Zeenat Afzal: Getting Called Out (Step Back and Self-Crit)

Getting called out can be incredibly unnerving, I know. Getting called out publicly probably feels a lot worse. However, these feelings are completely natural. Being able to take accountability for your actions is really difficult to do when our society teaches us that everyone is ‘entitled to an opinion’. The problem with this is that people will use certain ‘opinions’ to silence those who don’t hold the same privileges as them. Know that being called out doesn’t make you a bad person, try to see it more as a means of direct education.

So, first and foremost: if you happen to get called out, try to step back and analyse the situation. The need to deflect and derail will come naturally (which develops from the natural response of embarrassment) and that’s completely understandable; I mean, who actually enjoys being told they’re wrong? It’s important that the topic is consistent to ensure a solution is possible. Examples of deflection and derailing are counter-attacks such as ‘not all men’ and ‘the Irish were slaves, too’. This can be interpreted as a means of silencing, which a lot of the time is not intentional. It is important to acknowledge harmful behaviours, despite the harmless intentions behind them.

When called out, the most natural response is to fight – to jump straight to defence mode. I feel you. Instead, try to go over the situation and figure out exactly where you went wrong. Understand that not all people will want to give their two-cents, and neither do they have to; learn to make this guy your best friend. It is not the responsibility of marginalised people to come and collect you, especially if something you have said/done has triggered them in some way. Trauma from oppression can have long-term effects; not just on the individual, but also generations after. However, do not feel like you cannot call out problematic behaviours just because you hold a privilege. The importance here is to speak up and not over – prioritise the voices of the voiceless.

What’s important to realise is that there is nothing wrong in acknowledging that we don’t know everything and there is always, always room for improvement. Your brain is always working; always wanting to learn more. Keep your mind open to the idea that you might just mess up sometimes and need to be checked. By checking your privileges, you’ll be able to keep it from disrupting harmonious relationships.

Truth is, we’re all still learning. We all have a lot of learning – and growing – to do and we won’t be able to do it together if we don’t step back and take the time to acknowledge our own privileges. There is no shame in accountability. As Fabolous once said: ‘egos trip but the humble doesn’t stumble’.


I do hope that was informative enough for you guys, gals and non-binary pals, despite the short-and-sweet feel (check out this article if you’d like some elaboration). Any concerns then drop me a message either on Facebook or Twitter.

Peace, love, and sugar puffs