Monday, November 5, 2012

Is all this Venting Helpful?

This is another controversial sort of post. I think my tolerance for negativity and complaining is at an all-time low and I'm going to seriously work on reducing my negativity and complaining online and offline. If it's not helpful then why continue to do it? I just don't want to hear complaints about anything because it brings me down and after doing some research I understand why. Complaining to uninvolved people and venting apparently brings down your mood and isn't really helpful at all. I think this will all help me to be a more positive person and not a fake activist who constantly complains but doesn't work to change anything.

This post was inspired by articles called 6 Ways to Release Resentment and Nobody Wants me so why even Bother? These posts made me wonder; 1) Is all this online venting about racism helpful to the individuals who do it? 2) Is venting about racism harmful to the ones who read it? 3) Does this venting actually contribute to the targets of this venting (i.e., White people) treating us even less like equals? It also makes me finally consider the statement many White people have uttered, 4) "There would be less racism if Black people didn't bring it up all the time".

I think I'm just going to state my opinion about each question and link to articles that support my point (if any exist). I think that AA culture and the civil rights movement is really one of the worlds most prominent examples of peaceful and determined activism. Participants of that movement like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton went on to continue fighting for civil rights by calling attention to racist incidents, making sure the incidents were highly publicized, trying to shame the perpetrators, and teaching a lesson about the history of racism against Black people (always referring back to slavery and Jim Crow) and how prevalent it is. Furthermore, ever since AA people have been allowed to publish they have written about racism and injustices including in academic settings. The purpose was to bring "awareness" to this racism and it's harmful effects with the hopes that the awareness will lead racists to stop what they are doing or lead the people in power to stop the racists. No one can deny that this has been helpful and has greatly improved the day to day lives of many AA people.

(1) But is the venting and the endless discussion or race, racism, and racist incidents online helpful in the same way? Question 1) Is all this online venting about racism helpful to the individuals who do it? It's probably helpful or else they wouldn't do it. I think that, understandably, a lot of Black people have resentment towards White people but they feel powerless to change things so they vent online. They get their frustrations out instead of letting them fester. That way they can get on with their lives, including interacting with White people, without taking their frustration out on actual people. It doesn't change their situation though so it is just a needed coping mechanism. Prior to the internet venting could only be done with friends and family and the rest of the world had no access to these heated conversations. The Internet allows people to vent to anonymously to strangers so that there are no consequences in their everyday lives and venting to friends and family isn't required. The article above actually encourages venting for this purpose (maybe not online). UPDATE: Based on the articles posted below there is no scientific benefit to venting and it actually prolongs anger! All this venting about racism online may be making the bloggers and readers angrier by prolonging and spreading those feelings!

(2) Today, due to the Internet people can overhear these discussions over, and over, and over again. 2) Is venting about racism harmful to the ones who read it? I think it probably is harmful if one reads this kind of writing frequently and over a long time period, similar to vicarious traumatization (see article below). It can be more harmful to people with low self-esteem or if the writing makes many generalizations (i.e., all Black people are victims and hated by everyone) - negative view of self, negative view of the world, or implies that the situation is hopeless and the situation will never change - negative view of future. Some of you may already know that negative views of oneself, their future, and the world are three thought patterns of people who are depressed. So basically, take a Black person with low self-esteem or under stress, have them read post after post of other BP venting about how hard it is and will ALWAYS be for ALL BP and how hated ALL BP are ALL OVER the world and I would not be surprised if a BP feels sad and hopeless afterwards. Reading similar posts daily, for an extended period of time could potentially make a person quite depressed. Based on the post above, that is exactly what happened to the letter writer.

My suggestion? RARELY ever read venting articles. Sometimes people find them helpful if they want to vent about the same issues (vicarious venting) but if you do not have the same issue then DON'T READ IT. Venting sessions never bring up the spirits of those who do not have the same gripe. They only suggest to them something they could be angry about (often ventors imply that others should be angry or else they are naive, part of the problem, not protecting themselves etc.). The venting is primarily meant to help the writer and sometimes the writer feels they are doing a public service by "informing others" of this major problem that everyone "needs to address and think about". But don't you have your own issues to deal with? Don't take on someone else's idiosyncratic worries. It is my belief that all the constant venting and reading about racism online can make BP more fearful and depressed about racism than they need to be. There is no reason why someone, who hasn't personally experienced a single racist incident in years, is constantly worried about racism, and can cite 100 racist incidents that happened to other people that year.

