Hard on Systems, Soft on People: Fighting for Social Change as If People Matter


“Be hard on systems, but soft on people.”

I’m sure this nugget of wisdom has been around for more than a while, but it was only about a year or so ago that I heard it: spoken into the room where several were gathered — parents and faculty at our daughters’ school — to discuss matters of identity and oppression: things like racism, sexism, heterosexism and the like.

The facilitator for the session, who offered up many other insights throughout the course of the dialogue, repeated this one several times, and with good reason. First, he explained, we need to be soft on people because people make mistakes, we hurt each other, we are all works in progress, and each of us is capable of saying or doing the wrong thing at any time — indeed we all have, many times — and so we should essentially extend to others the patience and compassion we would want for ourselves, as growing, changing, and hopefully maturing people. But also, and more importantly, when it comes to the issues we were discussing, be soft on people and hard on systems because it is the systems (racism and white supremacy, sexism and patriarchy, classism and capitalism, heterosexism and straight/cisgendered supremacy) that have distorted us, taught us the biases with which we all walk around to one degree or another, and in some ways damaged our ability to see each other as fully and equally human sometimes.

In other words, to go too hard on other people, as people, is to often miss the structural and institutional roots of their (and our) own bad behaviors.

Read more at http://www.timwise.org/2014/08/hard-on-systems-soft-on-people-fighting-for-social-change-as-if-people-matter/


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