Principle of homophily

The attractiveness of sameness, Todd Hannula, also manifests in desires for everyone to talk the same way, using ‘the same language’ (literally and metaphorically): the concept of homolingualism. It’s an (apparently) personal preference as well as the exertion of social control. There’s an academic paper on the problem of the “Monstrous ‘White Theory Boy’” — it isn’t surprising that white guys (with so much access to education and privileged status that draws attention to itself) actually do think and articulate brilliant ideas. The problem is the exclusiveness of their closed circle.

Todd, do you know precise ways that white men can wedge the door open? I agree with you, that Susan MacMillan pointed out an insidious gender dynamic. Jason Fried, despite being approached by a woman to write an Op-Ed for the NYTimes, refers exclusively to his male network…one has to wonder if women compose the “subtle links” that Jason acknowledges he doesn’t remember:

the chain obviously continues — each link connected to another by a seemingly unrelated event. And I’m sure I’m passing right over a handful of subtle links that made the major links happen.

I read Jason’s NY Times Op-Ed (from 2012) and it made me wonder about the gender breakdown at 37signal (and Basecamp, where he is now), and — because it’s related — the ethnic/racial breakdown. Who receives the benefit of companies’ structured time off? [It seems, given his more recent Medium post on the difference between attention and time, that Jason has temporality down pat! (Some constructive criticism here.)]

In regards to homolingualism, I’ve thought, for a long time now, that the necessary move is microsocial: at the very nitty gritty of turn-taking in conversation and the idea of “nexting.” There’s a great example of ‘calling out’ in the new movie Spotlight, when Walter Robinson (played by Michael Keaton) asks an old classmate, “Is this how it happens? One guy leans on a guy…” and suddenly everyone is complicit in protecting an awful secret.

Lots of folk are starting to question the calling out tactic (although in this instance it is clearly a courageous move) in favor of ‘calling in’ — Loretta Ross and others are exploring new ways to build social justice movements. My point is that identifying the moves in a turn-at-talking that lead to (technically, “next”) particular kinds of responses, e.g., complicity or revelation, status quo or social change, is a necessary step in un-doing institutionalized patterns of homophily, including those associated problematically with whiteness.

Calling out homophily of any type may be necessary, but perhaps it isn’t the only option, especially when it so often inspires defensiveness and resistance. Calling out has to be accompanied by ‘calling in’ — an invitation to come over to ‘the right side’ of social dynamics, the better choice for human evolution.

Written by

exploring the resilience factor in human systems

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store