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I have some questions about the meaning and the enforcement of the "Be Nice" policy, particularly with regards to this recent question.

According to the policy:

Bigotry of any kind. Language likely to offend or alienate individuals or groups based on race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, etc. will not be tolerated. At all. (Those are just a few examples; when in doubt, just don't.)

While I don't believe the OP is intending any harm, the following elements of the question seem problematic to me:

TITLE: How to politely deal with white people wanting to talk to me about racism/race issues

This singles out an entire group of people on the basis of race. There is no way that can be answered, as it shouldn't need to be stated that "dealing with white people" isn't possible because each member of that group is different and split up around the entire planet.

as a black male living in a white majority country (thankfully, not the US)

This quote directly unnecessarily implies that the US is not a friendly place for black individuals. That's a perfectly valid opinion with evidence, but in this context simply serves as dig at an entire country with nothing to back it up and has no reason to even be there.

Talking about racism and race issues with white people can be particularly emotionally draining and frustrating, because of the constant defensiveness, deflections, ignorance and "tonal" arguments.

This quote, while probably true, alienates a race by implying that other races are incapable of being ignorant, defensive, etc. If the OP meant to say "Less-informed" people or perhaps "bigots", then he should be urged to do so. If that us not what he means, it seems bigoted in itself.

If these things do not violate the "Be Nice" policy, then I don't understand that policy, and how it is intended to be enforced.

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    Being thankful one doesn't live in the U.S. doesn't mean that their necessarily thankful because they think the US is not a friendly place based on race. You can infer that, but since it is not stated, it is, at the very worst, borderline. If you choose to interpret it as a "dig at an entire country", then you probably need more to back it up than inference. – Beofett Apr 11 '18 at 19:39
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    Note you also seem to be confusing "talking about ... with white people can be particularly emotionally draining" with "is always particularly emotionally draining". – Beofett Apr 11 '18 at 19:41
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    @Beofett Any race of people "can be" anything. Bigotry is often implied, not outright stated. – Clay07g Apr 11 '18 at 20:12
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    @Beofett I think you made a great point in your second comment ("can be" vs "is always"). As for your first comment about thankfulness about not living in the US, doesn't it seem rather likely that the person asking the question being discussed did in fact consider the country to be a worse place to live if you're black? (Especially given their edits/comments?) Anyway, wouldn't it have been more constructive and convincing to just point out that a statement about a country does not imply a judgment about all people in the US individually? – mtraceur Apr 11 '18 at 21:14
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    @mtraceur It implies that he thinks people of that country are more like to be [X] (racist, in this context). I don't see how it doesn't imply that. Unless OP meant the actual US soil is less favorable to black people. – Clay07g Apr 11 '18 at 21:20
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    @mtraceur I already agreed that it could be borderline. Generally speaking, yes, I agree with you, as well as the answers suggesting that the "fortunately" part be removed from the question. – Beofett Apr 11 '18 at 21:20
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    "This quote, while probably true" You've fallen into the same trap, assigning some negative traits to the entire "white" races. That, is racist. – Lightness Races with Monica Apr 13 '18 at 14:48
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    @Clay07g: Then I believe you must have misread the OP's words, which state: "Talking about racism and race issues with white people can be particularly emotionally draining and frustrating" This is a categorical generalisation, to my eyes... Either way, it's grouping populations by race for no good reason – Lightness Races with Monica Apr 13 '18 at 16:32
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    @LightnessRacesinOrbit You think grouping people by race when discussing how they experience racism is "no good reason"? – Azor Ahai Apr 13 '18 at 18:09
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    @AzorAhai: Yes, absolutely. Just because some white people have caused you grief, doesn't give you the right to start making gross generalisations about all white people, and it certainly doesn't change the fact that that is racism. Do unto others as you would have done unto yourself... – Lightness Races with Monica Apr 13 '18 at 18:11
  • The way this is phrased, the implication is that the US is a white majority country. I think there's also the implication that "when I say 'a white majority country', I think a lot of people might assume I mean the US." And this is certainly a dig against the US. However, all of that can be true even without considering him being a black male. So his phrasing doesn't clearly indicate that the US is anti-black/male discriminating (or that the US isn't). The only logically really clear implication I'm identifying is that US is white majority and (for some reason(s)) bad. – TOOGAM Apr 15 '18 at 2:05
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it's a disguised rant. – apaul Apr 16 '18 at 0:47
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    @apaul Feel free to edit it to make it not a rant, if you believe it is. If you're mad about all the rants in the comments and answers, try flagging those instead of the question, which is in no way was intended to be a rant. – Clay07g Apr 16 '18 at 1:20
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    If you swap out the word "white" in a given statement with any other demographic group (black, asian, etc.) and suddenly find the statement to be racist, then the original statement was racist – JacobIRR Apr 16 '18 at 3:07
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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. I've blanket-deleted all the comments here because a large percentage were part of other side discussions; I'll undelete some others that are still relevant. – HDE 226868 Apr 18 '18 at 2:21

12 Answers 12

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as a black male living in a white majority country (thankfully, not the US)

I think the "thankfully" part can be safely edited out, to moderate stuff even further. 'Not the US' is certainly not very helpful to me, a more accurate culture/location would be better in my opinion, but it at least rules out some stuff. As far as I'm aware my home-country of The Netherlands are a majority white country, but there are still places (cities/areas) where this is not true.

Talking about racism and race issues with white people can be particularly emotionally draining and frustrating, because of the constant defensiveness, deflections, ignorance and "tonal" arguments.

I think (suspect?) this is the OP talking about their experiences. At least, that's how I interpret it: It's not meant as an absolute statement, it's what the OP experiences when they talk to white people, and what they apparently have never experienced talking to other demographics (there was a comment confirming this before stuff got cleaned up).

All in all, I think this is a case that the community can handle through editing, because we're, as a community, responsible for being nice.


