There’s a difference between having to prove your empathy and asserting you don’t have any.

So let’s start this off with a toot from kitty.town:

You know what, cis white dudes? You literally do not, and will not ever, have the tools to actually know how to do moderation of an internet space. If you think you do: you're absolutely wrong. If you *want* to do better: hire marginalized people and fully empower them to do this for you.

This… bothered me. Not because of how they moderate their instance (which doesn’t bother me at all; they’re actually quite thoughtful about it), but because of what it implies.

I actually responded (though I didn’t get a response):

This seems to imply that intersections of privilege make things qualitatively different and disqualifying, and that is a very uncomfortable idea. Not about my own privilege, but about the way that doesn’t acknowledge the toxicity types of privilege for other groups. (I’m thinking like white women’s impact on feminism towards both women of color and the trans community.) What am I missing?

The problem here, I think is the assumption that if there’s enough privilege piled onto a person that it makes them incapable of empathy.

Moderation of a space (internet or not) is inherently an expression of empathy. It’s an understanding that maybe another person or group has a valid worldview that the majority in that space does not share. And yeah, I totally get that straight cis white dudes (like me) really have to earn bona fides in a way that perhaps someone else might not.

Where I have a (philosophical) difference is the idea that simply by having one or more fewer intersections of privilege makes someone qualitatively able to have that kind of empathy.  The examples of white women’s tears or the ways that transwomen have been discriminated against, or racism in the LGBT community all seem to indicate that the degree of intersectional discrimination do not correlate strongly with levels of empathy.

Again, and I cannot stress this strongly enough, straight cis white men should have a burden of proof when it comes to empathy.  It is rare enough that we experience something that even comes close enough to the discrimination other people face to give us a frame of reference.

But – and this is key for me here – asserting that folks like myself are unable to have sufficient empathy to be able to moderate an online space, ever, is both alienating and, more importantly, untrue.

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