When we call someone misogynist or racist or sexist or a capitalist, a socialist or an abstract expressionist, what are we hoping for? Every one of us is on the 'ist' spectrum, so the label becomes meaningless. Meaningless labels are noise, noise that lasts.
If that person stopped acting like a _____ist, what would change? Because if there's nothing we want to change, the labeling is useless. And if there's a change that needs to be made, let's talk about what it is.
This is something that absolutely drives me nuts about our sort of shock culture. Someone does or says something, we label them, and as Seth Godin also says…
The best reason to brand someone with a pejorative label is to push them away, to forestall useful conversation, to turn them into the other.
It divides our culture all over the place. We want to find the racists, and the sexists, and whatever else-ists, label them and cast them out rather than looking at them as people, digging into the issues, and trying to figure out how we can help them and ourselves. Applying such vitriolic labels is tremendously oversimplifying people who are much more complex. Yes someone made a sexist or racist remark, and lets deal with that and talk about it. But let’s not reduce them as a person down to that comment.
Empathy is needed all around. Empathy for other groups of people. Empathy for those with a poor understanding of other groups. Just general empathy for people who are different.