Keep in mind that this may be a serious problem for the OP and that any attempt at toning it down may feel like you're forcing them to calm down, that their issue isn't that serious. That's especially hard if it's about a frustration where they were frequently told to calm down during those discussions (because that's what tonal arguments are).

If you feel a hint of people being afraid of being judged in their questions, don't start judging. Edit out the fears, and make them aware that on this site, it is imperative that edits, comments, and answers all stick to the premise of a question.

So, don't make your edit wit a message like 'calm down, no need to be rude'. Explain our Be Nice policy (link to it), how their words may be misinterpreted or lead to the amount of comment crap it led to. Write your edit message in a supportive way, mention that you'd like to see their question remain open and get some good answers on this site.

As far as I can see, after the request for online resources was edited out, all that remained was a good, but rather rudely phrased, question on how to set a boundary and assert that you're not going to talk about this stuff. Just edit it into a more neutral post (which was done for a large part already) and raise a flag, like explained by Catija if you feel this is behavior that needs to be tracked.

Sometimes edits do miss parts, and several edits are needed to get all of the wrong words out of a rude post. Like here, where one observant user noted several hours after I already corrected some of the language, that there were still a few words that slipped through the cracks. Don't be afraid to pile another edit onto it, if that's what's needed.


EDIT: as pointed out in the comments by the OP:

You wrote: "I think (suspect?) this is the OP talking about their experiences. At least, that's how I interpret it: It's not meant as an absolute statement, it's what the OP experiences when they talk to white people". No, you're wrong - it's not just me who is fed up of this. There is a book published on this very topic (I linked to it in my post).

It seems this particular sentence upset the OP, apparently, it's not only their experience, but there's reference material to back this up as well. I never intended to imply this was only their experience, and that there was no-one else experiencing the same thing. If there's literature to illustrate that this is a wider problem, by all means, feel free to include that as well. It's good to mention this: you read about the subject, and you've experienced this yourself. Either way, experiences and/or references are needed when making, what was before the edits, a blanket statement: a vague and noncommittal statement asserting a premise without providing evidence (such as specific numbers). If you can, and there are numbers in the book, please include those in a quote as well. Links on SE can get broken, it would be nice if the information remained.


Prompted by the comments, another late addition:

So, I do like your answer in general, but something has been nagging at me, and after some thought, I think it's that you have the general suggestion to edit (and how to describe the edit to the OP to make it go well) but didn't really say much about what kind of editing is and isn't okay. There was an extended edit war here, including forms of the question that removed significant details from the question, and trying to make a question "neutral" when it involves unpleasant experiences caused by others is tricky at best, so addressing that a bit more directly seems important.

It's hard to formulate guidelines that will fit every question, but for this specific question, these are my thoughts:

What happened in edits 9 and 10, although well intended, indeed removed significant details from the question, going so far as to even remove parts proving the OP did not only have negative experiences talking about race with white people. In hindsight, I personally would have rephrased the bits that were edited out, but would have left the facts that OP is aware that not every white person is bad and OP did lose friends/acquaintances due to these issues.

Only in the final few edits, people actively tried to edit out 'white people' and 'black people', and replace it with more generic things like 'majority' and 'non-majority'. I am personally not fond of this approach, because there's probably a certain power balance involved between black/white that may be different across races, also due to cultural/societal norms and expectations on the behavior of these kinds of people. I'm seeing them more as a description than a form of name-calling.

So, what kind of editing is or isn't okay in this case?

  • Edits should not remove relevant personal experience entirely. Even if not phrased in an entirely optimal way, don't just delete it all. Never delete personal experience, unless it's completely irrelevant to the question.
  • Edits should not remove details that provide stuff like information on cultural/societal norms, relevant background or power-balances (which black-white does). IPS has a history of always asking people about this, and we close questions that don't include it as too broad.
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    I accept this answer. I still think the question could be edited as it is simply inflammatory. But that's my opinion. What is fact, however, is that the OP of the question wants to reject requests from people based on their skin color, and in another comment says that they are more concerned with people who are uninformed, bigoted, or simply ignorant. If the question was edited to reflect the sentiment from that comment, I would find the question completely fine, even if it included OP's experience in which only white people have acted that way towards him, which I would believe. – Clay07g Apr 11 '18 at 20:33
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    @u_r_grounded Either "(not the US)" or "(Europe)" is fine with me... some indication of where you are is helpful. I think that it's valuable for it to be pointed out that you're not in the US, where tensions are very high right now due to what's been going on in the news and historically. – Catija Apr 11 '18 at 20:46
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    I would suggest that once an agreement is reached on the OP, that the OP itself be locked while answers are monitored for violations of "Be Nice". As a white guy, I find the OP's wording perfectly acceptable as is. The controversy reminds me that the only way you can hurt a white person the way a black person is hurt by an ethnic slur is by calling the white person a racist. Apparently even wording that vaguely suggests that white majority countries might be hard for blacks to communicate with whites about race is controversial and ironically proves the OP's point. – empty Apr 12 '18 at 22:07
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    @empty I agree with you that a lot of the reactions to OP's question are perfect examples of why black people like OP want to avoid such conversations. Still, if a white person is truly as hurt by being called racist as a black person is by an ethnic slur, then it's because in their personal experience they've been called racist by people in situations and ways that made them feel like they were being dismissed, condemned, or threatened for who they are as people. Does your remark implicitly berating them for their reactions to some of the wording constructively help race relations though? – mtraceur Apr 13 '18 at 23:57
  • @mtraceur see last paragraph of cascabel 's answer for my answer to you. – empty Apr 14 '18 at 4:28
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    I'm white and felt no offence because I know and accept that some people feel this way. TBH, the comments and this Meta discussion has offended me more than the original post. – n00dles Apr 14 '18 at 17:58
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    Let's be more accurate: it's what the OP experiences when talking to some white people, and I don't think the OP is suggesting otherwise. – reinierpost Apr 16 '18 at 8:51
  • @empty I thought you were talking about feelings of hurt as severe as the feelings a black person experiences when called an ethnic slur? The paragraph referenced is talking about mild discomfort caused by privilege-awareness, right? Either way, you know how negative feelings and experiences can cause resentment and opposition sometimes? Would you agree that discomfort that begets more racism or makes it harder to reduce racism is counter-productive? (I don't know if I'll reply again, seems this discussion may grow outside the scope of these comments, but I'll read any comments @ me). – mtraceur Apr 16 '18 at 18:03
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    So, I do like your answer in general, but something has been nagging at me, and after some thought, I think it's that you have the general suggestion to edit (and how to describe the edit to the OP to make it go well) but didn't really say much about what kind of editing is and isn't okay. There was an extended edit war here, including forms of the question that removed significant details from the question, and trying to make a question "neutral" when it involves unpleasant experiences caused by others is tricky at best, so addressing that a bit more directly seems important. – Cascabel Apr 18 '18 at 19:34
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Respectfully, this has nothing to do with the "Be Nice" policy. It's a question about interpersonal skills, and I don't see how it can be asked without the background included.

