Picture this: You’re at a party, and after having a few beers you casually say something like “Donald Trump is a lying golf-playing motherfucking nazi.” Right after you say this, you turn your head and there’s some guy standing there in a cardigan sweater and sipping on a Budweiser. He tilts his head and gives you a quizzical look. “Seriously?” he says. This might not seem like much. But what he’s doing, in effect, is naysaying on you.
Naysaying is a term that is gaining popularity among young people, angry college students, politicians and social media commentators. It differs from other forms of offensiveness, though. For starters, microaggressions are prejudiced or racist comments directed at minorities which demean and marginalize them in a seemingly innocuous way. Gaslighting is even more subtle. It means to psychologically manipulate someone into questioning their own sanity. Naysaying takes it a step further. Naysaying means actually opposing what someone is saying or doing. They are basically saying “nay” to what you say, and this could be in subtle or not-so-subtle ways.
The phenomenon is not new. It has been going on for centuries, and it starts when we are young. When a toddler takes his purple crayon and scribbles on the walls of his home, what does his mother say? “No, not on the walls.” You see? The very way we are socialized predisposes us to accepting that sometimes there are things that are annoying that we have to put up with, and that sometimes people will disagree with what we say or do. In this scenario, the mother asserts her dominance over her innocent child and implants the idea in that young mind that it is okay for another person to disagree with you.
Later on as teens, we run into the same predicament. We take out our cell phone during class because we want to check Instagram. The teacher tells us to put it away during class time. We eventually comply after five minutes of arguments and insults. We then conclude that the teacher is an asshole and is taking away our freedom to say or do what we want in a country that is supposedly free.
The way to stop the cycle of naysaying is to recognize it for what it is –to call it out. For instance, you are attending a college and the college invites someone to speak that disagrees with your world view. This is not okay and must be stopped immediately. Right away you must petition and protest and engage in civil disobedience (ex: hurling rocks) to call attention to the fact that the school is allowing someone on campus who openly and unashamedly disagrees with your own beliefs.
Naysaying must be stopped both in word or action or it will continue repeating itself indefinitely. People will always be disagreeing with you or opposing you if you simply allow it to continue.
“People will always be disagreeing with you or opposing you if you simply allow it to continue.”
Say you’re a white guy watching the NFL on a Sunday morning and some meddlesome black athlete doesn’t want to stand for the National Anthem just because black people have been enslaved, oppressed and mistreated for hundreds of years. It may not seem like much, but really this black athlete is trying to fight for social justice right in the middle of your football game. What he’s doing is denying your right to watch a football game in the comfort of your own home without being bothered by the fact that many black people are still facing injustice on a daily basis.
This is classic naysaying. He is actually opposing your beliefs. Not only that, he’s refusing to stand for the symbol that has given white people the ability to control everything for so many years. This same symbol has given you the right to watch football in peace. If I were you, I would definitely refuse to watch any more NFL games until all people of color agree to stand and pay respect to the flag that has protected and preserved white people’s power for so long.
This is what gives naysaying it’s virulent power. It’s ability to challenge your own personal opinions. Say for example, you’re black and you’re listening to Prince with a white person. You ask them if they like Prince and they say, “Meh, he’s not my favorite.” You might be tempted to chalk it up to personal preference. But don’t be deceived. This is most definitely naysaying. This sort of thing happens all too often. The white person is really confessing to their devaluation of your culture. In effect, they’re saying that slavery was a good idea, and even worse — that Prince is not the greatest artist of all time. Ultimately, he’s seeing things a little differently than you and this is extremely offensive, if you really think about it.
“This is what gives naysaying it’s virulent power. It’s ability to challenge your own personal opinions.”
That’s why naysaying is so harmful. The more you think about it, the angrier you get. The more you realize that someone else doesn’t agree with you, and the more it takes away your happiness. But wait. Isn’t America supposed to be the country where we are all entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?
Your happiness is what is at stake here, so don’t let anyone naysay on you.
Be warned, though. The next time you call someone out for naysaying, they will undoubtedly give you a funny look or tell you they’ve never heard of that before. They might even say that naysaying is “not a thing.”
See? That’s just it. The very fact that they don’t agree with your idea of naysaying is proof that they are, in fact, naysaying. The ultimate form of naysaying is to deny that naysaying exists.
And that is why the world can never become a better place — because naysayers are constantly opposing you.
Featured image by nombre personal via Flickr.