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How to Not Respond to Something Painful Shared Online

If you're a white man or otherwise privileged person reading someone's painful lived experiences, don't respond in these ways.

The React/JavaScript community had some heavy shocks this weekend. I’m not going to recap it all here, but I will note many white men (or otherwise privileged people) have given many bad responses. They’re responses I’ve given myself several times before being told they didn’t help and/or made things worse.

So to remind both myself and others who may read this, here are four responses to catch yourself in and avoid making. There are likely even more, and I’ll update this later if needed.

Overwhelming Shock

Seems like a good response since it shows concern. But it also communicates disbelief and an unwillingness to accept or listen to those affected. Especially since many have seen it happen far too often to be surprised anymore.

Let’s Come Together

This tweet from a good thread said it best:

Dismissing the “Drama”

Real people are affected by things like this. Tatiana Mac lost a job and her place in the industry over what happened. It’s more than drama. Only seeing it as such shows you have the privilege of ignoring it with no consequences.

Asking What Happened

Not knowing is fine, but the people you’re asking are often already emotionally drained from the events. Putting an extra burden on them doesn’t help. You’re capable of searching for info.

Plus, showing life just went on as normal for you is another priviledge reveal.

A Better Response

Next time your impulse is to give a response like this, do a few things. If you’re like me and usually mess them up in some way, suck it up and try again.

  1. Stop
  2. Listen
  3. Believe the person’s lived experiences
  4. Educate yourself
  5. Support them
  6. When the time comes, stand up for them