The "Be Nice" policy is about personal attacks and vitriol, not candid discourse, and I don't think the OP's question rises to that level. If you read that in the question, then I would suggest that you're simply being too sensitive about your own personal issues.

I don't claim to know anything at all about the underlying racial tension. I have had exactly one discussion about it with a black friend, who described issues that the black community feels very deeply about in a way that I hadn't thought of before. I don't relate to it very well, because I haven't lived it, nor do I see much chance of my ignorance getting any better, given the tenor of questions like this one (if it is, in fact, representative of black people's attitudes generally).

Regardless, that tenor still doesn't rise to the level of not being nice.

Learn the difference between candor and rudeness, between engagement and attack. Understand that politeness (and insisting on it) can simply be a veil for "civilized" dishonesty. You don't want that, trust me. Candor is better.

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    @RobertHarvey On the contrary good sir, I was assuming the opposite: that you simply hadn't read it instead of willfully ignoring it's meaning. It seems our disagreement is on the meaning of "offend or alienate based on race will not be tolerated" as it applies to "Avoiding communication with almost an entire race because they're uneducated." You say that is neither offensive nor alienating. "To cause to be withdrawn or isolated from the objective world" is alienating. Insulting is one meaning of offensive. What is your argument that the statement is detached from those meanings? – user2921 Apr 13 '18 at 20:39
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    @Physics-Compute if a user is offended by a statement of facts, then that is not a problem this site can solve, nor should it. I urge you to reread this answer, especially the last paragraph. Just because wording is "clear" doesn't make it all-inclusive. – user10743 Apr 15 '18 at 17:41
  • @DoritoStyle I wouldn't expect RobertHarvey be offended by the fact that his first sentence is verifiably false. Why suggest that? Disagreements can occur without taking offense. – user2921 Apr 15 '18 at 18:49
  • @Physics-Compute I didn't say anything of that sort; you interpreted my very general statement far too specifically. If i am speaking about a user, I will invariably use their name. Virtually anyone in the same situation would at least use a pronoun. – user10743 Apr 15 '18 at 20:09
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This is a difficult balance to strike, no doubt about that.

I think we ultimately have to acknowledge that all of these things are real parts of the OP's experience as a black person, and we cannot completely disallow them without denying the OP's ability to accurately describe their situation and feelings, which are of course a core part of the question.

We can possibly look at ways to edit, to add in disclaimers, to preface with "I feel that", and so on, if we tread carefully. But we can't say that these things are completely unacceptable or irrelevant, or we end up alienating the OP based on their race and associated experiences.

So I would say that the "thankfully" in "thankfully not the US" comment could likely be trimmed as irrelevant to the question (sidestepping the "Be Nice" part - the OP is in general entitled to be happy to live elsewhere and say so!), but that the OP's description of their experience discussing racism with white people not only is acceptable but is a key part of the question.

I think that the title containing "white people" is in fact a fair summary of this, and have no objection to the OP using it. The absolute most I would consider doing would be editing to simply ask "How can I deal with people wanting me to educate them about racism/race issues?". I do not see this as a necessary edit to avoid Be Nice violations, though, just a clarification of what's described in more detail later to avoid misunderstanding.

I believe there have been two variations of the title:

  • "How to politely deal with white people wanting to talk to me about racism/race issues" - I think this is fine, as described above.

  • "How to politely deal with constant attempts to draw me into conversations about race" - this has unfortunately removed substantial key information; at this point it could be totally different situations, like black people wanting to commiserate about racial issues or encourage activism.

I'm sure there are other possible phrasings (no writing is ever perfect), but the existing one is already acceptable, both in terms of Be Nice and in terms of summarizing the question, so I don't think that painful debate over phrasing is the most productive use of our time.


What about alienating the white people? Well, here's the thing. They're the ones in the position of privilege* in the context of the question, and awareness of privilege can be uncomfortable - all of that is real feelings! But that doesn't mean they should be allowed to leverage that discomfort in a way that keeps them happy, but preserves the alienation of people of color by preventing them from discussing their unpleasant experiences as marginalized racial groups. In the end, in order to match the spirit of Be Nice and create a welcoming environment for people in marginalized groups, members of privileged groups have to sometimes be willing to live with a bit of discomfort.

* In this context, "privilege" simply means advantages (often a lack of disadvantages) for one group compared to another.

