So, last week I wrote a tweet that I regret, and I’m going to try to talk through why I regret it without sounding too much like a stupid white man.
At the end of the last full day of #TMC18, I was driving a few people back to the hotel. They all happened to be white folks (which is statistically likely given how many white folks were at TMC18). Three of them asked me to stop at the gas station next to the hotel and let them out so they could buy wine. The whole spectacle was ridiculous, and we were all joking about it. And because the jokes were funny at the time, I tweeted something like “Nothing says success quite like letting three blond white women out of the car at a gas station to buy booze.” It was tongue-in-cheek and sarcastic, pointing out the ridiculousness of the situation. I realize how cliche it is to say “anyone who knows me knows…” but that’s what I was thinking at the time. The tweet got some likes, some people laughed about it at game night, and I didn’t think anything more of it.
A couple days ago, as we’re all coming off the post-TMC buzz, one of the people in the car at the time reached out and said that while they thought it was funny at the time in an isolated space surrounded by dear friends, it was cringe-worthy when posted to the whole online Twitter-verse. That the tweet, read by someone new to TMC or new to the MTBoS or that has never met me in person, could be off-putting and offensive.So I deleted the tweet. But that feels kind of “Sweep-under-the-rug”ish, so hence this post.
I don’t understand how I currently have over 1600 followers. That is insane. I’ve only been teaching for 5 years. Then, recently, a couple people have described me as a “leader” in the MTBoS, whatever the hell that means. But all that does mean something, and my words absolutely mean something. I can’t keep tweeting as if I’m this little newbie teacher with just personal friends on my timeline that know me and know my sense of humor and my values (assuming of course that my sense of humor and values aren’t problematic in a variety of ways). I absolutely see how someone that followed me but didn’t know me personally could read my words and think “Wow, this guy is kind of an asshole” and then feel unwelcome in a space I very actively try to make more welcoming. They could get the idea that I value having white friends in my car over just having friends in my car. They could interpret that I am not sensitive to issues of race. And they would be perfectly justified in wondering why I even brought up race in the first place. I’ve done enough self-reflection the last few days that I don’t have a good answer for that.
If someone read those words and felt unwelcome or put-off or somehow othered, then I was an asshole, and I’m sorry. I could easily play it off as just sarcasm, just a joke. That was certainly my intent. But if the impact is bad, then none of that matters.
Maybe nobody took offense. I don’t know. I prefer to believe half of you just mute me on Twitter during TMC. But apologizing and learning to avoid this sort of stupidity in the only costs me some very uncomfortable self-reflection, which seems like a very privileged price to pay.
If there are places where my apology is inadequate or could be improved, please reach out. Otherwise I’m going to disable comments for this post.