Your Child’s Happiness is Ruining the World

MMIhappyDuring my lifetime, many Americans have shifted their life’s goal from success to happiness.*

(And by “many”, I mean many white people — stay with me and I’ll explain.)

Now, I’m not a sociologist who studies this sort of thing, but I once had one over for dinner. So, based upon that alone, I would say we started to seek happiness above all else shortly after we were flooded with economic expansion in the early to mid 1980’s. We then pursued it more desperately after the dot com bubble burst during the early part of the new millennium.

Expansion and wealth came with a price. The people making the dot dough, and all of us living vicariously through them (making the sad virtual dough), were feeling overworked and under satisfied. When the economy slowed down, though, and people had to actually budget for their bottles of Italian wine, many took the opportunity to seek balance (partially, I think, out of self-preservation — If I can’t be as rich as I really want to be, I can at least be balanced). Balance eventually translated into happiness. Everybody, myself included, wanted some of that.

Then my generation started forming our families and we sought happiness at any cost, snorting it like the cocaine of our youth, shagging it like we would never shag again.** Happiness became the new wealth. The new sexy. The new get the hell out of my way so I can make sure my kids get what they want. Now, for many people in the world, that thing kids want, for which parents will stand in line for days or march in protest for months or fight like a — like a — you know — a mother whose kids are in actual need — is bread or a vaccine or freedom or equality or the right to vote or water. But, we’re Americans! White Americans. We will cut you for a freekin’ pumpkin! Little Jordache cannot be HAPPY! Without! Her pumpkin!

THIS is why the rest of America can’t have nice things.

You see, the white people who are seeking happiness at all costs for their kids can do so precisely because they don’t have to think about much else (I say they because I have bowed out of the happiness club).*** There is little colluding their vision or taking up their brain space. Unlike parents of color, they don’t have to flick away a fleck of happiness from their child’s psyche by explaining why Corvette Jr. didn’t get in trouble for pushing him down at recess, but he did for pushing back. They can hide their precious, happy eyes from the news reports about [insert name of city where people of color are marginalized to the point of protest]. Why steal little Vanderbilt’s childhood from her by showing her the effects of the systemic racism that pushed her to the top of her class (while her peers of color were being pushed through the school to prison pipeline)? It might make her unhappy. Did you know that white parents of white kids don’t even have to consider how their choice of Halloween costume for baby Birkin might influence their future racial identity and self-esteem? (Should she wear the blonde wig for Princess Disney or not?). They can just walk right into the store and choose any costume precocious little Prosecco wants.

As a parent of two children of color and one white child, I straddle both worlds. I am fully cognizant that when I explain to my son how every mistake he makes might be viewed as something criminal, my white daughter can cross that concern off her list. And when friends argue with me that white privilege doesn’t exist or avert their eyes with an apoplectic roll when a discussion of the latest police shooting comes up, she doesn’t have to worry that I might lose those friends by defending her.

Furthermore, I experience adults literally cupping their mouths to whisper the hard stuff my white child might hear so as to protect her virgin ears; then they loudly lament the poor, starving, diseased children of what country was it again that you got those kids from? right in front of my Haitian children. Apparently, the very white people who will throw straight under the bus anyone who gets in the ways of Macanudo’s pure joy do not believe that black children deserve the same uninterrupted happiness.

When privileged people, even compassionate, giving, enlightened privileged people, have as a primary goal their own personal happiness and the happiness of their children, they are required to ignore the suffering of others. If they do not ignore such suffering, or at the very least shove it into their basements to be brought out only when in need of witty conversation and erudite party banter (or to humble-brag about their vast political awareness), no amount of sun salutations and bento boxes will actually help them maintain their happiness. Happiness, by definition, cannot exist within the same box as mass suffering or injustice.

(Are you thinking about that picture you saw of people in Guinea smiling while burying their loved ones who just died of Ebola even though they know that without adequate medical care they could be next, and saying to yourself, “But they are such a happy people”? Don’t. Just don’t. Mass suffering and injustice does not equal happiness. Ever. Never ever. Don’t say The Lost Boys of Sudan were happy. Or that Haitians in tent cities exude joy. Just stop.)

The more people seek happiness by always requiring the personal win and the family win, ignoring suffering, or denying injustice, the less those very real problems exist in their realm of reality. The less the problems exist in their realms, the easier it is to claim them as false. Or often worse, to proclaim them too hard to think about.