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    Can you clarify where you find that I am intending to preserve the alienation of other races? Can you also clarify where I am attempting to prevent OP from sharing any and all unpleasant experiences they may have had? I am simply trying to get bigoted statements removed. I really don't care which races are involved. – Clay07g Apr 11 '18 at 19:44
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    @Clay07g You may note that I never said anything about intent. This is about effects. You are proposing disallowing descriptions of the OP's experience (like the ones you've noted), and that leads directly to alienating the OP and people of color in general. Again, these are statements of experience, not bigotry. – Cascabel Apr 11 '18 at 19:46
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    Sure, maybe the title could be revised to make it even clearer that the OP is not expressing bigotry, but simply unwillingness to spend significant time and energy on educating others in this regard. Perhaps "How do I politely decline to educate others about racism/race issues?" But I would like to stress that I see this about clarity, not about protecting white people from something that's not actually bigotry. – Cascabel Apr 11 '18 at 20:05
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    @Clay07g Let's not get carried away, and clarify the question so far that it distorts the OP's description of their experience. As noted in the last paragraph, white people do need to be strong enough to hear about their role in making things difficult for a person, even if it's not all white people, and even if non-white people contribute as well. – Cascabel Apr 11 '18 at 20:31
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    @Cascabel I don't mind hearing about how I played a role in any such event. However, I will not take it seriously. I can't play a role in an event that happened in another country in which I've never been. I certainly don't believe such nonsense belongs on this Exchange. – Clay07g Apr 11 '18 at 20:46
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    @Clay07g Well if you're not in the OP's country, then you merely need to be strong enough to hear about other white people's role in this. I think it's abundantly clear that they're not claiming that every white person anywhere in the world is part of that statement. – Cascabel Apr 11 '18 at 20:59
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    @Clay07g They have accurately described their experiences. They're not good, no. But it's their experience, their life. We are not in a position to tell them that they're not allowed to do so because some white people might think it means that every last one of them is equally bad. – Cascabel Apr 11 '18 at 21:06
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    @Clay07g I sincerely hope you will stop and think hard about this: You said, "let's separate the race and situation from OP's question". That is impossible to do. The problem OP faces is inexorably tied to race. – user10743 Apr 12 '18 at 4:17
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    @DoritoStyle OP's experiences and purpose behind the question are inexorably tied to race. The question itself doesn't have to involve race at all. Rejecting white people is the same as rejecting non-white people. The OP is allowed to use the advice on just white people if he wishes, but that's unneeded information at best, and inflammatory at worst. As far as I know, unless OP gets his hands on "White People Repellent", he can simply use any generic advice on avoiding sensitive conversations that may turn hostile. – Clay07g Apr 12 '18 at 4:38
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    Assuming you are referencing Monica's answer, she absolutely does not separate race from the answer, it's in her first sentence. If it's not the point, then don't belabor it, but it very clearly IS the point. – user10743 Apr 12 '18 at 4:45
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    re: It's not possible to further your interpersonal skills while also asking people how to reject engagements from people based on the color of their skin." I completely disagree. That is your personal opinion, and it doesn't seem rarional IMHO. – user10743 Apr 12 '18 at 4:46
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    re: "Rejecting white people is the same as rejecting non-white people." That is the basis of the so-called reverse-racism concept, but that is far from accepted truth. At this point I think we need a chat room if you wish to go deeper into these points. – user10743 Apr 12 '18 at 4:48
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    I really don't think this should be about "someone's experience". That's flowery soapbox stuff that will get us removed as an unspecific SE. The question should allow the solving of a problem, preferably in a way that's as well fitting to as many people as possible. We're not an Agony Aunt place, we're not specific psychologists. This question (as I've mentioned elsewhere) could be "how to deal with majority ethnic groups asking me questions about racism/racial issues" - it would still solve OPs point, but would help asians people in white places/black people in asian places etc – Philbo Apr 13 '18 at 8:11
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    @Philbo That experience is a key part of the interpersonal problem the question is about. The OP cannot give proper context for this question (something this site demands) without sharing that experience. And there is a balance between making questions broadly applicable and making them specific enough to be straightforwardly answerable; we cannot always say that more general is better. In any case, that is a no longer a discussion about "be nice" so I don't think it needs to be carefully debated here. – Cascabel Apr 13 '18 at 14:53
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    It's not an assumption. The existence of widespread racial inequality is well-established, and I am not obligated to demonstrate it in a meta answer here. (The fact that there are parts of the world in which white are disadvantaged does not negate this either. See also my comment far above beginning "There are many kinds of privilege...") If you would like to discuss this, I don't know where to suggest, but this is not the place. – Cascabel Apr 16 '18 at 20:06
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While Meta is certainly the place to discuss specific disputed wording, I want to push back on the implication in this post that the underlying question itself is, in some way, a violation of our "be nice" policy because it is about race.

Unless questions about race are off-limits entirely, that can't possibly be the proper interpretation of the rule.

This may be a touchy subject, but it is well documented that minorities often have to deal with uncomfortable questions about race from (hopefully) well-meaning people. OP linked to one on-point reference (a non-fiction book written on this very subject), I'm sure I could find others with 30 seconds of searching:

Google: your black friend is not a representative

More than that, though, this is a reality that OP has explained clearly that they deal with all the time, and wish to find a better way to handle. Any implication that they are either wrong about their own experience or don't have the right to deflect questions they don't wish to answer is frankly a part of the problem.

I think G. Ann's answer, "I'm not a spokesman for my race." is an excellent, on-point response, and at the same time points out the problems inherent in the question.

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    Please help me edit my question to make it extremely clear that I am not, in any way, saying that a question about race automatically violates the "Be Nice" Policy. Also, please, if I have given off the implication that I am in any way suggesting that the OP's experiences are incorrect, point them out so I can clear them up. I assure you that I do not, at all, even slightly, advocate any of that. – Clay07g Apr 12 '18 at 17:22
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    the underlying question is fine, i think the offensive part is to say that all white people behave this way. i certainly don't. – omikes Apr 13 '18 at 17:40
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    @oMiKeY By definition, the set of all white people that attempt to engage OP in discussions about race that he finds annoying and does not wish to participate in is all white. He is clearly not bothered by white people who don't attempt to do this, so that's not even in the scope of his question. It's like answering "how can I deal with men who hit on me at work?" with "not all men will hit on you at work", which, although technically correct, is both a non-sequitur and also really annoying. – BradC Apr 13 '18 at 18:17
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The way I see it, the question has a goal of avoiding a specific interaction with specific people. Now by its nature that's a somewhat disagreeable goal. But it's a legitimate goal that you might have all the time. Consider:

How to politely deal with religious people wanting to talk to me about spiritual issues?

or:

How to politely deal with people wearing terrible superhero costumes wanting to take pictures with me for money?

