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Joshua Cypess
+ Your AuthorsArchive @JoshuaCypess PhD social scientist & Orthodox Rabbi. We're all in this together. He/him. #BlackLivesMatter #Steelers #Mets #Resist May. 28, 2021 5 min read

1/ What to do if an individual from a disempowered/persecuted/minority group says something is offensive to them, but you have a friend from the same group that said it was OK?

Do you believe your friend/acquaintance or the other person?

2/ First, this is not about your need to be the final arbiter. Outside of certain socially-established professions (judge, political rep), you haven't been given the authority to declare whether someone is right or wrong.

To think otherwise is arrogant, no? Who elected *you*?

3/ But as an individual, you have the responsibility to make your own decisions about right and wrong. A friend is someone whose bona-fides you know; ostensibly they will be honest with you. It's reasonable to trust a friend over a stranger.

4/ On the other hand, your friend may not feel safe to be honest with you about their lack of power, or how it feels to be persecuted.

What would happen to them if they disagreed with you? Is it an equal relationship? 

5/ Of course, maybe they agree with you and that's why you're friends.

Alas, this is a sampling problem. If you're trying to determine which individual POV is representative of a group, valuing a POV that's been selected because they already agree with you is bad social science.

6/ The core of science is 'sampling' - you can't collect every instance of a phenomenon to study, so you select a representative group. This should be done at random and then studied "blind". This is hard to do. It's why people like me get doctorates. 

7/ If you don't care that you're using a bad sample, then your friend has become a "token" to you. They're not a real person, they're there to support your views.

Ironically, this recapitulates the bigotry that you're trying to adjudicate between. 

8/ This friend who agrees with you & is not afraid to speak honestly, may not be a valid representative of the majority POV of their group.

If so, know that you're relying on a non-representative person to choose which minority member is more 'correct.'

9/ Why are choosing the one who agrees with you over someone who could be more representative? This is part of the "blindness" needed in science. Your biases are hard to evaluate on your own.

You need to be committed to honesty & self-criticism. Can you accept you may be wrong?

10/ If you're getting in the middle of a group's debate and then taking sides, are you doing so b/c it's in your self-interest?

While Hillel teaches that self-interest is necessary, know that's your motive (Avot 1:14: "if I'm not for me, who will be?") 

11/ Choosing a position to favor your self-interest is understandable but when it's disguised as "science" or "open-mindedness" it's hypocritical.

And obvious. So obvious. We know it and see it and laugh at you (when we're not afraid of your aggressive selfishness).

12/ This is especially so when the hypocrite sides with one minority token against the other position within that minority. They're choosing to believe one side b/c it helps them, their ideology, or possibly their group's persecution of that minority.

Again, this is usu. obvious

13/ When you see what minorities have to do to themselves to fit in, to be perceived as "safe" or "loyal" - Jews changing their names, getting plastic surgery; African Americans painfully straightening their hair - it's often a costly sacrifice for self-preservation.

14/ It's possible that your token acquaintance may be friends with you, a person of power, to protect themselves.

And if they agree with you that something isn't oppressive or bigoted against them, that agreement could come as a calculation to cancel their vulnerable identity.

15/ They stand in opposition with the others of their identity group because they're dissatisfied with being disempowered. Ironically, they agree that a thing is seen as offensive, but they react to this knowledge by erasing the identity that makes their group vulnerable.

16/ E.g. women who support the patriarchy against their self-interest.

To apply my reasoning above, it's not my right to discount the authenticity of their individual view, but social science will help me understand how representative they are. 

17/ This thread is for people who want to act ethically and treat people, individuals and groups, as equals. To have I-Thou, not I-It, relationships.

When you take sides in a debate amongst a minority, especially with the side that reassures you that you're not bigoted, be wary.

18/ Now to make things harder: the people claiming bigotry could be acting in bad faith.

They could see a crack in the power structure and are trying to force their way in, using the forbearance of well-meaning people to seize power under the guise of equality.

19/ These bad faith people are abusers. And it's ethical to oppose abuse in all forms.

I've said often that abusers are all the same because abuse is a form, not content. It's a method to seize unjust power and it's found in every human variation.

20/ What's worse is that there can be representatives of minorities whose prominence comes from being abusive within their own group and/or they have power because they've made themselves "safe" to the majority at the expense of their minority group.

21/ That's why knowing who speaks for a minority is a process of respect for another's views, understanding the unsafe and unequal venues for discovering the real interests of others, and to always punish & shun abusers.

22/ This whole process isn't easy or quick. It will involve questioning your own actions and values. It will ultimately involve ceding some of your own power/resources if you discover they've been stolen or come from injustice.

That's if you care to be ethical, just, and kind.

23/ If you want to be self-satisfied, to protect your view of yourself, and don't want to be told you're wrong (ever), then you can ignore this whole line of thinking. But you're also operating out of bath faith. And we see you.


please compile.

You can follow @JoshuaCypess.


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