On Calling People Out

guest post from Dillon Black:


Because the Revolution Starts from Within.

Because we’ve been having to do this a lot lately, inside of organizing spaces, and outside of them. To strangers, and people near and dear to our hearts. Because it reflects experiences of so many others we know. This note is copy and pasted from some e-mails I’ve had to write, and others have written with me. This note is a result of many conversations, and painful experiences. This note, if anything is to make anyone walk away thinking, and reflecting..

Because if anything the greatest thing we can do is learn from each other, be self-reflexive and critical of our own locations, privileges, and power all the while building great capacity for community, accountability, support, but most of all a capacity to move through the world whole-heartedly, with great vulnerability.

There is much strength, fortitude, power and resignation in this love.

A love that is real, genuine and has the capacity to grow if we let it.




“It is a common, and well researched, phenomenon that when you call someone out on oppressive behaviour they often react in a predictable pattern. The pattern involves a multistep process through which they can dodge responsibility and avoid any form of accountability. This process involves denial that violence is taking place, claiming that the violence is worthwhile, de-legitimizing the person calling you out, engaging in victim blaming, silencing the survivor, as well as pointing to other examples of their life which illustrate that they could never be a _____ person.

Even though we often teach these workshops we still are fully capable of following this pattern of behaviour in response to people calling us out on oppressive behaviours. Even the best feminists/activists/people engage in oppressive behaviour, but what separates the good from the great are those who are willing to engage in self-reflexivity and challenge themselves to do better. Those that are willing to sit with their feelings of guilt, shame and denial, and truly explore where this defensive-ness, guilt and anger is coming from. How it is coming from a place of privilege, and power.

Calling anyone dramatic (or anything remotely similar) and implying that they are only oppressed by your behaviour is textbook victim blaming and is a clear attempt to distance yourself from any form of culpability for your behaviour. By trying to explain their experience of violence  as merely an unfactual, emotional, and completely illegitimate perception of reality is a well known strategy used by perpetrators of violence.

In addition placing yourself as the victim because someone might think that engaging in _____ism/phobia makes you an “asshole” (i’m going to use this as an example because it speaks to my own experiences of violence and it actually happened recently to me through a personal e-mail i received) is a predictable but entirely inappropriate occupation of the space of being the person oppressed in a given situation.

When you are called out for being oppressive, no matter what mean words are used by the person surviving your violence, you ARE NOT THE VICTIM. Trying to claim that space is merely a way to silence the person calling you out.

Personal example:  “Telling me how oppressed you were because people would hold you accountable for being trans*phobic does not make you a victim. If you are engaging in trans*phobia folks from that community retain the right to call you an asshole for doing so. I probably would use other language and try and engage in a more productive way and use it as a learning opportunity, but in the end trans* folks are allowed to do whatever they need to do feel safe(r) in this space, whether that is leaving, calling you out, or reaching out to allies who will actually validate their experience of oppression and violence, even if it means going elsewhere for support.  This goes for anyone surviving violence from marginalized communities or otherwise.

Just remember that the folks who are from marginalized communities encounter more barriers to accessing services that are culturally relevant to their experience. This is not a hierarchy of oppression. Nobody is more oppressed than anyone else. Violence does not happen in a vacuum, it is rooted in systemic oppression and people experience violence in different ways and we need to acknowledge this. Violence is an issue of power and domination, it is a means of regulation and those at highest risk for experiencing violence within their own communities are also folks who encounter barriers to accessing services. It is also tied in with those communities that are face higher barriers to basic needs and self-determination.

My reactions and feelings are based in systemic oppression that I am surviving, in the world and totally legitimate. If someone calls you out, it is not their responsibility to make sure that your process of acknowledging, challenging your privilege, and self-reflexivity is a comfortable journey.

This work is uncomfortable. Calling people out is painful for the person receiving it, as well as delivering it. But the person delivering it is the survivor, and they get to do whatever they need to do to feel safe and supported.

Not acknowledging oppression is straight up an act of violence. Not acknowledging why this is an act of violence, makes us complicit in this oppression. Even if we are oppressed, we can still be complicit in oppressing others which is why we all need to challenge ourselves, the work that we do, and engage in self-reflexivity, but most of all approach accountability with empathy and a compassion for humanity.




I want people to know that this long message was coming from many conversations I’ve had with so many of you. It was built upon many of our experiences, and learning.

So.. before you reply, and are feeling defensive/guilty/angry etc (as those feelings are valid and necessary but do not belong in this space) just remember that this is part of the healing, and part of the work..  that this was coming from a place of great love and belief in this work, this movement, and […]

That this was something that needed to be said, and please recognize your privilege, give justice to your own complexities, and honor the great amount of pain that so many of us have had to go through to get here, and the great pain that I have had to experience just writing this all out..

Because in doing this, I build the bridge upon my own desire to heal from this all, and in doing this, we start a new process of building the world we are trying to create.

and last but not least,
in doing this, we support survivors everywhere..




(and many special thanks to the people who helped me have these conversations, helped me write these thoughts out, who’ve called me out, who’ve engaged in learning with me, and who’ve supported me through it all.)

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