I wonder if those questions would seem less offensive to you? In both cases, the motivation of the third party (religious people or superhero buskers) is clearly at odds with the asker. In that light, the goal of the question isn't to distance the asker from other people, but to avoid having other people's' wills imposed upon them. In the same way, being asked about racism when you don't want to talk about it is a conflict between wills and not just an attempt to avoid people or whatnot.

Context is obviously important in these contexts. The current manifestation of the question does not have the line about "not the US", so that issue is not pressing on us. But I would argue that the US has a unique history of racism that does indeed matter to this question.

I suppose there's an element of prejudice in assuming that white people will be especially emotionally draining to talk to. But the askers perception that white people are more frustrating when it comes to race dialog seems to be the crux of the question. The guy dressed as Spiderman in Hollywood might not ask for money, but I'd still like to avoid talking to him. In any case, the question makes clear this is in the OP's experience. Maybe he's just had bad luck?

Looking at the revision history, I see an author struggling to present his situation honestly and respectfully. This is inherently a difficult issue and the current edition of the question seems like an artifact this site ought to be proud of. Yes, the enforcement of "Be Nice" is subjective. I consider that a feature, not a bug as long as we all assume good intentions as a first instinct.

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    I will keep these points in consideration. If you're question was meant literally, keep in mind I don't think the question was offensive. It just seemed... rant-ish.. like parts were not relevant. Regardless, your hypothetical questions are more... tolerable, but they could use much of the same editing that has been suggested for the question this meta is about. In fact, in other exchanges, I often see questions like that edited without warning so that they fit the model better. – Clay07g Apr 13 '18 at 4:30
  • Regardless, I very much appreciate a more "official" answer to the question. You have my upvote, thank you. – Clay07g Apr 13 '18 at 4:37
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    There's a point to be made here. Would "How to politely deal with religious people wanting to talk to me about spiritual issues?" be ok, but "How to politely deal with Muslims wanting to talk to me about spiritual issues?" not be ok? If not, why not? – Philbo Apr 13 '18 at 8:14
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    I think it depends on why you're singling out Muslims in your question. If you're looking for an answer that takes into account the cultural context of a specific Muslim community, or that uses arguments that might be particularly convincing to an observant Muslim (for example, passages from the Koran that discuss tolerance of non-Muslims) than I think it's relevant to the question and should be acceptable. – divibisan Apr 13 '18 at 14:22
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    "But I would argue that the US has a unique history of racism that does indeed matter to this question." Can you explain this? I don't understand why US history is relevant to answering a question about a European in Europe, unless you mean to signal to US users that their cultural background and experiences may not be relevant for answering. – Em C Apr 13 '18 at 15:00
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    I'm going to request that people take a break for a bit if the alternative is continued squabbling. Jon took the time to write a nice answer; the least you can do is not use it as an excuse to continue fighting. I've deleted comments not directly related to this answer. – HDE 226868 Apr 13 '18 at 16:00
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    Good answer. This question and your examples also seem similar to "how do I get family members to stop asking when we're having kids" and "how do I get door-to-door missionaries to leave me alone" and "how do I get off of a telemarketing call", all of which I believe we've had. – Monica Cellio Apr 13 '18 at 16:13
20

Interpersonal Skills SE, by its very nature, deals with sensitive subjects. And in today's world, mediating intercultural conflicts is an increasingly important subset of interpersonal relationships. So the question, broadly speaking, is on topic. There's also no indication that it is meant maliciously, or that its primary purpose is other than as described, to help the OP negotiate a frequently reoccurring interpersonal conflict.

As a member of multiple minority groups (in the US), I can personally attest that the OP's experience is common, if not universal, when negotiating relationships of any sort (from casual or professional to personal or intimate) across a societal power imbalance. It is, in fact, the rule, rather than the exception, when dealing with people who have (a) never been on the low side of a power imbalance for any length of time and (b) have not voluntarily gone through the intensive and demanding process known as consciousness-raising. And while these sorts of power imbalances do not always revolve around the fiction known as race, the black-white power differential is both common and widespread enough to explain (if not entirely excuse) the OP's use of it as a shorthand for the situation he or she faces.

For all those reasons, I would assume good will on the part of the OP, and counsel against blunt-force instruments such as flagging for abuse or nominating for deletion. With the aforementioned power differential as background context, moves like those cannot help but come across as both repressive and regressive. Instead, if you feel the post is infelicitously phrased, suggest edits to improve it, request changes to the language in the comments (as is typically done for most posts) and try not to take any of it personally. Flags and deletions are typically reserved for cases of malice, bad faith and the truly unsalvageable, none of which seems to apply in this case.

