A while back, I was thinking about about strategies for solidarity and how we are often apt to make inappropriate or hurtful comments without meaning to. This happens all the time – many of us grow up learning subtle and not-so-subtle oppressive beliefs about others around us, even ourselves. Racism, heterosexism, cissexism, and ableism are all things that we have learned, often without even realizing it. Even as we unlearn oppressive attitudes, we’re bound to say oppressive things from time to time. If someone has the courage to call us on it, we have a great opportunity to listen, learn, and change! But I’ve noticed that often times, when people are told that their comments were hurtful or oppressive, their first reaction is to defend their behaviour. I think that only serves to exacerbate the situation and make the marginalized person feel even more hurt and frustrated. There is a way to meaningfully claim your inappropriate behaviour and work with the person you have wronged towards understanding and resolution. I learned this process last year during Queer Identities Week at Kim Crosby‘s workshop, “Allyship is a Process“:
C is for Centre yourself. Take a moment to breathe and acknowledge your feelings – you probably have a lot of them. Anxiety, anger, fear… you might be feeling really defensive, or maybe guilty because you have hurt a person or community you care about. Sit with that feeling and take a moment to calm yourself. Everyone is human and makes mistakes, what is important is learning from them.
L is for Listen. This is so important. Your comment or action has hurt a person or community, LISTEN to their voices. How did your behaviour make them feel? What could you have done differently? Give them space to speak and be heard.
A is for Acknowledge. This is about recognizing that you dun goofed, and validating the person or community’s feelings about your mistake or misstep.
I is for Inquire. This is about asking the person or community what you can do in the future to avoid making this mistake again. It is also about self reflection – why did you do what you did? Where did the idea or instinct to do that thing come from? What can you do to unlearn that belief or behaviour? How you can prevent your beliefs or actions from causing harm?
M is for Move Towards Resolution. This means finding a way to make good with the person or community you have wronged. This could mean making them dinner to make up for the time they have spent engaging with you in this process, or it could mean never speaking to them again. Find out what they want you to do, and try to do it.
This process has been instrumental for me in moving forward after mistakes I have made. I work really hard towards allyship and solidarity, but I’m human too and occasionally I do or say things that aren’t awesome. When I (or someone else) realizes that I’ve done something uncool, this process helps me to work with the person I’ve wronged and feel empowered to be a better, more considerate person in the future. I hope it’s helpful for you folks too!