Intention vs Impact
I enjoy her show and I think she is funny.
So do many people.
But when she posted the meme of herself on Usain Bolt’s back, some people didn’t think she was funny at all.
Here’s what I want to pull from this happening:
Intention and impact are not the same thing. And when we take intention into account, we can maybe adjust our reaction for the greater good.
Ellen intended to be funny; the impact (for some) was quite the opposite.
Negative impact can happen even with the best of intentions – and it often happens when we don’t recognize the context, or we don’t understand history.
In another place, with a different history, this meme may not have caught the backlash it did. But in the USA with a history of slavery, and then Jim Crowe, and the present day legacy of that in the treatment of African American men by police (as just one example) – you can’t really expect a meme that shows a white person riding on the back of a Black person, to get their errands done to go through as just funny.
Intention doesn’t make up for impact.
I also believe that in truly wanting to make the world a better place, we have to be willing to have conversations over accusations – so that people can learn, understand the impact, and join us in our struggle – with awareness.
So while I understand the anger at the meme, I have to give Ellen a break and bring her along on the journey to becoming an ally instead of calling her racist. I’ll leave that label for people who are intentionally inflicting harm and hatred onto others because of race. Some people will disagree with me on that one, but I think that touching hearts is how we change the world.
Do you agree?
Copyright 2016 Annemarie Shrouder
Speaker, Facilitator, and Consultant on issues of Diversity & Inclusion
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