Much to my surprise, I wrote a variation of this essay a little while back:
“Cleanup on Aisle Collaboration, please.”
There’s a party trick I remember.
You set a little cup on the ground.
You get a broomstick.
You get four people.
Three of the people hold onto the broomstick at various parts. Their task is to put the tip of the broomstick into the little cup.
The fourth person holds onto the broomstick right near the bottom. Their task is to keep the broomstick tip from going into the cup.
The fourth person always wins, because they have only one single goal and to achieve it, all they have to do is shove in different directions every few seconds. It requires hardly any effort at all. They will always win.
They don’t win because they are better at what they do, or because they are morally superior. They win because they have leverage and because the others cannot ignore the deflection effort. They could win one-handed. They could probably win with only two fingers.
Conversations about difficult things, such as racism, sexism, etc. can (and typically do) unfold the same way.
No matter how many people are trying to get the Broomstick of Knowledge into the Cup of Recognition, there’s always at least one person pushing the end of the broomstick around with the Hands Of Derailing The Goddamn Conversation.
They are not “helping.” They are not making the broom “better.” They are not “reasonably exploring all angles of the issue.”
They are simply preventing important shit from getting done.
Watch out for those folks.