Don’t take the bait:
In logic and rhetoric, a red herring is an observation that draws attention away from the central issue in an argument or discussion. Also called a decoy and is part of logical fallacies:
Logical Fallacies are common errors in reasoning that will undermine the logic of your argument.
Fallacies can be either illegitimate arguments or irrelevant points and are often identified because they lack evidence that supports their claim.
It’s an apple and orange comparison.
Red Herrings are popular methods used by white people to dismiss the “content of the message,” in an attempt to embarrass the messenger by pointing out some small error like a spelling or grammar mistake.
Black and brown people reading this can relate because it happens so regularly that often it’s overlooked, or worse, the person doing it will say, “I was just trying to tell you the right thing, no harm intended.” This is done with a look of “wide-eyed innocence” that the black or brown person feels as if they were overreacting and begin questioning their behaviour- themselves forgetting about the original message.
Using Red Herrings is not done in innocence but is an attempt to discredit you, undermine you, or draw attention away from what is being said and centering themselves.
It is a logical fallacy that is part of systemic racism and is violent given the historical context of a “Madam and Eve,” “white is right,” world where white people are superior, and have the “right” to admonish or correct black and brown people as if they were children (known as infantilization).
The other sinister part of correcting black and brown peoples mistakes is the “diversion tactic” used to prevent the message from getting across. If it is about racism or white privilege, the “red herring,” behaviour becomes even worse.
If “Red Herring,” fails then the white person either become aggressive or resorts to tears.
Black and brown people must call out this type of behaviour as it worsens when left unchecked. Focus on what their focus is and bring the conversation back to its original intention.
“It’s important, therefore, to know who the real enemy is, and to know the function, the very serious function of racism, which is a distraction. It keeps you from doing your work. It keeps you explaining over and over again, your reason for being. Somebody says you have no language and so you spend 20 years proving that you do. Somebody says your head isn’t shaped properly so you have scientists working on the fact that it is. Someone says you have no art so you dredge that up. Somebody says you have no kingdoms and so you dredge that up. None of that is necessary. There will always be one more thing.”