What we believe: Respect this house

We are thrilled to have acquired many new readers over the past year. To acclimate new folks to the LIE community, we thought it would be helpful to re-publish a few posts that communicate this blog’s core values. The following originally appeared in July 2009. It refers to ARP, as Anti-Racist Parent was the original name of this space.

written by Anti-Racist Parent columnist Deesha Philyaw

[Okay, in reality the following is a comment that Deesha left on last week's "What we believe" post. I have been noodling about a post that explains why we need to keep ARP a productive space for anti-racist parents and what that means for the type of debate and discussion we allow here. My basic thesis was that I expect all who join the ARP family to respect this house. You wouldn't visit a Christian friend's home for dinner and hospitality and begin haranguing her about the atheism--or vice versa. You don't visit a site devoted to helping parents navigate race to argue that racism doesn't exist or that racism as it is defined in the anti-racist community is all wrong in your view.

I was going to write all this stuff, but then Deesha left a comment that said what I wanted to say way more eloquently. (She's always doing that sort of thing.) I liked her comment so much, I thought it merited a space where everyone could see it. Bolded copy refers to arguments made by another poster--arguments which are common, understandable and deserve response.]

If [ARP] becomes inclusive to only those who “get it” completely, then those who are “seekers” will never grow.

There are reasons folks will not “grow” as anti-racist parents, but I wouldn’t say that the fault lies with whether a particular online community is inclusive or not. In fact, I think that’s a cop-out, similar to: “I tried to be friendly to that black woman in the next cubicle, but when I told her that I couldn’t bring myself to vote for a black president, she stopped talking to me. There’s no pleasing those people!”

Some people see incidents like that as “teachable moments”, opportunities to help a racist grow. Other of us have had it up to here.

No one should ever feel obligated to entertain or tolerate ignorance or that which undermines their purpose.

The more the merrier when it comes to anti-racism parenting, but not everyone who shows up here is trying to grow, imo, so why shouldn’t the moderators establish some parameters? Showing up is not enough.

Inclusive…to what end? Certain types of commentary are counterproductive or even disruptive. This isn’t my site, so I can’t define those terms–but I believe Tami can and should.

If someone wants to “grow” in their anti-racism efforts, the ultimate responsibility for this lies with them. If those of us who have experienced racism can become anti-racist (and not vengeful or hateful) without an affirming welcome wagon everywhere we go, then I think it’s not too much to ask visitors to an anti-racist community to respect that this community is not perfectly inclusive (according to the terms that Tami sets).

Being a part of this community is not an inherent right. If someone is truly seeking to grow as an anti-racist parent by being a part of this community, then perhaps they should make sure that their comments on ARP don’t continually clash with the purpose and “rules of engagement” of this site–as defined by the folks who run the site. They always have the option of starting their own site and making their own house rules.

To me it’s akin to someone going to a breastfeeding support site and constantly extolling the joys of bottle feeding and formula. Should that community of breastfeeding moms be completely inclusive and help that visitor “grow” by tolerating the one-note comments that stand in contrast to their mission?

I wonder if it may be allowable for readers to care deeply about race but still disagree on the impact of certain events.

I believe so, if what you mean is care deeply not about race but about racism–about confronting and overcoming racism. However, the comments that I take issue with don’t fall into that category because I’m not getting the “care about racism” vibe.

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About Tami

Tami Winfrey Harris writes about race, feminism, politics and pop culture at the blog What Tami Said. Her work has also appeared online at The Guardian’s Comment is Free, Ms. Magazine blog, Newsweek, Change.org, Huffington Post and Racialicious. She is a graduate of the Iowa State University Greenlee School of Journalism. She is mom to two awesome stepkids and spends her spare time researching her family history and cultivating a righteous 'fro.
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