I propose we make October 14th National Believe Women Day. Only all day, every day, forever.
— T.J. Berry (@TJaneBerry) October 15, 2016
I’m not a stranger to (and definitely don’t shy away from) calling people on bigoted behavior.
There are two things I want to say around that issue, though.
I will almost certainly screw up at some point.
I’m a straight white cisgendered male. That has an impact on how I view the world. I do my damnedest to broaden my perspective, but … well, I screw up.
This was recently brought home to me while listening to a podcast about increasing diversity and heard the guest Kevin Patterson talk about behaviors that folks think are inclusive, but really serve to reinforce the “othering” of minorities.
“Folks” in this case includes me. I know I’ve done at least some of the things he mentioned, and probably more that I’m not aware of.
And I had no idea until I happened to hear this podcast.
Which brings me to the second point:
I know that I’ve screwed up in the past.
I know that I’ve done things in the past that I wouldn’t even consider now. But that doesn’t erase the things I’ve done in the past. I’ve made amends there where I could.
If you looked, you could probably find someone I flirted with past the point of comfortableness. You could find someone I was too off-color with. I’ve said something homophobic. I’ve said something racist.
I’m not asking for absolution.
I’m asking that you knock me upside my head (figuratively) when I screw up, when I’m not living up to my own ideals.
Taking responsibility and speaking up
Too often, statements like the one I just made are used as a shield. “You didn’t tell me, so I didn’t know.” They’re designed to shift responsibility to someone else.
And that’s crap. I take responsibility to police my own actions.
I’m saying this publicly for one very specific reason.
The more entrenched and powerful you are (or appear to be), the more
difficult it’s going to be for those who were harmed to speak up.
I’m inviting you to speak up.
As an author, as a publisher, as a human being, I’m asking you to speak up.
I want to hear about my mistakes, so that I can be better.
And I want to do what I can to create an atmosphere where not only missing stairs, but any bad behavior gets called out.
If you can, if you feel comfortable doing so, call me – and others – on our mistakes. That way you can know their intentions and, hopefully, help our world be a slightly better place.
And I believe you.