearted email pointing out the troll’s misguided assumptions:
Hi Brilliant Writers,
You know you’ve made it as a writer when you get two wildly different emails in response to the same story:
First, I present to you this gem, by Nick H Troll:
So we should all just go befriend the Klan cause they’re a bunch of nice guys that just don’t know any better? Maybe you should take a break from writing and read or listen for a minute to understand how f***ing stupid this email is and how ignorant you sound.
It’s not black people’s responsibility to teach white people how not to be racist. That’s on you and you’re currently failing.
(Wowza! Talk about the Granddaddy of Trolls. He actually used a cuss word! Impressive 🙂 )
Second, this lovely note from Brilliant Writer Derrick:
This was absolutely wonderful!! Thank you for sharing!!
(Yep, I copied both emails verbatim from the originals, just censored out the cuss word in the first one)
Both of these emails were responses to a true story about a man named Daryl Davis who, as a black / African-American musician, befriended and influenced 200 people to leave the Klan.
(Go ahead, look him up on Google, his full story is very interesting)
After I told the story, I observed that Davis’ power to influence others for good lay in his humble refusal to be offended, and his willingness to treat others better than they deserved.
Overall, not too controversial, one would think.
But these two responses from Nick and Derrick demonstrate that John Lydgate was right when he said:
“You can’t please all of the people all of the time.”
And as a writer, you shouldn’t even try.
Also, it’s funny how people lose their minds when they get mad, isn’t it?
They make so many inaccurate assumptions about the people they are dumping on.
“It’s not black people’s responsibility to teach white people how not to be racist. That’s on you”
Mm…why? Because Nick H Troll thinks I’m white?
For all he knows, I could be black 🙂
And, according to Nick H’s profile picture (which came with the email), he is not.
Which is exactly what I was trying to say in the original story.
There are many variations of hatred in this world. And other people’s race or gender or [insert any other identifying factor here] is just an excuse to let loose the inner troll-demons.
The truth is, it’s not really about those factors at all.
When people want to hate, they will use any and every excuse they can grasp.
That’s why we have to remember:
Often, when people are nasty to you, it’s not about you, anyway.
Maybe Nick H was having a VERY bad day.
Or maybe the current political situation in the States has given him indigestion, and he was looking for someone to poop on.
Either way, it’s okay.
I’m grateful this granddaddy troll has shown his true colors and scurried away.
That’s one less pair of stinky feet muddying up our Merry Band 🙂
And I also think there’s a reason that Derrick’s message came around the same time.
To remind me of this message that I now pass on to you:
Stay humble. Stay happy. Keep doing what you’re supposed to do, and giggle at the trolls.
They’re just a sign that you’re on the right path.
Oh, and also, there are still good, kind people out there, and those are the people you want to serve and keep close to you.
Somebody was NOT happy with my response.
A few days later, this came, from a Cassandra O.:
Nick H. Troll, as you referred to him, used inflammatory language, but he made a valid point. I think dismissing his very real problem with your response/suggestions surrounding race in America currently, is no better than the inflammatory nature of his response to yours. You reduced his comments to those of a person simply having a bad day and implied he could not make the remarks he made because he is not black after first pointing out that you could possibly be black. You used your ability to use language better than another person as a weapon, an unnecessary one at that. You also did the same thing you accused him of. You made inaccurate assumptions about him.
Quite frankly, as a person of color, your commentary felt tone deaf to me (I can’t speak for my entire race). In your piece, you told the story about a black man dealing with overt racism. In many respects, overt racism is easier to combat than the racism we deal with every day, especially when people like you talk around the very real problem we face and give great examples of People of color overcoming adversity…
People of color are being killed because they are not being seen as fully human. We just want those of you with the quill to say that, using plain speech. No dancing required.
Stop prancing around it with pretty stories. If you are not going to use your power over the pen to say something ‘controversial’ about a very controversial time in history then what is your quill for?
I wish you continued success with your ‘merry band’. I’ll see myself out.
There are so many misunderstandings in this comment, I don’t even know where to begin.
Let’s examine a few nuggets:
- You reduced his comments to those of a person simply having a bad day and implied he could not make the remarks he made because he is not black after first pointing out that you could possibly be black.
I only pointed out the black/white thing because the troll first implied that I had certain opinions and responsibilities because I was “white.”
First, I’m not white.
Second, I reject the notion that we have to do certain things or treat other people in certain ways based on skin color.
I care more about people’s character than their color.
And if you think skin color matters more than a person’s humanity, that’s racism.
Nick’s comment about it being my responsibility to “teach white people how not to be racist” because he thinks that I’m white and/or he thinks that black people don’t have the ability or responsibility to teach, makes him the racist.
After all, the definition of racism means thinking people have to do or think or say something just because of the color of their skin.
See Google’s definition:
Racism – prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against a person or people on the basis of their membership of a particular racial or ethnic group. The belief that different races possess distinct characteristics, abilities, or qualities, especially so as to distinguish them as inferior or superior to one another.
- You used your ability to use language better than another person as a weapon, an unnecessary one at that. You also did the same thing you accused him of. You made inaccurate assumptions about him.
I did not use language as a weapon, but as a “fire extinguisher” to contain the heat of the troll’s ferocity, and I made no assumptions about the man.
Implying that he may have had a bad day is not an assumption. It’s actually helping him save face.
Better that than accuse him of being a hypocritical racist.
We all have bad days, that’s fine.
And it’s also fine to disagree with people.
But it is NOT okay to deliberately misunderstand, malign, and attack others based on your own anger.
Not only is it bad manners, it also won’t get anyone to change their mind and agree with you.
- If you are not going to use your power over the pen to say something ‘controversial’ about a very controversial time in history then what is your quill for?
The quill is not for “saying something controversial.”
It is there to tell the truth.
You see, my response to the troll’s email was not about racism at all.
It was about how NOT to communicate.
There are many gnarly problems in this world, but throwing f-bombs at people you disagree with won’t solve any problems.
It just reveals you as a troll.
And wise people don’t take trolls seriously.
People who tell the truth don’t have to demean themselves by cursing at others to get their point across.
If you do, that throws your message into question as well.
One last note on the sensitive and painful issue of race conflicts…
I don’t know everything, but I do know this:
We are all humans who are hurting.
Black, white, purple, blue, doesn’t matter. We are ALL hurting, for different reasons, and lashing out to hurt others just makes everything worse.
We ALL need to see each other as humans. Being unkind is not the answer.
And if you want other people to be understanding of you, you need to be willing to understand them, give them the benefit of the doubt, as well.
When you try to write about important subjects, you WILL get attacked.
My response to Nick was to show that you need to be brave and talk about these subjects anyway.
Because not-talking builds up pressure that will lead to explosions.
But when you touch on sensitive issues, you need wisdom, humility, and a sense of humor.
Because sometimes people WILL be nasty.
Don’t mind them, but don’t let them think that it is okay behavior. It’s not.
Good communication works best when both sides are honest and respectful.
So be careful not to take offense easily.
But if others are easily offended, either treat it lightly or don’t communicate with them until they’re willing to act human again.
It’s okay to disagree, but it’s not okay to lose control of yourself, no matter how angry you get.
Because Nick H was nasty, I treated his message lightly.
But if respectful and reasonable people disagree with me, I will respond in kind.
In the end,
Sometimes people deliberately miss your point, and there’s nothing you can do about it.
You just have to keep being brave, and keep writing and saying what you know to be true.
Sometimes you’ll make mistakes, or maybe not communicate clearly enough, but it’s a learning process.
Don’t be afraid to tell the truth, or get yelled at by online trolls.
You have a mind, and a voice.
Use them well.
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