Guest post: Being oppressed doesn’t make people immune to being wrong

Originally a comment by Bruce Gorton on When two oppressed groups are in conflict.

The admonition to shut up and listen to the members of the oppressed group is a valid one, but it only works when dealing with a non-oppressed group (to-wit, straight white men, preferably but not exclusively middle-class and up).

You know, I don’t think it actually is valid, or more like the validity of “shut up and listen” isn’t on the axis of oppressed versus non-oppressed, but rather on the axis of expertise vs non-expertise.

Because the thing is – being oppressed doesn’t actually make people immune to being wrong, and all too often putting the validity of “shut and and listen” on that axis, leads to a situation in which one ranks oppressions.

We saw it with “Islamophobia”, where concerns around sexism, the mistreatment of apostates, homophobia, anti-Semitism etc… were more or less silenced because Muslims were the oppressed minority of the day. A minority that was deemed more oppressed than these other groups, thus the other groups needed to “shut up and listen”.

The TRAs very specifically aimed to paint themselves as the most oppressed minority, specifically because that grants a greater ability to tell other groups to “shut up and listen”.

And I can’t help but think it is going to end up being the response to women who point out that calling people “Karens” is sexist. In fact I’d be surprised if the argument hasn’t already been floated.

I think there is something to be said for listening to people about their experiences, but it should be an active sort of listening, in which one asks questions and requires claims to be supported.

And yes, this can come off as JAQing off, but there is so much bullshit out there floated as “woke” that you can’t really get around it.

I’m South African so my example is always going to be Bell Pottinger, a PR firm that sought to undo the legacy of Nelson Mandela in order to run interference for a pack of thieving scumbags who were robbing my country blind. They did it using woke points, cynically and expertly playing up racial tensions and pushing “White Monopoly Capital” as the villain, in a way that was indistinguishable from people who may well have been genuine about it.

There is a lot of fakery mixed in with the stuff we’re supposed to be shutting up and listening to, even with causes we’d normally all get behind. “Shut up and listen” – doesn’t help us sort the bullshit from the real, and that has become a real problem that is actively undermining a lot of groups.

And a lot of the bandwagon on bullshit causes is populated by well meaning straight white guys who “shut up and listened” to the wrong people.

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