Laci Green has become the latest social justice pariah, and there’s a good chance I’m committing social media suicide today by defending her…but I just can’t let this go.
If you’re unfamiliar with the situation, Laci recently drew ire for her decision to begin talking to people with whom she disagrees, both in private as well as more publicly.
There are so many layers to what’s happening that I could talk about, one of which is the growing cult of shame within social justice. Thankfully there are many people who have begun writing about the toxicity of a culture built on shame and control. If you’re interested, read this, this, and this. I feel like they give a good enough break down of my concerns that I would only be redundant if I focused on that aspect.
So instead, I want to talk about one of the other pervasive themes I’ve seen in the critique of Laci Green: the “How dare she have that conversation about or give a platform to that stance/idea?” critique.
Yes, she’s talking to people who have some ideas with which I strongly disagree. Hell, I even disagree with some of her beliefs and stances, topics about which I would love to be able to talk with her further.
But here’s the thing that I thought/ hoped we had learned after the election: Telling someone not to talk about something doesn’t make them stop talking about it. It just makes them stop talking about it to you.
That might feel good for you, in that moment…but it doesn’t destroy the idea or the topic.
In some ways, it strengthens it and adds to the allure–something I’ve come to label “the taboo effect.”
Making something taboo backfires. We’ve seen it time and time again. Telling teens not to have sex doesn’t prevent them from having sex. Telling people not to drink or use drugs doesn’t prevent them from using drugs. Telling someone not to commit suicide doesn’t prevent people from thinking about it or following through on it. Telling someone not to read/watch certain materials doesn’t prevent them from reading or watching those materials.
Making something unmentionable doesn’t destroy its existence.
It just drives it into the shadows where it festers and grows much more monstrous than it needs to be.
When we say that certain conversations shouldn’t be given a platform, we’re not taking away the table; we’re taking away our place at it. We’re ensuring that the conversations will be less likely to happen with diverse points of view and amongst people who can challenge each other.
Instead, they happen behind closed doors, with only like-minded people who feed each other’s perspectives.
And then you get an election where the polls say one thing and the results reveal a different mindset that has been hidden (because it’s taboo) but still growing until it explodes like a national cancer.
We didn’t get Trump because we were having too many open dialogues about racial issues, women’s issues, sexuality, politics, etc. We got Trump because we thought that controlling what was socially acceptable to say could control what people believed. We got Trump because we stopped listening to those with whom we disagreed—stopped listening to understand, stopped listening to engage.
Not only did we stop listening but we outright told them, “Sit down and shut up. Check your privilege. Your perspective doesn’t matter here.” And surprise! Yelling at people, demeaning them, and silencing them didn’t make them magically change their position.
So I don’t really care whether I agree with what Laci’s guests are saying on her livestream. I don’t care whether I agree with her.
What I care about is that she has the guts to have these conversations, even amidst the vitriolic angst that it raises amongst those who previously supported and followed her.
I care that she realizes that the conversations need to happen, as painful as they are.
I care that she is willing to respectfully listen to and be challenged by others with different worldviews and that doing so, in turn, means that they are engaging with her and listening to her and being challenged by her.
She’s pulling that table back out into the open and saying, “I want a seat. I want a say.”
So if you don’t like that your perspective isn’t being represented, don’t criticize her for the dialogue. Get involved in the dialogue. Stop trying to shove it back into the closet. Deal with it like…well, like an advocate, because ultimately this kind of dialogue is what advocacy is all about. And right now, Laci is one of the few people on the left that I see actually modeling that.