The Sad, Sad Story of A Really Nice Guy.

Gather round, gather round. Today’s story is very important, and you’ll want to be able to hear me.

It’s not THAT story, you guys.

Once upon a time, there was A Really Nice Guy. And all he wanted to do was help people.

This Really Nice Guy spent a lot of his time talking about the evils of discriminatory societal infrastructures (that usually didn’t directly affect him). But after all, he wanted to help people, and he saw that these systemic inequalities hurt people, so he had to speak up.

And speak up he did.

He soon built a reputation for speaking up about inequality and injustice, and it just so happened that people who experienced the discrimination he regularly denounced (but from which he was shielded) began to trust him. They even started looking to him for advice, which he was only too happy to give. After all, he wanted to help! And people wanted him to help them!

And so all was well.

But then dark days fell upon the Really Nice Guy.

Dark days, indeed.

People who experienced inequality (that he didn’t experience) began to suggest that the things the Really Nice Guy said and did sometimes perpetuated the discrimination they experienced rather than alleviate it as he intended.

He grew quite confused. Of course, they had misunderstood him. He would never participate in discrimination against the people he wanted to help! He said as much, and was content that his explanation would certainly settle their unhappiness.

And yet they persisted! They shared their thoughts, the stories of others with similar experiences, even elaborating on the history of inequality aimed at their community. He began to grow impatient and explained to them that he had always only ever been their friend and ally. He was A Really Nice Guy! Surely nothing he said could ever be used to discriminate against the people he was trying to help. Surely nothing he said had ever been used that way! He would have known about it!

To his relief, other people who experienced the inequalities he didn’t deal with stood up for him against the discontented, verifying his status as their ally. These allies to the ally told anyone who spoke up that they were not the spokesperson of the discriminated community. After all, they were discriminated against, too! And they liked the Really Nice Guy! Just because someone in the community thought he was wrong didn’t mean everyone in the community had to think that way! Why were they being so divisive? Clearly, the problem was with those who didn’t accept the Really Nice Guy’s help, not with the Really Nice Guy’s help itself.

The discontent simply refused to be satisfied, growing ever more shrill and bitter and angry. “You’ve been A Really Nice Guy about this in the past, but right now you’re elevating your privileged opinion and those who agree with you above actual people you’re trying to help that are being marginalized by your words!” they cried. “That’s not a nice thing to do, and makes the things you’re saying and doing that are discriminatory even worse because you’re silencing us when we bring it up, just like the unjust system does! How are you being any different right now? Why won’t you listen to us? Isn’t that what being A Really Nice Guy is all about?”

The Really Nice Guy was taken aback, deeply wounded by their callous suggestion that he wasn’t actually helping them. “I knew this day would come,” he said, heaving a sigh. “Without me, no one would be on your side. And this is how you treat me? You just won’t accept my help. You’re not grateful for all the hard work I’ve done for you, and it’s obvious that nothing can ever make you happy. You just want to be offended. It’s people like you that give your community a bad name. You’re not allowed to talk to me anymore.”

And so, with a heavy but justified heart, the Really Nice Guy silenced his detractors.

After all, he was A Really Nice Guy. He couldn’t possibly unknowingly support discrimination or benefit from it.

Could he?

 


Related reading:

Of privilege in progressive circles.
Things I need from allies.
Ally-ship for beginners, or: how not to be a dick.
The Gift of Fear.

7 thoughts on “The Sad, Sad Story of A Really Nice Guy.

    • There’s a few that fit this mold, and not always guys. Generally someone who really thinks they have “I’m Your Ally!” chips that they get to play in order to say whatever they want.

  1. In general, “But look at all I do for you!” isn’t a very smart or gracious approach, especially between adults. If you think you’re speaking to an equal, you speak with them *as* an equal, not as a child who needs to be grateful you’ve ever been nice to them and pipe down.

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