Perhaps this is where we get the expression “white people problems”. It is not that people of color don’t have access to the prosperity that makes a late train or a sad kid their biggest issue. It is that before a non-white person (and a parent of non-white children, if I may****) can prioritize happiness, s/he has to weed through all the brain space and energy needed to rise above racism, battle the school to prison pipeline, avoid profiling, argue with white people (especially the petulant, self-appointed “devil’s advocates”) about things that don’t exist, like reverse racism, and worry about whether or not their children will be shot on the way home from school.

Meanwhile, Nordstrom-Macy’s first grade teacher is getting an ear-full because she asked her to come back in from playing to put away her own lunch tray. Nordstrom-Macy feels happy when her parents fight for her right to play outdoors the full 20 minutes and when the exasperated teacher appoints a room mom as the daily lunch-tray-monitor from now on.

Nordstrom-Macy’s happiness over her lunch tray victory is ruining the world.

This is not to say that we can never feel happy, be happy, or have a generally happy demeanor. This is to say that if we are disregarding or abusing the general needs of humanity as a whole in order to offer our child happiness above all else, we are ruining the world. (People who refuse to take a screaming four year old out of wedding, I’m talking to you. You who voted to shut down the local homeless shelter because it was across the street from cutie-pie Crossfyt’s favorite park? You know who you are.) 

if we are disregarding or abusing the general needs of humanity as a whole in order to offer our child happiness above all else, we are ruining the world

I am also done entertaining the notion that by prioritizing your child’s happiness above all else, you are contributing to saving the world by raising children who will grow up to save the world.  That’s some 50 year plan you’ve worked out in your happy head. Except that people who grow up thinking that their personal happiness trumps everyone and everything are going to spend their energy and resources making sure their status quo remains. And they are generally d-bags. So — not a better world.

What, then, is the solution?

I often wonder if we are so far down that rabbit hole that it can’t be fixed. But if I believe that, I might as well just join everyone in trying to suck all the happiness marrow out of the bones of humanity for myself.

I say start by finding a new answer to the existential questions. We do not exist to be happy. We do not exist to make sure our children are happy. Some might even argue that happiness, like reverse racism, doesn’t exist. It is a false cultural construct, the product of a few generations that gorged on Hallmark and Coca-Cola commercials and didn’t want to give up their daily lattes.

Or maybe just do what the rest of the people who can’t spare any emotional energy chasing happiness do: stop trying to find meaning and get to work.

Where there is oppression, work as a family to battle it.

Where there is injustice, work as a family to create equality.

Where there is wrong, work as a family to make right.

Where there is ignorance, work as a family to learn and understand.

Start small. That’s fine. Not making teachers cry over Nordstrom-Macy’s mistake and then teaching her how to put away her own tray is a nice beginning. You could be open to hearing that Corvette Jr. has been a bit of a bully on the playground and then provide some discipline. Maybe move on from there to modeling for Crossfyt how to smile and wave at the people hanging out at or near his park (but, for the love of all things Gymboree, do this for the people there — not because you think smiling at homeless people will make Crossfyt happy). I know it’s hard when he has to see harsh realities like homelessness, but I promise you it will not ruin him. Move forward by discussing the joys and struggles other children have (but maybe not using any visuals published on glossy paper with swirly fonts). As your children age, make lots of mistakes (I mean, like big mistakes, the mistakes you didn’t swoop in and save them from), and develop a deeper understanding of reality, they will come up with their own ideas.

Basically, adjust your life and the life of your family so that personal happiness is absorbed by human connection and mass justice.

Your kids might not always be happy. But they will feel alive. They will feel a part of something. They will go to bed knowing that they are working on the right side of history.*****

 

 

* That our parents and grandparents focused largely on survival for most of their lives is neither here nor there — because we are not them — so, ENTITLEMENT!

**For the record, Mom, I never actually did Cocaine. Also, thank you, England, for the word “shagging” and also for David Beckham.

***Note that I did not write “All white people”. If you are a white person who is not focusing more than 50% of your energy on your personal happiness and the happiness of your children because you are applying for job after job or waiting in line for your LINK card or sitting with a dying loved one in the hospital, feel free to chortle smugly at this.

****I am aware that, though I parent two children of color, I still benefit from white privilege and they benefit from that halo when they are with me.

