Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Why I think intent matters (to an extent)

Yesterday I did a post about the set of dolls in which one was a black girl that came with a monkey and had on a headband with the nickname "Lil Monkey". During that post I made the statement:
(I'll get around to why that matters...to an extent one day)
Now I fully intended to get back to this one day but I got the following comment from Renee of Womanist Musings:
It does not matter what their intent was. Ignorance is no excuse when POC must learn from an early age to negotiate Whiteness. Costco could afford to ignore the consequences of their actions because Whiteness has never been reduced in the same manner.
Apparently today is "one day".

Hear me when I say that I am NOT trying to say that the intent of a person who commits an -ism somehow mitigates away what they did. I am not trying to say that Costco and BrassKey Keepsakes should be given a free pass on what they did because they might not have realized it. However I do think there might be a bit, and I mean bit, of value to said person's intent.

When someone has it brought to their attention that they have committed an -ism one of two things will happen. One they may put in their sincere efforts to ensure that they are more mindful of such things, never commit them again, and perhaps go the extra mile to actively bring it to the attention of others who are doing the same thing. Two they may give excuses that what they did was not -ist, get angry and defensive, refuse to change. I think that sometimes a person's intent CAN be a metric of which will happen.

It has been my experience that the ones who truly meant no disrespect or ill will are the ones that will work towards getting rid of mentality or educating the ignorance that caused them to commit said -ism whereas the ones that will get defensive and angry and refuse to change are the ones that are fully aware of what they are doing and even after having it called to their attention (for probably not the first time) will do just that, get angry and defensive and refuse to change.

Where I think intent will come into play on this is what Costco and BrassKey Keepsakes will do in the future. Will they learn from what they did and work diligently to make sure that it never happens again.

That's all. Simple as that. That is why I think that a person's intent matters...to an extent. It MIGHT (what test is 100% accurate all the time?) be an indicator as to whether the person you are dealing with has been enlightened by your intervention or if you will just be another "humorless oversensitive ___________" to them.

(Think about it like this. Even the most "progressive" among you activists make the odd occasional mistake on a subject. Which one of these courses will you follow after being told how it is?)