Don’t dismiss other people’s problems

There is a theme that I have noticed for some time now. I think today was the day when it finally reach explosive level for me. This was my resultant Facebook post about it:

“F*ck people who go onto threads where people are discussing a real problem to tell them that they don’t have that problem.

You don’t have that same problem? Fan-f*cking-tastic. Really, seriously, happy for you.

There are many problems that I don’t have as well, but that doesn’t mean that those problems aren’t real for people who have them.”

Somewhere, a group of people are discussing a problem that they experience. It might seem like a trivial problem to you because you’ve never experienced it. You might read that thread and think “Hmmm, I don’t have that problem.” That’s great. It really is good that you don’t experience that problem.

It’s still not a trivial problem.

There are many problems that I have never experienced and I never will. As an example, I don’t experience racism. I simply don’t. My skin colour gives me the privilege of not experiencing racism as a personal problem.

Does that mean that the problem isn’t real to the people who experience it?

Nope. It does not. You not experiencing a problem does not make it less real for the people who do.

You cannot enter the conversation to dismiss the problem by saying “This is not a problem for me.

When you do that, you’re effectively saying “This is not a problem for me, so I don’t care that it’s a problem for you“. You also end up derailing the conversation. When people see your dismissive comment, there really is no point in attempting to continue the conversation given that there is someone already there saying that the problem isn’t a real one.

People might experience different problems to you. In that case, you can listen/read, and figure out how to fix things so that people don’t have to continue experiencing the same level of discomfort, harm, and oppression.

Yes, this is often linked to oppression and privilege. If you have the privilege of not experiencing some problem, then you can use your privilege to address it rather than using your privilege to dismiss it.

That’s how we build better societies. We care about the problems other people face, and we work together to overcome them.