“Just pretend I’m purple”

If you want to talk about racism, you have to acknowledge that racism exists.

And that people of different races are affected by it differently.

Everyone is equal, and that’s an important starting point. But not everyone is treated equally, and that affects everything.

Including what it’s like for people to listen to you talk about racism. When you talk about racism, it matters what race you are. If you want to say worthwhile things, it’s important to acknowledge that. Don’t try to pretend that you can just decide that it doesn’t matter for the purposes of the conversation you want to have.

In particular, if you say “just pretend I’m purple,” that will usually be understood to mean “I’m white and I’m not interested in thinking about how my white privilege affects other people.”

What it means when kids aren’t allowed to know about bad things

There are a lot of things kids are often considered too young to know about. For instance:

  • Rape
  • Violence
  • Racism
  • Sexism

The problem is, almost every bad thing kids are considered too young to know about happens to some kids.

The rule that kids should be shielded from these things has some really negative effects on the kids who are most vulnerable.

It hurts kids who have been abused, because they’re considered dangerous to other kids if they ever talk about it. Their peers aren’t supposed to know about it, so they’re supposed to just never talk about it ever. That creates a lot of shame, and living with that kind of shame hurts people.

It also hurts kids who are currently being abused. They get the overwhelming message from everyone that kids are not allowed to talk about these things. That makes it hard to tell adults what’s going on, especially if they don’t quite know the right words. If they try to tell indirectly, they might even be hushed and told that they’re too young to be thinking about that kind of thing.

It hurts kids of color, because they’re often required to put up with racist things rather than have the white kids find out about racism. Because they’re old enough to have to deal with racism, but their white peers aren’t considered old enough to be told about it.

There’s also parents who don’t want their kids to play with disabled kids, because they think their kids are too young to know about disability or serious illness or injury. Or even, to the point that a kids’ show hosted by an amputee actor got a lot of complaints that her missing arm was upsetting to children. This kind of attitude is all over the place.

Preventing kids from thinking about bad things hurts all kinds of kids, all kinds of particularly vulnerable kids. And I don’t see how it does much to protect the safer kids, either.

I’m not sure what the solution is. But I think it is a problem.

Respect names

This is something that often happens in English-speaking schools to kids from other cultures:

  • A kid has a non-English name
  • The teacher decides it would be better if they had an English name
  • They give the kid a different name, and refuse to call them their actual name
  • Or heavily pressure the kid into changing their name

This also happens to some kids in foster care. Their foster parents or social workers will decide that their name is a problem, and assign them a different name.

Some reasons adults in power will cite for doing this to kids in their care:

  • The name is hard to pronounce
  • Other kids make fun of the name
  • A kid with a non-English name will feel different from the other kids
  • Having a different name will make it easier for the kid to assimilate into English-speaking culture
  • And then the teacher makes the kid use a different name, one that’s more usual in English

Don’t do this. Names are important. It’s not ok to change someone else’s name.

It’s actually *more* important not to change a kid’s name if other kids are making fun of it, because:

  • You’re teaching the kid that their name is wrong
  • And that it’s their own fault they’re being bullied, that it’s because they’re weird
  • It also teaches the bullies that it’s ok to bully people for having weird names, and that they’re entitled to have other people erase themselves for their sake
  • A kid who is being bullied for their name will also be bullied for other things, especially if they are from a non-English-speaking culture
  • Changing the kid’s name will not stop this, it will just make the rest of it harder to take

Names are important. Respecting someone’s name is part of respecting them as a person. It’s not ok to change their name for your convenience.

About avoiding slurs

There are a lot of slurs that are so ingrained into English-speaking culture that people who say them don’t always realize that they are slurs.

  • People say them without meaning them as slurs, but they still hurt people
  • Because people also say them as intentional slurs
  • And it’s not usually obvious which is which
  • And even when people genuinely don’t mean it that way, hearing slurs about your group all the time hurts
  • Also, sometimes the people who are using the slur don’t know that the group it’s about actually exists
  • Being erased to the point that people only know about the stereotype is also really horrible


  • Often when people in the target group point out the slurs, people react badly
  • Instead of apologizing and fixing it, they get angry and hostile
  • And often behave in really humiliating (or even dangerous) ways towards the person who pointed it out
  • Reacting that way is fairly similar to using a slur intentionally
  • You can’t actually invoke a trope related to the slur without also invoking the slur in ways that hurt people it’s used against
  • Even if you would never react that way, people in the target group don’t know that when you say the word.

I’m a bit uneasy about saying those words, so I’m not going to include any examples. (I’m not sure that’s the right decision, but that’s what I’m doing for this post). But if people these words are used against want to reblog with comments or send asks, that would be very welcome.

About oppression analogies

This is a way different groups run into conflicts.

  • One group has seen historical discussions of something bad that used to happen to another group
  • They think this is over
  • They want to use this as an analogy for a group they are part of
  • So they say “well, what if x happened to that group?”
  • and then they don’t realize that actually, this thing still happens to that group all the time
  • and so they end up hurting the other group by erasing their experiences

Some common examples:

  • LGBT groups that say that they are the new civil rights movement, as though racism and discrimination have ended
  • Any time one group says “just substitute black for [my group] and no one would think this was ok (because there are still a lot of anti-black racists who do that thing; this isn’t over)
  • People using an analogy to the n-word to object to the way another group is discriminated against. (This is bad because the n-word is still routinely used against black people, and saying it still hurts people even if you think you aren’t racist)
  • Mental health advocates who say that people don’t get blamed for physical illness, so they shouldn’t be blamed for mental illness either (people get blamed for phyiscal illness all the time, especially chronic illness)
  • Eg "Imagine if you were blamed for having cancer”. 
  • Autistic advocates who say that asking them to make eye contact while talking is like asking someone with motor coordination problems to do pushups (which is a thing that happens too)
  • Comparing things the the Holocaust that aren’t similar (abortion opponents and animal rights activists often make these sorts of comparisons)

These are some examples I know about, and I know there are many I do not know about. What are some others? (And did I get any of these wrong?)