Prioritizing Values, Changing Behaviors
There’s a couple of things I’d like to try and keep going in this thread. One is the idea of argumentation as an experiential method for values/behavior change; the second is delving deep into practices of whiteness (which entails a bit of calling out); and the third is figuring out how to do the first two in a way that draws and keeps people talking with us, i.e., calling in.
Background (skip if it’s tedious)
There’s a bit of context already, which makes calling in tricky — how much of ‘what has already been said’ do new joiners need to know? Nothing? Something? Which ‘things’? In literal terms, we are not that far along, yet. There’s been a couple of turns between you and me, a turn between me and Veronica Montes (more forthcoming), and a bunch of highlighting back and forth — also from Kevin Pennant and Jennifer Smith who have both made comments (to you, to me, in this and other threads). I want to invite @ben_roberts too, because he made some suggestions that I think fit a similar pattern.
Capitalism? Maybe, Maybe Not
In your originating story, Most white men…, you talk about how hard it is to change belief, in this case, racist beliefs such as white superiority. You cite a study which found that changing an embedded belief can occur when the believer is exposed to inconsistencies from an even stronger belief that implies or overtly requires different behaviors than those that rest on the (lesser) embedded belief. Then you quote extensively about the method for identifying a stronger belief. Why do I write this in italics? Because this is the part that got me inspired to respond and engage with you in the first place! Whoa, I thought — how cool! Maybe the Medium publication that Soirée-Leone and I are creating as a ‘home’ for folks who wanna be called in to a complicated conversation about the juxtaposition of whiteness and permaculture/climate change could encourage values-changing argumentation, structurally, somehow.
Then, a whiteness part — you have identified a problem (racism), a method (find a higher order belief), and a solution (capitalism). You’ve already decided what the equation ‘ought’ to be (capitalism trumps racism), you know where you want to go and (it looks like) want to go there forthwith, and — btw! — want us to go with you. Your second story in this thread conceded there might be a variation on your proposed solution, but basically reiterated what you’d written in round one. Except that the second version lost the argumentation part. Maybe I didn’t properly understand the research study you cited, but what I understood is that it was through arguing that they discovered the higher order value in the first place (“identified” is the word you used), and subsequently (with more arguing!) behaviors began to change because believers recognized contradictions in their logic and made choices about which belief had priority.
I’ve been guilty of this, myself, which is how I come to recognize it. Your idea is so good and clear to you that you feel confident proposing it. Anyone can do this; that’s not inherently evidence of privilege. It’s the expectation that others will just ‘get it’ and ‘jump on board’ and follow you along the path where the white privilege comes in. I’ve got another example, different topic but similar category. Ben and I have been talking about whiteness for nearly a year. When Soirée-Leone and I began Dark Allies, I invited Ben to participate. We had a lot of confusion at first, mostly with navigating Medium. Because I have a tendency to read surface problems as indicate of underlying problems (true confessions!), we had a bit of a go-round with that. Finally Ben ‘arrived’ and began to comment on our stories.
Control has many faces
I’m curious what it would mean for you, stephanie jo kent, for us to engage via Medium in “a serious dialogue about whiteness?”
Then he offered feedback about the need for a ‘human layer’ (not just relying on the platform itself) and made a suggestion:
One place to start is to think about the outcomes of the conversation. If you were successful, what might a powerful “harvest” be? You/we might also think about what powerful questions might be used to frame the dialogue. Another element is clarity about context. Are we talking about how whiteness shows up here on Medium, for example? And who needs to be in the conversation for it to matter?
These are fantastic questions! I am so tempted by them! But every one of these questions has the effect of ‘closing down the argument’ before it’s even started. Each of these questions tries to establish the nature of the outcome before there is any possible way for us to determine if that’s a good way to go! I think that’s a white thing.
What’s an alternative?
First and fundamentally is to make a serious effort to include other voices and perspectives before we start trying to establish guiding frameworks. For instance, ē•nig•ma responded to my story/comment “Expose the rules,” saying:
The Village Mentality/African-centered thought is missing. . . . The individual will never be as effective as the community. We need one another in different ways.
He wrote that in response to me saying,
There’s subtle stuff we got to get at, such as how whites are so involved and caught up in whatever they’re doing with other whites that they foreclose the possibility of really understanding different perspectives.
Which brings me back around to calling in and keeping ‘the argument’ open, whatever the topic or process, long enough for us to co-generate a community who is able to recognize that we need each other in different ways.