As I have already mentioned, some ventors may feel that they are doing their duty to warn other people so that they can somehow protect themselves from racist people. I don't know but is there a way to protect yourself from racist people?  I mean besides avoiding places where people act extremely and violently racist, you can't escape systematic racism, most often you can't tell who is racist until they do something (unless you decide to avoid all White people and their impact to be safe and I don't even think that's possible), and I think most racist incidents are unexpected. So I don't think the warnings could be helpful at all. Some may state that their venting is a "call for action" but most of the time it's for a boycott of some White person who said something unwise (e.g., John Mayer, that guy from Seinfeld etc.) and in some cases getting social disapproval is warranted to maybe stop people from making similar public statements. But if that person is racist, they will still be racist even after the boycott. It doesn't fight or stop racism, it just discourages people from saying racist things...a small victory that spares us from their negative statements.
(3) Does this venting actually contribute to the targets of this venting (i.e., White people) treating us even less like equals? Sometimes it does but sometimes it doesn't. I can accept the possibility that reading this information online can alert some WP about things that irritate BP so they may decide to stop saying and doing those things. BUT the only people willing to do that are those who actually care about getting along with BP and don't want to harm BP for whatever reason, in other words, the ventors are preaching to the converted.  These people will actually tip toe around BP so that they do not offend them, they will stand up and try to protect BP, and they will reprimand other WP for racist behaviour. Some BP will call them allies but others will say they are patronizing by treating BP like powerless people who cannot protect themselves and are easily hurt. If BP keep saying they are powerless and they are victims them WP will treat them as such. This is not treating someone like an equal therefore WP are basically damned if they do and damned if they don't when it comes to trying to help BP. Seriously, read a racism post and see how sympathetic WP are treated, it's amazing how many insults are hurled at them.

A racist person wouldn't care and would revel in the ventors suffering (e.g., trolls will pick on the ventor). They just see the venting as more reason to dislike BP. Then there are those WP who are on the fence about BP. They are the ones who get annoyed because, in their opinion, BP overreact to their words and behaviour, are too sensitive, have things better than them in some ways, or have done something bad to them in the past that was excused or ignored by others. These people get tired of the constant complaining because they feel that they have equally valid complaints. They are the ones who complain about reverse racism and the need to White scholarships etc. These people say they are egalitarians and they want everyone to be treated the same. But they ignore any systematic racism and believe that everyone has the same chance to succeed. These people will only become more irritated when they read venting about racism.   So, basically venting and complaining about racism online only raises positive concern from WP who already want to get along with BP ( and makes them think we are powerless and fragile), and it just makes racists and those on the fence feel more resentment and those are the people who it would be most beneficial to change.

(4) Would "there would be less racism if Black people didn't bring it up all the time"? When it comes to systematic racism the answer is NO. That would continue happening even if people didn't notice or talk about it. It exists because most people don't notice it because they are part of the system and did not intend to be racist. Would individual WP act less racist if BP didn't talk about it all the time? Maybe. Racism is a touchy subject and it is definitely a negative topic. If you know anything about classical conditioning then you know that when something that arouses negative feelings (e.g., racism) is paired with a neutral stimulus (e.g., Black people), then the presence of the neutral stimulus (e.g., Black people) will eventually arouse negative feelings. This is what happens when crime, arguments, sexism, loudness, foul language, begging, complaining, rudeness, aggressiveness, entitlement, selfishness, self-centeredness, or any other negative trait becomes stereotypically associated with certain races. All of these things are negative so if you are constantly talking about these things then people may actually develop negative feeling towards you. They fear that when you come around they will have to deal with the unpleasantness of conversations about something unpleasant. They will want to tune you out or avoid you because you have become a source of unpleasantness for them. I brought up some of these issues in my post Are Black People Too Sensitive and I'm not Too Concerned About Racism Anymore in regards to have constantly complaining pushes people away.