  • 2
    I know it's hard to tell, but I have not taken the Question personally.I have stated in a few places that I personally think OP is not being malicious, which is why I changed my suggestion to close to a suggestion to edit. I think if the OP edited the question to be more accurate and focused, it can still maintain all of the racial topics that are being brought up (although I still think the question is about general conflict avoidance rather, but that's my interpretation/opinion). I feel like we are in agreement more than you might think. – Clay07g Apr 12 '18 at 16:20
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    @Clay07g That might well be, but I'm responding to your above question as I read it. If it isn't conveying your intent, you might want to edit. Right now it reads primarily as a plea for strict enforcement of the rules against this specific question. For instance, your question could have instead been "Is it ever appropriate to single out a given race as a source of an interpersonal conflict (in light of 'Be Nice')?" – Chris Sunami Apr 12 '18 at 16:43
  • 1
    Could you suggest some edits on how I can avoid that interpretation? – Clay07g Apr 13 '18 at 1:47
  • @Clay07g I would be glad to, thanks for asking. – Chris Sunami Apr 13 '18 at 13:26
  • 1
    Flagging is necessary, though, when numerous attempts to edit, suggest edits, and suggest rewording fail. Escalation is needed to get rid of racist phrases to preserve the core of the question becuase the "community" has failed at doing so. – user2921 Apr 15 '18 at 18:58
14

(thankfully, not the US)

You are correct, this is unnecessary. "Not the US" is useful context, but "thankfully" is cruft. It's not particularly offensive - yeah, it's a subtle jab, but life is full of them - so the best course of action here is to simply edit the post and remove it. If this sort of thing is a persistent problem with the user, cast a moderator flag to ask the moderators to have a deeper dig into it.

Talking about racism and race issues with white people can be particularly emotionally draining and frustrating, because of the constant defensiveness, deflections, ignorance and "tonal" arguments.

This is not a statement of fact. It's presented as one, but it's not - it's the opinion of the post's author. While that doesn't mean we should tolerate people being four-letter-words to each other in the name of opinion, it is useful context. Since it's not intended to be insulting, but rather as a remarkably calm and measured proposition, there's no violation of Be Nice here.


Side note: This meta post is rather ironic. It's a defensively phrased deflective argument against the question because you felt it alienated white people... which is precisely what the question's author is finding frustrating about talking about race issues with white people. Food for thought.

  • 7
    {Comments Removed} - I'm tired of this bickering and throwing around of accusations. Everyone needs a break. I'm not going to suspend you all but I strongly encourage you to walk away now. – Catija Apr 11 '18 at 20:51
12

This meta is a seriously ill-conceived question that, itself, does harm to a user of this site.

The premise of the question is that the OP does not want to discuss race and racism issues with people from a dissimilar background, because it requires him to perform a disproportionate amount of emotional work.

Because you've taken objection to it, and apparently because you have pre-existing issues with enforcement of a site policy, you've now forced the OP in this meta to do precisely what he doesn't want to do in the world: take on the emotional burden of discussing racial issues in order to justify his lived experiences (experiences that, as the OP notes, are common enough to be the subject of an entire award-winning book).

Much as you say you "do not want this page to be about discussing racial issues," discussing racial issues is inherent to the objections you raise. You've picked over his question to cite ways you believe it alienates white people, and so you've placed the burden on the OP to justify his experiences about race, something he has now had to do repeatedly. It's impossible to have a real discussion about whether the OP's question is racially bigoted, as you charge, without discussing race. And within that discussion, your use of the phrase "zero-tolerance" is not conducive to an effort to understand his experiences (ones which, again, he does not want to discuss), but rather to dismiss his question as something which cannot be tolerated.

The OP has a problem. He doesn't want to discuss race with white people because it's emotionally draining for him. You've come along on behalf of "alienated" white people to discuss race.

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    @Clay07g You can say what you're not doing all you want but your actions can easily be read otherwise. I'd think long and hard about whether your stated goals have matched your actions. – sphennings Apr 13 '18 at 1:12
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    @Clay07g Beyond what sphennings said, which I endorse, if you do not feel alienated and aren't speaking for anybody, why post this meta? It's simply not your job to demand the OP face any prejudices you think he may have, nor did the OP demand anybody else face any prejudices. The OP asked a question about interpersonal relations in the hope of receiving answers that would be useful to him in his daily activities, not to make you search your soul for prejudice. – Zach Lipton Apr 13 '18 at 1:17
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    @Clay07g It's not just your question it's your constant arguing with anyone who disagrees with your position, it's your constantly changing your question every time someone challenges it's premise. You say "I don't want this to be about race." yet you sure seem to bring up race a lot in your comments. You seem fixated on finding a problem with this question. Give it a rest. – sphennings Apr 13 '18 at 1:30
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    @Clay07g So, you're really rules-lawyering because? – apaul Apr 13 '18 at 1:58
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    @Clay07g What have I made up? You object that the OP has a "problem" because he "doesn't want to face [his prejudices]." That you've taken it upon yourself to decide he should have to face what you see as his prejudices, when the explicit basis for his question is that he does not want to have such a conversation, is precisely the problem here. The OP does not want to talk to you about race. He's not demanding you face any prejudices, nor should you demand he face any that you perceive. Yet you persist in carrying on that conversation. – Zach Lipton Apr 13 '18 at 2:01
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    @Clay07g If you had asked about the nuances of the be nice policy from the beginning we would be more inclined to believe that is what you are trying to do. Instead you have kept picking specific problems with one question to complain about. You keep getting sidetracked from talking about the question to complain about the OP's conduct outside of the text of their question. – sphennings Apr 13 '18 at 2:04
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    Can you site an example of something else that specifically surprised you? What else wasn't removed that should have been, or what was removed that should not have been? @Clay07g (beyond this one question) – apaul Apr 13 '18 at 2:05
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    @Clay07g You've been at this for over a day. If you want to convince me that you are actually asking in good faith, out of a genuine sense of curiosity, give it a rest. You already have a bunch of answers, offering a wide array of opinions. Perhaps in a week, once things have cooled down, ask a more specific question about some aspect of our be nice policy that still confuses you, instead of focusing on one question. When asking that question don't tell us that you don't want to make your question about race. Show us that, with your actions, from the start. – sphennings Apr 13 '18 at 2:21
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    @Clay07g What's the actual intent behind this cataloging of examples? Are you trying to assemble a compendium of "caselaw" of sorts of things that do and do not violate the Be Nice policy? Because, as my answer discusses, the way you've expressed your genuine curiosity about the Be Nice policy is hurtful here, and I don't understand what purpose that harm achieves. At some point, it's just a judgement call, and not every question of whether something follows the policy needs to be extensively litigated to the point where you engage in an extended back-and-forth with every answer you receive. – Zach Lipton Apr 13 '18 at 3:15
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    (For anybody reading this, a number of Clay07g's comments are now gone—I do not know whether by moderator action or his own—, lest you think our replies make no sense) – Zach Lipton Apr 13 '18 at 7:09
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    That's the thing, if he didn't want to deal with talking about racial issues, why did he focus on the person's race? It would have been just as easy to ask "How to politely deal with people wanting to talk to me about a subject I don't care to discuss?" and avoid all of this, but HE made it about race. – Bananable Apr 13 '18 at 7:24
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    @Bananable There is nothing inherently wrong with asking a question about race. Given that race is a sensitive subject that people react differently to than others, simply asking "how do I tell people I don't want to talk about something?" removes an important piece of context that greatly changes the question. Note how the two top voted answers directly address race. Without that context neither answer could be provided. – sphennings Apr 13 '18 at 11:24
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    @sphennings then doesn't it come back to Clay07g's point (as I understand it - and agree with, if it is his point), that why does it have to be specific? One of the best answers "I'm not a spokesperson for my race" works just as well if you're a white guy outside of EU/NA being asked why your ancestors were slave owners, or as well for any other grouping where the ethnic majority asks racial/ethnic questions about your minority that you as a specific person don't want to answer. As it is, the answer won't be found in searches unless it's specifically a black person asking about white people. – Philbo Apr 13 '18 at 12:38
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    @Sidar OP did not generalize all white people, only those that engage him in discussions about race without having known him long enough to expect such consideration. I think you are over-generalizing what OP stated. – user10743 Apr 15 '18 at 19:47
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    "take on the emotional burden of discussing racial issues in order to justify his lived experiences (experiences that, as the OP notes, are common enough to be the subject of an entire award-winning book)." - reading through and seeing the OP's (original original post) comments in this meta, that's what has apparently happened, and the frustration seems to show in the comments he makes – Abdul Apr 16 '18 at 15:07
6

