Last week, on my usual perusal of social media, I came across a video of a young man who was being auditioned for the role of a radio/tv personality. The panel was made of three women in the media and this video caught my interest because, when the judges on the panel looked up this young man on social media, they found out he was an online bully! Not only was he bullying other people online, he had also written unsavoury comments on each of the women on the panel’s posts some time in the past – and boy did they come for him. Though I did not agree with how the issue was handled by the panel, I was more intrigued by the attitude of the young man, he was offended that the people he abused were upset! When the video came out, many more people he had been offending online would come out with more evidence of this man’s bullying. He would eventually apologise but only after there was a public call for him to – as per his explanation for his actions, Twitter was not the real world and therefore what he was doing was not real! Clearly, this young man lacked self awareness and in the face of his victims asking for accountability, he was rather upset his victims were offended and that did hit close to home.
In the Ghanaian culture I come from, offence is always viewed from the point of the person doing the offence. Whoever is on the receiving end of the offence is always told to not be offended because offence could hinder their relationships and ‘blessings’. I am not sure why this warped view is still prevalent in my culture – this has led to many people carrying hurt and not being able to talk about it because they do not want to be seen as holding on to offence. I don’t subscribe to that notion anymore and I always make sure I express how I am feeling when I am offended. The interesting thing is when you bring the issue up, there are many that would narrate a similar experience they’d had. And to be honest, I would like people in my life to let me know when I had offended them – not in a confrontational way but in a way that affords me the opportunity to holistically look at my actions, explain and apologise. However, this does not happen much in my culture, especially if the person that caused the offence is older or in a position of leadership.
A reader narrated how they had had someone older undermine their decision – when she heard about what had happened, she was offended and removed herself from the social group this person was a part of. The leadership and most people in the group knew what this older person had done and it later became known to this person that it had happened to many other people in the group. When the issue came up for discussion, the leader she was speaking to asked this person to not be offended – but nothing had been said to this person who was offending many people. This reader did not understand why the conversation was being had without this other person present – she would later get to hear that this person was now telling people that this reader was too easily offended! The nerve of this person! I could understand the anger and frustration of this person and I could identify as I had been in many situations where someone older had offended me and I was forced by traditions to pander to these people and forget how I was feeling. However, these days, I choose self respect and my well being – I could tell that this was the same road this reader had taken.
Though there are many who had spoken to me from my community on the same issue, I found that they hold grudges they never speak about except in safe spaces. But these same people would be quick to brush aside other people’s feelings and tell them to not be offended in the face of gross disrespect and abuse. Yes, I agree that we cannot be offended by everything and I am a true believer in choosing our battles – but if someone is offended and needs to talk about what had happened to them, then I think they have every right to their feelings. This culture that brushes over the feelings of the offended is the same reason why we have many angry adults in our society. Because there are many children who were abused by adults, including parents and how they felt was never addressed even when they brought it up, they were told to not be offended. I know some people may never apologise but open discourse could have helped some of these people resolve some of the negative feelings they had. This issue is also the same reason why politicians in most African countries misuse the resources of the people for themselves therefore denying the masses of basic rights and then get offended when the people voice out how they are feeling. I have been going in on religion in the past two weeks and wanted to take a break from it all this week but unfortunately I cannot discuss this issue without mentioning how people are abused and then blamed for being easily offended because there are several religious texts that focuses on how a person responds to being wronged and not much for those who offend.
In any society, offence can and will happen – telling people who feel offended to not feel so is part of the reason why females asking for certain rights have had feminism labeled as a negative movement in some instances. It is also why people of certain races, feeling like they are being treated differently because of their race, are labled as playing the race card without factoring in why they felt the way they did in the first place. This issue is also part of the reason people of a certain sexual orientation are discriminated against without encouraging open discourse to understand. I personally think we all should be self aware when dealing with others – looking at our actions and words to ensure that we are not offending others – especially intentionally. And when we do offend others, because we are human and we will offend others, let us learn to be gracious and humble enough to apologise. If we are telling people to stop being offended – then we should also be telling the people doing the the offence to stop offending.
Thank you so much for taking time to read, like, comment and share your experiences – please continue to share your experiences so we can effect the change we need.