In one of our membership Zooms last week, as we were discussing SHOULDS, the convo turned toward “taking the high road.”
If this phrase isn’t familiar to you, it’s a should — usually uttered when there’s a disagreement — to encourage someone to “be the bigger person” about it. “Be the better person.”
Here’s where this is problematic.
If you are someone with high status (so, let’s say all the white, cis-het males out there, at bare minimum), you may encourage someone of lower status to “take the high road” so as not to have to deal with the fact that you may be WRONG.
Here’s how I know: If you’re high status AND YOU’RE RIGHT, no one ever really tells you to take the high road. They use a different phrase: “Let it go.”
“Take the high road” is almost always used against a lower-status person, a disenfranchised person, a discriminated-against person, an otherwise “othered” person as a means of KEEPING the person who is in the right (that non-dominant population member) “in check”. Keeping them “othered”. Keeping the status from fluctuating.
“Take the high road” doesn’t actually make you the bigger person; it keeps your position — especially when your position is RIGHT — below the other person’s position. It’s patriarchal programming to keep small those who are not genetically/culturally positioned into advantages.
Here’s a fun way this played out at my Instagram account recently.
I posted this:
And wouldn’t you know it, among the ton of bwahahahahahahahahah OMG cats are so savage and teeeeee heeeeeeeee why does this bring me such glee of it all, I got a little… pushback.
From white people.
From cis-het straight people.
From mostly male people.
What did they comment?
“Can’t we just move on?”
“Why must you attack 45?”
“Stop being mean.”
“Look, you won. Take the high road.”
Everyone who has ever been in an abusive relationship knows this: We have all trauma bonded over these past 5 years (yes, it started before 45 became 45) as an abuser has made us keenly aware that we’d better stop crying or he’ll give us something to *really* cry about.
We’ve been gaslit.
We’ve had relatives and strangers come onto OUR blogs, OUR social media timelines, even into OUR phones via group text or direct calls telling us OUR FEELINGS ARE WRONG.
And here’s something I know for sure about dominant culture vs. the rest of us: People who are non-dominant have never felt the need to tell the dominant culture that their feelings are WRONG.
We’ll say, “Hey, your lived experiences may make it so you don’t know experientially that this thing I’ve lived through is true,” but we’re not trying to tell you that anything you feel is wrong.
The reason the dominant culture has a pathological need to tell us our feelings are wrong is because it breaks their brains to imagine that they’re actually causing as much pain as they’re causing. Because having empathy for anyone outside of their lived experiences is SUCH a stretch for them, it’s easier for them to tell us something I’m betting most of us grew up hearing:
“You’re too sensitive.”
“Stop being so dramatic.”
“Grow up. Stop playing the victim.”
Next time someone comes at you this way (if you’re like me, you’ll have the chance to use this pretty soon), ask that person to take the high road.
That’ll probably disarm them, since you’re not the one with the high status in their worldview.
That being disarmed terrifies these folks is exactly why it’s so important that it keep happening.
A revolution is comin’ y’all.
I’ll see you on the high road.