Edit: I believe most white people are likely to deal with the unpleasant facts of white history without being offended. If some are not able to deal with that rationally; then that is understandable, but it is not excusable and I don't think it merits additional protection in the form of policy enforcement.


The "Be Nice" policy applies to individuals. It does not necessarily imply that you must speak nicely about other groups of people, especially if what you say is not unfairly disparaging.

Opinion: The question we're focusing on does not disparage white people. It doesn't say they are lazy, stupid, etc.

It does point out the uncomfortable truth about centuries of dominance by white people over other races.

It's not pleasant, but that does not make it "not nice".

  • 11
    Be Nice explicitly calls out and applies to activity that targets groups as well as individuals: "Language likely to offend or alienate individuals or groups based on race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, etc." – goldPseudo Apr 12 '18 at 4:20
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    I am white, and I really don't see why you lump me in with other white people and refer to my ancestry as "white history". This is just so incredibly absurd to me, as is any referance of me to a generalized "white man". I am a man, I am a Norwegian and I like electronics, photography and making my own beer. Stop defining me by the color of my skin. =) – Stian Yttervik Apr 12 '18 at 18:11
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    The question we're focusing on does not disparage white people. It doesn't disparage white people much, but certainly describes them as emotionally draining to talk to in matters of race. It is a broad generalization like saying that black people don't tip which, while generally true, is not always true which is what makes it offensive. – omikes Apr 13 '18 at 18:02
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    @oMiKeY that seems like a fair point, but I'm not sure OP is disparing the people as much as he is the relationship. White people are not inherently draining, but talking to white people about race tends to be draining for many people. – user10743 Apr 14 '18 at 14:24
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    @StianYttervik I don't have to lump modern people in with a group to state facts about the history of oppression by that group. Your criticism is presented politely, but it amounts to an attempt to strawman my point. – user10743 Apr 14 '18 at 14:40
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    @Doritostyle what group? Who belongs to this group? If you mean that I belong in it, I'd beg to differ. That is probably true for most people. So chances are you are maybe addressing an empty set. That was my point. – Stian Yttervik Apr 14 '18 at 17:36
  • @Stian : I recognize "white history" as a very valid term, as historically whites have been atrocious (and may still be in some areas, but earlier, it was way worse & widespread). I am a white American who recently heard a black student say rather loudly that we live in "the most color blind state" there is. Her comment may be true: Where I am, many people marry within race boundaries, but I don't see a lot of "black communities" as blacks just mix in, and lighter people show respect to others. I'm often appalled when I hear of the more extensive ongoing racism elsewhere. – TOOGAM Apr 15 '18 at 18:15
  • @StianYttervik It seems you have misunderstood my last comment, but I'm not sure how to clarify it. I would suggest re-reading it or i'll be happy to join a chatroom if you wish to hash out the details. – user10743 Apr 15 '18 at 19:48
-1

What if another black person doesn't feel like they've personally had to deal with the same hardships the OP has, and attempts to start the same type of dialogue they complain about? Would OP be more willing to engage in the conversation?

If so, the wording of the post is accurate to their intended message, but that is discrimination. A fairly benign type of discrimination, but this doesn't help their cause in any way.

If they would act the same way as they would towards a white person then that's very reasonable, but then the problem is with ignorant or uninformed people, not "white people". I can certainly accept that this is mostly white people, and that their experience is with only white people, but it is only counter productive to imply that it's only white people. They can certainly mention that they have only experienced it with white people, but the wording of the title and parts of the question body seem to intend to disregard what somebody thinks purely on the basis of the color of their skin.

EDIT

If you downvote this post, then that's fine. At least explain why you disagree.

I understand that way too many people hold a negative view on minorities and that they are treated unfairly as a result. I want to see the situation improve, but I don't think the original poster is doing anything but hurting the cause.