*****Plus, nobody, and I mean nobody, puts on their college application that their greatest, you-should-totally-accept-me-and-give-me-a-scholarship accomplishment in life is that they are happy. Seriously. Get a grip.


25 Responses to Your Child’s Happiness is Ruining the World

  1. I loved this entire article but I just have to say, the names you used, especially Crossfyt (of course with the y thrown in there) really made my day!

  2. Yes! This immediately makes me think of all the white-upper-middle-class (and all political leaders backed by teachers unions) fighting against high quality educational options for poor children of color because they think their overly privileged child is in danger of losing something. I love your simple suggestions!

    • Alex, I’ve seen this issue as well. One of the things the privileged argued they would lose was diversity (though they weren’t necessarily worried about the integration they didn’t have). Of course, there was no consideration of the needs of the very people creating that diversity.

  3. I hear what you’re saying, but aren’t you conflating a lack of accountability/personal responsibility with happiness? I know it’s a semantic choice – you’re right, it is often a code word privileged people use to justify their social blinders.

    That said, I think the word choice in the Declaration “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” is purposeful. While these rights are applied unequally, I think they are a worthy goal once they are open to everyone. There’s a lot of discussion of the last phrase, but one interpretation views happiness as work promoting the good of all. (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life,_Liberty_and_the_pursuit_of_Happiness#Alternative_hypotheses and http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/15/opinion/sunday/a-formula-for-happiness.html?pagewanted=2&_r=1&ref=general&src=me)

    “Meaningful” work is the commodity most viciously hoarded by the privileged, and most used to justify social inequality.

  4. Hi Michele. Thanks for commenting. I appreciate your perspective. I am conflating the two because I think they have become conflated within our culture. Because of this (and, I think, because of the lack of accountability online), we have generations of kids growing up thinking that they cannot attain happiness if they are also held accountable for their actions.

    I like the definition of happiness as work promoting the good of all. I think this was the definition for our grandparents, especially those who were a part of what they proudly called “the war effort.” I am in no way condoning or glorifying war, but there was a sense of community in action, of every person having a purpose for the common good — whether that purpose was sending in their nylons, fighting, replacing the men in the factories, or having a “war garden”. I think that this current mentality of “my happiness and my kid’s happiness is more important than anyone and anything else” is the antithesis of that. Sticking with the war analogy, I spoke with a teenage girl the other day who had never been told about the Iraq/Afghanistan wars that have been a part of her youth. Her parent pulled me aside and asked me to stop talking about it. She didn’t want to “steal her joy.” So, we went from children working in their “war garden” to children being shielded from the fact that there even is war.

  5. Love this. I want my kid to be happy, but I also want him to want others to be happy. He isn’t going to develop that on his own, we need to model it for him. Thanks for sharing!

  6. It’s interesting that you mention a lack of accountability online in your above comment. I think that’s a big problem today.

    I’m honestly confused by something. Why are so many articles and informative pieces in the form of rants these days? I get that some people are passionate about certain topics, but is it really necessary to share that view with such a condescending tone?

    Phrases like these:
    “Don’t.”
    “Just don’t.”
    “Just stop.”
    “I’m talking to you.”
    “You know who you are.”
    “Seriously.”
    “Get a grip.”

    What purpose do these phrases serve? I really don’t understand, because the only thing I see is this: to belittle those who don’t agree, and high-five those who do by making them feel superior.

    Isn’t the information good enough on its own? If it is, then why add the snark? Especially in an article like this, when the underlying message is about connecting with the world instead of trying to get all you can out of it. Snark has zero connectivity to it. In fact, it does the opposite. It divides a group by putting the ‘other side’ on the defensive, which then creates meaningless bickering.

    If you and I were speaking in person on this topic and I disagreed with you (in point of fact, I don’t disagree, but let’s pretend I do), would you say any of the above phrases to my face? I’m guessing you wouldn’t. If you did, then you wouldn’t be as respectful as you claim to be.

    So, then, why is it okay to speak in such a way to the faceless internet? How far down that rabbit hole do we have to go before we are all nothing but internet trolls, claiming to be the end-all-be-all of opinions?

    Or, we could not go there at all, and choose to let the information speak for itself.

    • Hi Tammy. Thanks for joining the conversation. I love feedback.