This may result in WP not wanting to associate with BP, hire them, read about their concerns, date them or have much contact because BP are frequently talking about negative things, complaining, or getting offended. So WP will discriminate more. This is the same thing that people feel about activists (e.g., environmentalists, women's rights, victim's rights, poverty, animal abuse etc.) because they are always talking about fighting horrible things and raising awareness of these horrible things. There is only so much people can tolerate before they start seeking out people who are talking about more pleasant things. Some people can take it but many can not especially when they don't want to get involved. This is the reason why people advise against talking about controversial things or politics when you first meet someone, because these things can bring up unpleasant feelings. Have you ever changed the channel when those sponsor a child or Humane Society commercials come on? Have you avoided the news when you were feeling stressed? It's because these things are unpleasant. Yes they raise awareness about problems and are meant to help the problem but they also bring on negative feelings that people want to avoid. My concern is that BP are becoming like that to WP. Reading our blogs can be like watching World Vision commercials over and over and over again. That's not fun.

I also have to say that I believe 100%, without a doubt, that BP will perceive that there is less racism if they stop seeking out or reading about racism. Then they will only be able to judge it's prevalence based on their own experience so it will be much less. A week doesn't go by when I don't read or hear the n-word, mammy, or about BW being insulted on Black blogs I read that are written by BW! It is not from reading the blogs of racists but those of BW seeking to "raise awareness" about how racist other people are and how so and so doesn't like BW. The letter writer above basically states this has contributed to her not wanting to date anyone. I also read a lot of racist things from BM when I have to scroll through their BW bashing video titles. A lot of racism may very well exist if we don't talk about it, but you won't be hurt by racist statements you don't read/hear about 24/7/365. Hearing about something negative all the time may make you think that you are more at risk than you really are. Nothing racist has happened to me this year but for some reason I am exposed to information about racism almost every day by reading Black blogs! I should write less about it, at least I don't bother reporting on every racist incident that happens in the media. I'm going to write less a out it. I've had and done enough :)

So my final thoughts on this are:
  •  Avoid reading venting posts as much as possible because they will bring down your mood.
  • Vent when you must but not too often because it wears people out and paints you as a negative person they may want to avoid. There is also no proof that venting helps and it may actually prolong your negative feelings.
  • Think about the effect of your complaining has on others because it may be pushing them away. Think about the negative effect it has on you (i.e., makes you into an angry and negative person).
  • Don't expect that venting about racism does much to influence anyone who isn't already on your side. It doesn't really stop racism in most cases. 
Related Articles:
*The upside of anger (anger is not the same as venting)
*Does venting help or just make it worse? (venting is useful it it allows you to stop thinking about it and move on. I don't think that's what happens when people vent about racism because they keep writing about it over and over. Research doesn't seem to support the benefit of venting!)
*Antidotes to bad moods and negative emotions (focusing on things that bring on positive emotions is more helpful than venting. Kittens always defeat my negative emotions lol!)
*Better to simmer than to vent: "According to the lead author of the study, psychologist Brad Bushman, Ph.D., our society advocates the "catharsis theory," which says aggressive behavior is an effective way to reduce anger and aggressive feelings. There is virtually no scientific evidence to support the theory, he points out..."The catharsis theory is worse than useless," Bushman says. "A theory is useless if it doesn't work. It is worse than useless if it produces harmful effects. Expressing anger produces harmful effects -- it increases aggression." WOW!!!
*Is venting good for you?, "It actually feeds the already present negative emotions as opposed to releasing them. And worse yet, we will damage those that are subjected to our outbursts. Most people do not find it pleasant to listen to angry tirades and it can do all kinds of damage to children and adults as well."...For example, talking to a therapist about our issues both past and present with the goal of improving ourselves is much different than talking or complaining, over and over again about your boss, your spouse, the traffic or the weather. Much of our talking or thinking about life’s problems is actually complaining and self-pity and just an overall lack of acceptance of life as it is, which is why I do not think it’s accurate to refer to such problems as our problems. Much of what we think is our problem isn’t a problem at all. The problem is our inability to accept life on life’s terms."
*Venting anger: a good habit to break, "The value of venting is a myth. The theory on which the idea of venting anger is based has been repeatedly disproven since the 1950s...If the act of venting becomes repeated, it risks becoming a habit – a bad habit. It is, after all, “practicing how to behave aggressively,” says Bushman."
*Vicarious trauma, (MUST READ) "Vicarious trauma is the process of change that happens because you care about other people who have been hurt, and feel committed or responsible to help them. Over time this process can lead to changes in your psychological, physical, and spiritual well-being...It is what happens to you over time as you witness cruelty and loss and hear distressing stories, day after day, and year after year."