  • 8
    I don't think "discrimination" means what you think it means, for starters. – user1618 Apr 13 '18 at 18:49
  • 1
    This is Meta, downvotes do actually tend to mean simple disagreement in meta threads (as opposed to the main site where they indicate something not being useful). – user10743 Apr 14 '18 at 14:28
  • 1
    I think you're not considering the simple fact that a white person and a black person can never truly have the same perspective on race relations. – user10743 Apr 14 '18 at 14:29
  • @RobertHarvey it isn't discrimination to judge/treat people differently based on their skin color? I don't think you know what it means. – Bananable Apr 15 '18 at 0:15
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    @DoritoStyle I certainly understand that different races have different perspectives on race relations, but this shouldn't matter. Even if it did, wouldn't it be more important to discuss these issues with people who don't understand your perspective? Especially if they are trying to learn more? I don't have a problem with someone not wanting to discuss the problem at all. I do have a problem with people being dismissed because of their race. This only adds to the tension and gives the truly racist people ammunition. – Bananable Apr 15 '18 at 0:21
  • "shouldn't" isn't really applicable, since we're dealing with the real world, not a world of ideals. Whether it's important or not is for the OP to decide, and I don't think it's our job to enforce moral standards beyond removing blatant bigotry from the site. – user10743 Apr 15 '18 at 17:27
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    @DoritoStyle Then their wording is correct for their intended message (as I said in my answer). In that case I'm not against the question being worded that way, I would just like to warn the poster that this message will only give the vocally racist people something to point to. And aside from that, the wording runs counter to their own goals. If you don't want to spend the emotional capital discussing race, you shouldn't bring race into it, or at least in that way. I don't think we have a real disagreement, I think we are just arguing past each other at this point. – Bananable Apr 15 '18 at 17:37
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    @DoritoStyle : Regarding your comment that started with "This is Meta"... That's terrible. I'm not saying that your comment is in any way false. However, if my mouse is over the button, the hovertext says "This answer is not useful". If disagreement is meant to be the standard, it would be good to have the site reflect that. If the website doesn't reflect that (for whatever reason, including administration/owners having an opinion on what is wanted), it would be best for the standard here to reflect the instructions on the site. – TOOGAM Apr 15 '18 at 18:06
  • @TOOGAM indeed, that aspect of meta is often confusing and aggravating to new users. Metas are basically a copy of the main site, with all of the same alt-text unless the mods engage in extensive tweaking (I'm not even sure how much they are able to change). – user10743 Apr 15 '18 at 19:53
  • 2
    @TOOGAM meta.stackexchange.com/help/whats-meta "Voting is different on meta. [...] ... voting indicates agreement or disagreement with the proposed change rather than just the quality or usefulness of the post itself. – user10743 Apr 15 '18 at 20:03
  • 1
    I do not believe it is terrible, it's just different and unclear to newer users. – user10743 Apr 15 '18 at 20:06
-2

The be nice policy states that "Language likely to... alienate individuals or groups based on race..." is not allowed. Based on that, I'm surprised that this question is tolerated in its current form (revision 20) since it is soliciting advice on how to avoid discussion with people based on their race.

Though I don't quite understand how, I'm willing to concede that the specific race of the problematic people in question is important. However, the current phrasing of this question seems likely to alienate people based on race, which is explicitly disallowed. This may be a legitimate question, but it seems at odds with the policy and so one, or both, needs revision.

  • As you may have noticed, your quote is different than the one I originally put in my question. I think it's much, much better now that it is about the OP's experience. There is a difference between alienating people, and people feeling alienated by something. His experience is fact, so feeling alienated by it is not his problem. His conclusion/opinion seems to be mostly edited out. Do you still think they are implied or otherwise still present? – Clay07g Apr 13 '18 at 20:54
  • @Clay07g Certainly it has improved, but perhaps that specific quote is irrelevant to the main point. – canadianer Apr 13 '18 at 21:38
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    I don't think it's reasonable to expect white people to be offended by historical context. I see where you're coming from, but it doesn't seem like "Be Nice" exists to cover every conceivable case where someone could conceive offense (Otherwise, many more questions would be on the chopping block). – user10743 Apr 14 '18 at 14:27
-4

The question should be revised.

(The question would have been much better if color were left out, the the author simply identified himself as a minority, not wishing to engage with the area's local majority. However, I'm about to argue that even that doesn't raise the bar to a very recommended level.)

Clearly the reference to "white people" is non-complimentary and is a judgement that is based on race. If we want to promote certain values, such as tolerance of certain differences such as physical characteristics that are unrelated to personal character and morality which people may have more control over, then it makes sense that we may also wish to impose views on requiring certain actions, such as promoting peace by supporting open lines of communication. This question, as written, is expressly opposed to that.

If an answer actually provides instructions how to accomplish that, then the answer would be providing instruction on how to close down communication about an important social issue. This seems contrary to universal values like peace.

The question could have been written with direct reference to the actual problem: communication with inexperienced people who are uneducated about a topic can be draining. "How do I politely communicate that I believe the person lacks some fundamental knowledge that I don't wish to expend the effort to share?" Such a question doesn't negatively single out any group of people based on unchangeable characteristics, and answers may even be able to apply to parallel situations based on topics other than the one this poster was focused on (physical racial characteristics).

As is, the question is written in a terrible way, which I find all too common in IPS. The basic premise is, "How do I manage to get what I want, without experiencing undesired effects that I think would be likely?" Such a question ought to be invalid because it suggests that another person shouldn't have the personal right/power to be offended. Depriving other people of such a right is a notion that frequently seems offensive. So the question often boils down to, how do I manage to do something bad without consequence?

Some questions shouldn't be answered without revision, and I believe this is one. People can debate all they want about the fine points on whether a specific line is crossed by specific words. I suggest that, instead, we just demonstrate how things could be changed so that they are clearly acceptable and a positive example of what we would like to see.

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