      It’s a good question: Why AM I so snarky here? I’m not this snarky in real life (well, sometimes; well, ask people who know me — it’s hard to be objective).

      I have actually been thinking about this a lot as I notice the tone of what I write changing.

      I don’t always write free-flow, but I did on this one. I just wrote it as I was thinking it (after compiling some research to help out). The tone reflects what I was feeling when I wrote this. Actually, it reflects a few months of how I have been feeling, as this post has been percolating for a while.

      I have spent a long time politely addressing issues like those addressed in this post. Because I have 2 children of color, people have often looked to me for answers. For the most part, I haven’t minded. I LOVE a good discussion.

      But one thing that I have noticed is that people are often not looking to have a conversation so much as they are looking to have me validate what they are feeling. Sometimes, that’s okay. But often, what they want validated are attitudes that are hurtful to my family (and my kids’ families and my kids’ people, etc.). This past summer/fall, as things really heated up in Ferguson, I had several friends want to me to validate their opinions that people of color are generally criminals and that the police are acting in service of everybody else (white people) to keep people of color from committing crimes. They wanted me to agree that there is no such thing as either racism or profiling and that defending people of color was what was really racist (reverse racism, they called it). Others weren’t necessarily going that far, but more just wanted a good argument (devil’s advocates). I don’t have the energy to play along with devil’s advocates. In both examples, though, I felt used and insulted.

      Imagine people taking your time and energy to prove to you that someone you love is bad because of the size of their feet or some other non-negotiable characteristic.

      This happens to people of color all the time so in some ways, I feel like a fraud for getting upset that it has happened to me for the past 11 years (when my kids came home). But I guess 10.75 years was my breaking point.

      My pot really boiled over when I took my eldest daughter to an Urgent Care and the doctor tried to convince both of us that her birth country (Haiti) was in so much turmoil because Haitians are essentially destructive people who ruin everything (hear the snark coming out?).

      So when I was supposed to be helping my daughter figure out how to walk on some crutches, I was having to defend her and her culture and her race. She was hurt and upset by the interaction and I was reduced to a heap of roasted snark.

      Every day, as I read more and more stories about children of color being shot down or bad-mouthed or profiled or degraded; and every day as I watch the amazing, tireless protesters in Ferguson and other places exhausting their time, energy, emotional space, and resources to create a more just country for people like my children — only to be constantly berated and arrested and mocked, I feel more and more of that snark rising up out of my gut and spilling forth with the emphases and punctuated exhaustion you are hearing.

      So, as I hope I articulated in the post, I have very little of the extra brain space or energy required to turn a post about a difficult topic into one that is more palpable and comfortable for readers.

      Part of me hates that about myself and the situation. The other part, though, recognizes that topics such as this one have never been palpable or comfortable for the people in the trenches. By virtue of my children, I am now in those trenches and I think the only way that we can level the playing field is by sharing the discomfort, sharing the anger, sharing the exhaustion — palpably. Each person who listens and works to understand helps to throw a little more dirt into these trenches. The more dirt that is thrown in, the shallower the trenches become — until, eventually, we have that level playing field.

      • I get it. I really do. My brother is a man of color. My husband is a man of color. My children are biracial. I’ve been straddling both worlds for almost forty years, and it’s not easy. I’ve gotten in the faces of those who discriminated against my brother when we were growing up. I’ve given scathing set-downs to people who make ignorant remarks about my husband’s culture. I have seen racism up close and personal nearly my whole life, and I will fight it to the bitter end.

        But not with snark.

        If you want to vent and find other like-minded folks who agree with your sentiments, then, by all means, don’t bother checking the snark at the door. But if you want to affect real change, you won’t be able to do it with snark. The people you’re trying to reach will stop listening before you’ve even started. I learned this one the hard way.

        So, while I wholeheartedly understand the frustrations you feel building up inside, I still don’t see a place for snark in pieces like this. It’s actually doing more harm than good, and goes against everything you say you want to accomplish.

        • Thanks, Tammy, for continuing the conversation. I appreciate hearing where you are and a bit about your own experience.

          We are in different places. I have been where you are about many things and may go there with regards to race issues. Or I may not. I can’t be sure of who or where I will be in the future.

          What I do know, though, is where I am today and how I can best process where I am. Obviously, with regards to the particular topic of this post, I am in an uncomfortable, agitated space. As a writer, I express how I am feeling through the written word and hope that it will move others to do one of 2 things: process their own experience with the subject and/or consider the topic more thoughtfully than they had before.

