I brought up a hot button issue in my community recently, and the response was “interesting” to say the least. In this video, I suggested that it was time to change the name of Whitewoman Street in Coshocton. As I state in the video, Whitewoman Street is named after Mary Harris, who was the first white settler in our area. And while there are plenty of legends around Mary Harris, history tells us that she was a “good and kind person.”
My suggestion is that the name of Whitewoman Street can be a turn-off to visitors (especially people of color) and we should change the name to Mary Harris Street. You may love this idea or hate this idea…but that’s not the point of this blog post.
What was troubling to me was the tactics of those that immediately disagreed with me. And they are tactics I see being used all across our culture when we disagree.
Discredit The Person
The morning the video went live, I got a phone call where someone suggested that the only reason I was doing this was that I wanted to sell more business cards. This would be laughable if it wasn’t so incredibly offensive. But this seems to be a strategy in nearly every argument I see online these days.
“This person is saying something I disagree with, so they must be doing it because they are evil.”
My friends, there are lots of amazing, smart, and well-intentioned people that disagree with me on this. There are times when two people can see the same issue from different perspectives. One of them doesn’t have to be evil.
Assume the Person Is Ignorant
Another pushback I got immediately was that I did not know the history and story of the Whitewoman. I do. And I believe it needs to be told. My perspective is simple, I don’t think we can educate people about the history if they are turned off by the name and never come. While I think (for the most part) the people who suggested this in this instance had good intentions, it creates a similar divide.
“This person is saying something I disagree with, so they must be doing it because they are ignorant.”
Making sure you are starting on common ground in a discussion is important. I talk about that here. But if we automatically assume the other person is stupid, we turn off our own ability to learn from them too.
Change The Subject
This is the most fascinating tactic because it seems the most transparent and desperate. On the other hand, I see it all of the time. For this case, it went like this, “Oh so changing the name of this street will solve the heroin problem?” What? Of course not…and we both know that’s not the point. If you are using that tactic, you have already lost.
Regardless of your opinion on this issue, the only way to actually have a real discussion is to be respectful to the other side. Let’s cut out these 3 tactics of argument so that we can actually have a conversation that creates common ground.