As happens in modern America, a few words exchanged on Twitter between legislators have become the subject of statewide news and commentary:
Ten minutes later [Providence State Representative Marcia Ranglin-Vassell] elaborated in a second tweet: “Most people who offer opinions abt teaching & learning have never been in a classroom haven’t taken a course in education or educational psychology have never had a real conversation with teachers or students Then you should just stop giving opinions U are not an expert#ITeach.”
That elicited this response from lawyer-legislator Brian Newberry, a North Smithfield Republican and former House minority leader:
“All part-time legislators have expertise and experience in some areas and not others. That said, we should all respectfully listen to the views of those we represent and, if we disagree and know better, seek to educate and inform, not rudely dismiss. Give Respect, Get Respect.”
That sparked this response from Ranglin-Vassell, a special education teacher at the Providence Career and Technical Academy: “Stop trolling and trying to cyber bully me with your racist attitudes.”
One is tempted to suggest that this isn’t a newsworthy exchange and ought to be permitted to drift away in the swamps of social media, but it actually is forward-looking information useful to Rhode Islanders. In fact, it’s indicative of a new tone that we ought to get used to.
Progressives try to condemn people within a skewed reality; that’s what they do. Startle them with a challenge, and they don’t crouch into a defensive posture or seek mutual ground. They go on the attack and begin spitting poison. Discourse is not about communication, for them; it’s about power, so consistency, fairness, and reasonable responses are simply irrelevant. Responding to the best version of what an opponent might have meant to say isn’t a courtesy that ever enters their minds.
This is observable in Ranglin-Vassell’s original tweet. Under her logic, even just a “real conversation with teachers or students” is sufficient experience for entry into a conversation, but she takes it as given that “most people” have never had one. By assumption, anybody who disagrees with her is put on the defensive, with a need to prove his or her credentials, changing the topic from the disagreement to whether her opponent is worthy of it. The trick is the same as when progressives manage to trap white people into defensive claims that they have black friends.
And there is no downside for the attackers. Their supporters are of the same mind, and as a movement, they work to indoctrinate and silence rather than persuade.
In response, the rest of us have to learn from them. Throughout college and beyond, it often seemed to me that radicals romanticized oppression to such a degree that they were the ones giving subtle biases power. When it comes to nearly undetectable microaggressions, for example, a person in a designated victim group can decide not to be affected emotionally.
Just so, we have to decide not to react to progressives as if their attacks are based on good faith discussion or even anything real… on underlying emotions that they might accurately have detected.
Featured image: The photograph from Ranglin-Vassell’s tweet.