          I don’t expect that people will have a sudden epiphany upon reading what I have written. I wish they would (every writer does), but I can’t expect it.

          So, if people are responding to this by high-fiving (as you mentioned above), then they feel a connection to the snark and are processing their own space. If they are responding by feeling uncomfortable or even agitated by the snark or the topic, then they are considering the topic more thoughtfully. Either way, they are looking at a challenging issue with greater depth.

          One of the points I tried to make in the original piece is that the current emphasis we in this country have on promoting feelings of comfort and happiness above all else is weakening our culture as a whole. It is enforcing the idea that hard topics and difficult experiences should be avoided at all cost.

          We cannot affect change in this world if we avoid discomfort and difficulty, pain and sadness.

          In this post, I laid my struggles and emotions all out there and invited responses. We are all thinking and that’s what a writer wants.

          Thanks for engaging the topic more thoroughly. I appreciate the discussion.

          • “We cannot affect change in this world if we avoid discomfort and difficulty, pain and sadness.”
            Very True. There are many other, more effective, ways of bringing up hard topics and making the reader feel discomfort (the kind that always precedes change) than snark. Snark brings discomfort, but does not provoke thought. It insults the very people you want to reach, and those people will disengage right away. In this world of stimulation, where there is information everywhere you look, why should they waste their time on a piece that insults them? Even if they are looking for change, they will look for ways to make that change elsewhere, where the environment is not so hostile and openly blaming. Disclaimer: I have no idea what the environment is like on your site because I’ve only read this one piece, so I can’t fairly say that it’s hostile. I do know people, though, and one snarky post may be enough for them to assume that the rest of the posts are the same, so they go elsewhere.

            “So, if people are responding to this by high-fiving (as you mentioned above), then they feel a connection to the snark and are processing their own space. If they are responding by feeling uncomfortable or even agitated by the snark or the topic, then they are considering the topic more thoughtfully. Either way, they are looking at a challenging issue with greater depth.”
            I could not disagree more. If someone is feeling uncomfortable by the snark, they are focusing on the snark, not the issue, and they will write you off before they’ve even reached the end. For example, look at the discussion we’ve been having. I agreed with your general message, and yet I had problems with the snark and almost didn’t finish reading your post. If you are engaging people who feel a connection to the snark, then you are engaging the choir, so to speak. No change will come out of that.

            “What I do know, though, is where I am today and how I can best process where I am.”
            That’s all anyone can do. And, when an issue invades our lives in a disruptive way, we need to vent. That said, there is a difference between venting to a friend and venting to the general public. It is possible to get your point across after you’ve vented, and then lay out your information in a pointed, even confrontational, way that doesn’t openly insult your target audience.

            But, hey, it’s your site and you have every right to post whatever you want, however you want. If I don’t like the way you do it, that’s my problem, and I don’t have to read your posts. If I’m thinking this, chances are others are, too. If you’re okay, with this, great! Keep on keeping on. If not, well…

            Many people here, maybe including you, might be appalled at the things I’ve said, and I can understand that. Everything I’ve said has been confrontational and discomforting, possibly even painful. But without snark. I don’t know you, so I can’t say anything about you personally. I can’t tell you to “get a grip” because, for all I know, you’ve already got one. :) I didn’t like the way in which you stated your information in the original post, so I asked you why you did it, and then told you why I think it’s ineffective. You may agree, or you may not, but we had a civilized conversation about it. This is why I think snark has no place in informational pieces, because it does not spark civilized conversations. It sparks retaliation or retreating, neither of which affects change.

            But, as I said, this is your site. You do what you want with it. You don’t have to answer to me or anyone else.

  7. Tammy,
    I think this discussion is a good example of how we need an endless variety of voices in the mix. I read several sites that lay things out factually, absent of analysis, others that attempt to bring a gentleness to the discussion, others that write exactly as they speak, and still others with everything from snark to deep, raw anger.

    Despite there being people to who don’t like the snark (or gentleness or anger etc.) in posts, writing is art for many of us. It is how I express myself, with all the snark and ugliness exposed if necessary. I don’t always write with snark, just like I don’t always write with humor. Like any artist, I have writing periods (think Van Gogh’s blue period or Arles period). We all have seasons in our lives. Sometimes, I have a bunch of seasons in one day.

