by Ngọc Loan Trần
I started having conversations on this practice of “calling in” after attending Race Forward’s Facing Race Conference in Baltimore, MD in 2012. Facing Race was a gathering of thousands of people working on advancing racial justice. The space was full of energy, commitment, and a ride-or-die-and-put-it-all-on-the-line mentality for making sure we’ve got our bases covered in this fight against racism and dismantling white supremacy.
What happens when thousands of people who all “get it” come together and everyone knows something about “the work”? We lose all compassion for each other. All of it.
I witnessed all types of fucked up behavior and the culture that we have created to respond to said fucked up behavior.
Most of us know the drill. Someone says something that supports the oppression of another community, the red flags pop up and someone swoops in to call them out.
But what happens when that someone is a person we know — and love? What happens when we ourselves are that someone?
And what does it mean for our work to rely on how we have been programmed to punish people for their mistakes?
I’ll be the first person and the last person to say that anger is valid. Mistakes are mistakes; they deepen the wounds we carry. I know that for me when these mistakes are committed by people who I am in community with, it hurts even more. But these are people I care deeply about and want to see on the other side of the hurt, pain, and trauma. I am willing to offer compassion and patience as a way to build the road we are taking but have never seen before.
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I don’t propose practicing “calling in” in opposition to calling out. I don’t think that our work has room for binary thinking and action. However, I do think that it’s possible to have multiple tools, strategies, and methods existing simultaneously. It’s about being strategic, weighing the stakes and figuring out what we’re trying to build and how we are going do it together.
So, what exactly is “calling in”?
(This post is specifically about us calling in people who we want to be in community with, people who we have reason to trust or with whom we have common ground. It’s not a fuckery free-for-all for those with privilege to demand we put their hurt feelings first regardless of the harm they cause.)
Ngọc Loan Trần is a Việt/mixed-race disabled queer writer grounded in the U.S South. Their work is about bold, fearless visioning that cuts through the nonsense to make real the freedom, justice and love we seek. You can read more of their work and writing at nloantran.com.
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