When I first signed up for Medium a few months ago, I had little interest in writing about race. My plan was to write about bullshit comedy pieces about bad TV shows and other equally important topics. But then Ahmaud Arbery came along, and I just became so consumed with anger and frustration that I shelved that to write about racism despite my total lack of authority on the subject because...well, it was like a combination of absolute fury at what was happened and a vague moral urge to "say something", even if nobody will read it or care, because I knew I couldn't live with myself if I remained silent.
It goes without saying that no, my writing did not cure racism, but it did permanently shift Medium's algorithims so that every day my email inbox is flooded with 500 articles that all involve the phrase "dear white people".
Now, I'm deeply fascinated by things like linguistics, argumentation, sociology, and rhetoric, so even though I was constantly getting bombarded with DEAR WHITE PEOPLE articles, I'd make it a point to actually read (or at least skim) most of them.
And 95% of the time, it's just the author using a provocative headline for clicks, just like every other essay on the Internet, and once you get to the actual content, they're extremely reasonable and level-headed. In very few instances have I found myself reading one of these pieces and thought "this person's being ridiculous."
I make it point to go out of my way to pay close attention to everyone's argument because that's something I genuinely enjoy doing. I read compulsively. But when I ask myself how different things would be if I DIDN'T actually sit down and read the articles, and if personal circumstances hadn't pounded the value of empathy into my head the hard way, I can easily see myself having a different reaction.
One of the most stressful things about the modern Internet is how you're constantly having hundreds of loud, screaming headlines vying for your attention every hour of every day. You will only read a few of these, if any. And most of them use deliberately provocative language as hooks. So what people retain instead is the combined, cumulative message of all the headlines they read, which is where it gets dangerous.
If I wasn't sitting down and actively listening, I can definitely imagine myself getting irritated or even defensive at constantly hearing about all the things I'm doing wrong, all the evil things I supposedly support, and how I'm generally failing at my moral duty at a time when it feels like the whole world is on fire. Nobody wants to be told how good they have it when they're going through a crisis of their own.
That said, I'm not blaming you or defending them. I'm not endorsing or condoning that thought process, and in a perfect world, people would actually sit down and listen patiently and have a civil, nuanced discussion.
But if we lived in that world, we wouldn't need to have that conversation in the first place.
So here's how I see it: Black writers are often going to have to choose between the cold political calculation of "strategic messaging" meant to persuade and mobilize sympathetic Whites--even if that means babying them with a watered-down message they definitely don't deserve to minimize the risk of alienating them--and the moral compulsion towards telling the truth, and fuck anyone who can't handle it.