    If I tried to make my art accommodate the greatest amount of people, it would not be art. It would be an assignment. I would be catering my art to the most sensitive readers. Imagine if Michelangelo had censored the David in order to not offend anyone’s sensitivities.

    (Incidentally, I in no way think I am anywhere near the artist that Van Gogh or Michelangelo are. Nay — were we contemporaries, I should be so lucky to wash their brushes for them. I use them here as examples).

    Art is never going to move all people the same way.

    There were several incidents that moved me to write this piece: several people asking me (in front of my kids) to validate their racist statements, others attempting to convince me that my kids are doomed to being criminals because of the color of their skin, Ferguson, PumpkinFest, working through the emotional effects of systemic racism, and hearing more than once the words, “I just can’t even think about all the black people being killed. It’s too hard to hear and I certainly don’t want my kids to know about racism; it will steal their joy.” There have also been a great deal of “Why be so angry?” statements? These feel like requests to stop talking about the hard, uncomfortable stuff. I confess that I am hearing some of that from you.

    These brought up many feelings for me. Were I a painter, I’d have painted those feelings as violent waves or winds or raining blood or something (I’m not a painter so those are simplistic examples). Were I a singer/song-writer, I’d have written something Pink might sing. Were I a cellist, I’d have played the most bold, staccato piece I could find. Were I still a preacher, this would be the kind of sermon where I’d have to stand away from the microphone because I’d be speaking with passion and volume, arms flailing about, gesticulating my feelings. But I am a writer and my medium in this piece was snark. I believe it conveys the raw sadness and anger, the exhaustion and fears I feel.

    And as this discussion has done a great job demonstrating, that doesn’t work for everybody. And that’s okay.

    • Yep, it’s definitely okay. Diversity is what makes the world an interesting place.

      If your blog is a place for you to express yourself and your art as a writer, express away. I’m glad it makes you feel better. I don’t expect any change to come of it, but, who knows? Maybe it will.

      Enjoy your blog. I’m signing off.

  8. I feel compelled to leave an open response to Tammy. (In spite of the fact that you “signed off”.)

    Tammy, I hear what you are saying. Honestly, I don’t prefer snark. Yes, I do tolerate it to a degree, and truthfully, there are times for an ‘in your face’ voice. But if that’s the steady stream of a writer, I’m generally inclined to go elsewhere. **Unless** I find that author’s perspective worth setting my personal tone preferences aside. Then, I stick around a blog regardless.

    But really, this is not about me and my preferences. And really, it’s not about you and your preferences.

    This space is about the blogger and her preferences in how she uses her voice to get across the message she desires to share.

    And truthfully, as evidenced by nearly all forms of media … there’s a SIGNIFICANT number of people who DO connect with a snarky presentation. So whether or not you or I connect with it … it’s likely to be more effective with certain groups of people that wouldn’t prefer to read, say something you or I would pen.

    Yes, everyone is entitled to their opinion. You gave yours. And you gave it again. And again. Aaaand … again.

    The author heard you. She considered your perspective. She responded in an abundantly respectful manner. She chooses to stand my her preference. Done.

    My (uninvited) recommendation to you: next time you want to tone police… show the graciousness you have been demanding. You want to provide feedback? Fair enough. Go ahead. Once, twice even. But after that, consider standing down. The blogger’s choice which will yield natural consequences…. She’ll see by her following whether or not she’s making a connection with an audience with ears to hear.

    And this can all happen without your dismissive, snarky sign off. Which I find to be …. ironic, considering your choice of subject matter.

    • I wasn’t planning to reply to this thread anymore, but I feel the need to apologize. If my “signing off” comment came off as snarky in anyway, then I am very sorry. I truly did not intend that.

      Ironically, Claire, this mistake on my part has actually proven my point. Your response here was about my perceived snark, you responded with snark, and made it about me and my snark. This is what snark does. It ruffles feathers and turns the conversation into personal attacks, which then allows the real issue to be dismissed on some level. Yes, you gave your opinion on the subject, and then you made it personal. This is exactly how snark degenerates productive conversations. Note: I am speaking on snark in general terms here, and not about you. If I’ve offended you, then I’m sorry. It was not my intention. I was merely illustrating an example.