  1. Elegance you bring another perfect post!
    Posting this on Black Women With Other Brothers I agree with this totally and think the fam will, too.

  2. I am a BW, so racism is a reality. But it is not a defining feature in my reality. Personal responsibility is.

    BW need to be smart. Lip service (venting) is the haven of weak. Let us learn from other people of color who face racism but still prosper- Jews, Asians.

    Remember, Anglo Saxons WP are bound by their rules. They have ideals and they can be forced to behave in a way that mimic these ideals.

    Compare with BP in Arabic countries and u'll see that one has more opportunities. Do not be define by hatred, bloom where u're planted.

  3. Aww thanks Dee Dee. I have been practicing not complaining or venting and actually it feels pretty good! It makes me feel like I'm not a negative person and bringing anyone else down. It also makes me feel like I am in control of my emotions and I can overcome things without having to vent and complain. It actually feels empowering and that I am stronger than other people who have to complain all the time.

    Hi Anonymous,
    Definitely racism is a reality but I don't notice it's effects on me and I'm not going to try searching for those effects either. I'd rather focus on the obvious challenges I'm facing and on the good things in my life. Thanks for your comment.

  4. As I grow older, I have come to doubt that venting is a good thing. When toddlers vent, we call that a tantrum. We learn as we grow, to channel our anger, in productive ways.

    About privilege, I find, that if you act as if you are have goodo manners, politeness, friendliness, good posture (etc), then you fit right in. Ranting about privilege gets you nowhere - it shows those who have it that you don't fit in.

  5. Hi Anonymous,

    You know for me, probably the BIGGEST way that I will improve my relationships will be to minimize complaining and venting. I`m realizing now that I did that soooo much. I was fun sometimes but for most of the time I was, I was a downer. If I change this then I will be so much more pleasant to be around. It will be like night and day for people who knew me during my most negative time. I really, really have to get this under control.

    I agree, doing things that make you not fit in is so detrimental. Being a team player who everyone likes will be so beneficial. Of course I don;t mean going along with horrible things but just not being the one stick in the mud and downer in a group. I think that was me in the past but no more.

  6. This is such a great post!!
    i love that you're not afraid of talking about topics like this and posting your opinion on it!!
    i myself am aware of racism, sexism, ableism, and everything tumblr consistently shoves in your face. But at the same time, it's not my battle. Yes, as a black woman i'm always battling against systematic racism and sexism, but it's not something i want to talk about everyday. It's not my passion. Some people fight everyday to raise awareness on stuff like this but me? I'm No Jane Elliot. I like to look at myself as more of an Ally than a front line fighter.
    Often times, talking about these isms only leads to negative energy. Yes everyone in awhile i will read articles that talk about these, but i won't revolve my life around it like other people do, because it's simply not something i'm super passionate about.

  7. Hi Aneesa :)

    Thanks :) I like to discuss things but not controversial highly emotional things all the time, especially when they are not relevant to my life. I may comment here and there but I'm not getting worked up or emotional about it anymore. I feel much happier because of it. I think that most people fight for things that have directly affected them in some way and really, a lot of the racism things haven't affected me. Plus, I'm not going to act as though I'm going to start a protest or crusade when I have no intentions. No point in getting worked up over what someone says on the internet anyway :)