A tenet of the social justice dogma that allows us to undermine any argument against us.
What it looks like: someone says they aren’t motivated by an -ism (e.g., genderism, racism, ableism), or that they don’t hold an oppressive viewpoint, but are then “corrected” and informed of their “true” motives/beliefs.
Where it’s coming from: the ideas that (1) a lot of people don’t recognize the ways they enact oppression (e.g., via microagressions), (2) that oppression is often invisible to dominant group members, (3) that a lot of people dog-whistle true beliefs that they can’t say directly, and/or (4) that they are acting on unconscious bias.
Why it’s getting in the way: it’s invalidating and re-creating oppressive dynamics to tell someone what they think. It’s often based on an assumption of a person’s identities and how those are shaping their actions/beliefs (i.e., stereotyping). And ultimately, we can’t possibly know what someone’s “true” motive is (even if they don’t know it either), so it’s starting a fire with no hope of putting it out.
What we might do instead: if someone says their intention isn’t oppressive, and we think what they said or did is, point out that gap. Instead of trying to prove to them we know what’s in their head or heart, focus on the external: what they’ve said or done. Do so in the spirit of helping them connect their espoused intentions with their actions, not in punishing them for intentions we’ve ascribed to them.