      “next time you want to tone police”
      If you want to accuse me of doing something, please be sure I’ve actually done it. At no point did I tell the author how to run her blog. In fact, I said multiple times that it’s hers to do with as she pleases. And it is. I was simply trying to understand her goals, and shared how I thought snark would interfere with them. But we had a perfectly reasonable, respectful, and thoughtful conversation about that and, in the end, we agreed to disagree. I realize we both wrote a lot, but, when making accusations, assumptions simply aren’t enough.

      This is my last post here as I’m feeling decidedly unwelcome now. I doubt I was really welcome in the first place (those who bring discomfort and confrontation rarely are), and it’s great that the loyal followers are rallying around the author of this blog. I’m not interested in getting into a personal debate, though, where I need to justify why I believe what I believe. So, I wish all of you well (I truly do, no snark intended at all), and I thank the blog’s author very much for the interesting and thoughtful conversation.

      • I am always up for a discussion and have no issues with criticism or discomfort (I invite discomfort — which was part of what I wrote in the post). I appreciate that we were able to parse through several issues in the discussion.

        I confess, though, that I walked away feeling a strong, gnawing sense of having lost something — not having lost an argument, mind you, but having lost a sense of who i am as an activist, as a writer, and as a parent of children of color. It left me feeling like I needed an emotional shower, but I wasn’t quite sure why. After processing, I do feel that the issues addressed in the original post were drowned out by a lengthy discussion about tone. I believe that to be the definition of tone policing.

        All of this has been positive in that it has taught me a great deal about what tone means and the messages that various responses to tone communicate. I am realizing how often I have policed tone as well and what that must have meant to the other person (particularly my children).

        This is all good learning.

        • Ah, okay, then my apologies to Claire for my own incorrect assumption on the definition of tone policing. I did not realize that advocates against snark and for respectful words had such a derrogatory name.

          Lots of good learning here, and thank you for filling me in in a respectful manner. I very much appreciate it.

  9. Sigh. I just love the tone police, don’t you? Wait! Is that snarky? Paula, you wrote a great piece and your voice comes through, as does your message. You stand strong by it and don’t let anyone tell you you’re hurting the cause. That line of argument is ridiculous and meant to intimidate. The fact is, you could have said what you said with a tone more pleasing to Tammy’s delicate (superior) sensibilities and you STILL would have people who don’t want to hear your message turn away. There are simply some people who are unreachable, people who are unwilling to be uncomfortable, to confront their accountability in an unjust system, or to face the fact that their personal narrative might actually be wrong. Losing your religion isn’t easy. And might I just add here that the tone police have been policing POC for, like, ever. It’s inherent in white privilege and white supremacy. I recently had a white friend say that some black AND white protesters in Ferguson made her uncomfortable during a specific peaceful (and widely reported in the media as such) protest (I’m not naming it here because I want to respect my friend, even as I strongly disagree with her position). She said she wished they’d done it differently, used a different approach, brought a different tone. But as we all know by looking at history, speaking politely and in a way that makes certain folks who have all the power simply by default to white normative standards, gets us exactly nowhere. So bring it, Paula. Bring your voice and don’t let the Tammy’s alter the way you express yourself.

  10. And PS: I adore your naming conventions here. Especially since so many white people snicker at creative black names. Meanwhile, we are facing future election ballots with names like Cayden, Rox, Huxley, and Leviathan. In fact, two contestants on The Voice last Tuesday were named Kensington and Reagan. (That’s right: Reagan. Yes. That is now a thing. It’s a wonder there aren’t more Columbuses enrolled in K-12, given our proclivity for uneducated patriotism in this country.) So it’s cool on a resume for a white guy to be named Dax, but not for a black man to be named Treymont. Yeah, you bring the so-called “snark.” This is a fantastic, fun, emotional, purposeful, well-written read.

  11. Paula, I loved this article. Especially the names. I enjoy snark and appreciate how it is used for certain blogs. I loved your analogy of how other artists used their “snark” and thought that it was a great analogy. Don’t stop writing! If people like Tammy can’t take let them leave. I give you a job well done. From one AP mom to another. Mary Coyle

  12. It kills me that people feel the need to tell you how you should feel or express your views… It’s your opinion, your story, your experiences .. You own no one an apology for sharing this wonderful thing called life in your own voice..
    Love your blog…
    Thank you for taking the time to share your voice with us..

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