Join me live today at 6 pm Central as I talk with Erin Wathen about her latest book, Resist and Persist: Faith and the Fight for Equality. You can join this timely conversation with your comments and question on Facebook Live at the Raven Foundation Facebook Page!
In her book, Resist and Persist: Faith and the Fight for Equality, Erin Wathen makes an important distinction between calling someone “out” and calling someone “in.”
Calling out is when your neighbor says something racist (or sexist, etc.) and you call them out on it–directly and with no regard for hurt feelings. You say, ‘Hey, that was racist, and not OK!’ There’s a time and a place for calling out …
Calling in is more nuanced than calling out. It is constructive. It offers the offending person a way forward without having to put them on the defensive. It puts the onus on them to dig a little deeper, to think more critically about the statement they just made … A call in can be life-giving–even transformative.
Resist and Persist has been called a manifesto for 21st century feminism. It definitely is that, but I think it’s also a manifesto for being human.
The essence of these two paragraphs are crucial for the current moment in American history. Many progressives are falling into despair because of current events. Immigrant children being torn from the border, the Supreme Court upholding Trump’s ban on Muslim majority countries, and the retirement of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy are just a few of the events during the last two weeks that have caused a sense of hopelessness among progressives.
But Erin’s book, and these two paragraphs in particular, give me hope. Yes, there is a place for calling people out. There is a place for calling out Mitch McConnell for the hypocrisy of refusing to Barack Obama’s Supreme Court Nominee during an election year, yet allowing Donald Trump’s nominee during an election year. There is a place for marching against policies that separate children from their parents. And there is a place for protesting against a ban on mothers, fathers, and children from certain war-torn Muslim and Latin American countries.
I refuse to believe that the immigrant fear mongering, political power trips, and exclusion of immigrants seeking safety and security is the heart and soul of the United States.
And so there’s a place for calling out these policies and the people who want to employ them.
But as Naomi Klein says, in this moment in history, “no is not enough.” We need to say “yes” to something. I firmly believe that Erin is right. One of the best ways we can say “yes” is to call people away from fear and hostility against mothers, fathers, and their children and into a different way of life.
Indeed, calling people into this different way of being in the world is constructive. Because calling people out is so often based on shame. Again, there is a place for shaming, but in your experience, when has shame led to conversion? As Erin states, it usually just puts people on the defensive. It allows people to play the victim. And the Trump administration excels at playing the victim in these cultural debates.
Another danger with calling people out is that it is mimetic, or imitative. If I call you out on something, you will likely respond mimetically. You will likely call me out on the very same issue. We see this mimeticism throughout our culture. Last week the owner of a Red Hen restaurant called out Sarah Huckabee Sanders for being disrespectful to the LGBTQ community and asked her to leave the restaurant. Sanders responded by claiming victim status and calling out the owner for being disrespectful. Accusations lead to counter accusation. Hostility leads to hostility. Much of American culture has fallen into this trap, creating our current cultural crisis.
The only answer is to move away from mimetic accusations and hostilities. Again, there’s a place for calling people out, but people also need to be called into something, into a different way of life. This does not mean that we become bystanders and sit on the sidelines. It means we call out sexism, racism, and classism whenever we see it. But we can’t stop there. We need to invite people into a way of life that doesn’t exclude, that doesn’t live in fear, and that doesn’t mimic hostility.
Calling people in is more creative, but it also takes practice and persistence. Our culture is so consumed with calling people out that it’s become our natural default position. If we want real change in our culture, our natural default needs to become inviting people into a new way of being in the world.
And I’m grateful to Erin for making this distinction in her wonderful book Resist and Persist. I’m excited to interview Erin today about her book! If you would like to discuss the difference between calling people in and calling people out, or anything else related to modern feminism with me and Erin, join us live today at 6 pm Central on Facebook Live at the Raven Foundation Facebook Page!
What are your thoughts about the difference between “calling in” and “calling out”? Do you think American culture would be better if we emphasized calling people in instead of calling people out?