One of the good ones
|The colorful pseudoscience|
Race & Racialism
|Hating thy neighbour|
|Divide and conquer|
“”And then they come, 80 million worthy Germans, and each one has his decent Jew. Of course the others are vermin, but this one is an A-1 Jew.
"One of the good ones" is a phrase that encapsulates the idea of comparing an individual favorably to the other people in their demographic, with said demographic being based on gender, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, transgender status, religion etc. Depending on whether this phrase (or a variation such as "not like the others") is applied to oneself or another person, it can come across either as internalized discrimination or as a discriminatory backhanded compliment.
You're better than the others
“”…and my farmer neighbor, who happens to be a white man, said to me, "Oh, you're not black, you're just a neighbor." I go, "I most certainly am black." But that was his way of saying, "you're not like what I think other black people are."
|—Oprah Winfrey[note 1]|
This form is used to superficially compliment an individual from an oppressed group on being "different" or "superior" to what the speaker would expect from that group. This is unlikely to be appreciated, as it only serves to insult the demographic in question and entrench harmful stereotypes about it, suggesting that the demographic described is inferior by default. Such statements are sometimes made out of genuine ignorance, but this does not make them any less harmful.
This phenomenon is particularly prominent in the history of racial relations. Frank Chin, Asian American playwright, opined that "Colored minorities in white reality are stereotypes", with the "bad" stereotype being defined as such because it cannot be controlled by whites, and the "good" stereotype being tractable. The antisemitic H. P. Lovecraft considered his Jewish wife "well assimilated", a CIA document described Che Guevara as "fairly intellectual for a Latino", and Hitler lauded certain Jews as Honorary Aryans. More recently, Ann Coulter, describing black Republicans, stated that "our blacks are so much better than their blacks", and during his presidential campaign Donald Trump offered to exempt Sadiq Khan, first Muslim Mayor of London, from his Muslim ban; this offer was unsurprisingly not appreciated.
Please respect me, I'm not stereotypical!
In a manifestation of respectability politics, members of oppressed demographics may try to single themselves out as being "normal" and "one of the good ones", effectively sucking up to the privileged class. They may even see themselves as pushing back against the harmful stereotypes, but often what they are actually doing is perpetuating those stereotypes by emphasizing them as being bad and undesirable. This type of thinking originates from internalized discrimination and self-hatred, and can affect some women, people of color, and gay and transgender people.
This has been the subject of parodies, such as the "Other Girls Vs. Me" memes and their spinoffs.
Only the good ones
The inverse of "Please respect me, I'm not stereotypical!" is that, particularly among oppressed demographics that are subject to gatekeeping, "One of the good ones" can quickly, via the process of No True Scotsman, become an assertion that only "the good ones" count as members of that group.
A common claim in TERF rhetoric is that they have no problem with "genuine transsexuals", by which they invariably mean the handful of trans people who are politically aligned with them, thereby implying that the trans people who displease them are not "really trans". They will often dismiss other trans people as 'trenders', or as "trans activists" (as if that's mutually exclusive with being a genuine transsexual). Thus, the TERF claims, "I can't be transphobic, because the people I hate aren't really trans." This is what ultimately led to The Times creating the headline of "Trans community rallies to defence of threatened professor Kathleen Stock". Many more trans people emphatically did not, but the so-called "trans community" alluded to in the headline was cherry picked from "the good ones".
Elsewhere, this can be seen in the 2015 incident where a man shouted, "You ain't no Muslim, bruv!" at a knife-attacker, a statement that was later repeated by then-UK-Prime-Minister David Cameron. While one can applaud the intent of attempting to separate Muslims from stereotypes of violence, this, too, is a form of gatekeeping: It is discriminatory to place such conditionality on membership of an oppressed demographic when one would not place the same conditionality on membership of a demographic that is not oppressed.
One of the good privileged folk
“”Mainstream dictionary definitions reduce racism to individual racial prejudice and the intentional actions that result. The people that commit these intentional acts are deemed bad, and those that don’t are good. If we are against racism and unaware of committing racist acts, we can’t be racist; racism and being a good person have become mutually exclusive. But this definition does little to explain how racial hierarchies are consistently reproduced.
On the other side of the coin, the idea of being "one of the good ones" is also used as a defensive mechanism by members of the "privileged" demographic, as a way to try to distance themselves from the oppression that is associated with this demographic. In a general form, this can often be a motivation behind self-identifying as a (male/white/straight) "ally". The central fallacy here is that one cannot be an "ally" or "one of the good ones" simply by proclaiming it — only by actually putting in the work and self-reflection.
This is the type of thinking behind cries of "not all men" from guys who take generalized criticisms of men's behaviour toward women personally and are desperate to communicate that they individually do not behave like that; it is also a prime driver of nice guy syndrome and all that that entails. Men who self-identify as feminists have to be careful not to fall into the trap of being motivated primarily by a desire to be seen as "one of the good ones".
This thinking also runs rampant in the context of racism and anti-racism activism, wherein white people are very keen to be seen as "allies" and to be safe from accusations of being racist. Joan Olsson described many manifestations of this in her paper, "Detour spotting for white anti-racists", such as colorblindness, friend arguments etc. At its most pathologically extreme, this mindset can result in such phenomena as Rachel Dolezal.
Similarly, in the sphere of LGBT relations, some self-proclaimed "allies" can fall into the trap of being overly concerned with their self-image as a good person, and fearful of being thought homophobic or transphobic.
- Clarence Thomas
- Friend argument
- I'm not prejudiced, but...
- Not all
- Uncle Tom
- Chin, Frank and Chan, Jeffery Paul. Racist Love, In: Seeing Through Shuck. Ballantine Books, 1972.
- Mieville, China. Introduction. At the Mountains of Madness, The Random House Publishing Group, 2005.
- Steel, Mark. Mark Steel: However debased the image, Che's legend lives on. The Independent, October 10, 2007.
- Pierre, Robert E. Ann Coulter: ‘Our blacks are so much better than their blacks’. The Washington Post, November 1, 2011.
- Elgot, Jessica. Sadiq Khan: I don't want exemption from 'ignorant' Trump's Muslim ban. The Guardian, May 10, 2016.
- Savage, Dan. Milo Yiannopoulos: Girls Are In Danger When Adult Trans Women Use Public Toilets But 13-Year-Old Boys Can Benefit From Giving Head To Adult Males. The Stranger, February 20, 2017.
- Gibbons, Katie. Trans community rallies to defence of threatened professor Kathleen Stock, The Times, October 12, 2021.
- The Guardian Staff. Man who said 'You ain't no Muslim, bruv' after Leytonstone attack denounces extremism. The Guardian, December 13, 2015.
- DiAngelo, Robin. Why It’s So Hard to Talk to White People About Racism. The Huffington Post, April 30, 2015.
- Murphy, Timothy. Ally Is Action, Not an Identity. The Huffington Post, December 11, 2015.
- Zuckerberg, Donna. "Arms and the Manosphere". Not All Dead White Men: Classics and Misogyny in the Digital Age. Harvard University Press, 2018.
- Fabello, Melissa A. and Khan, Aaminah. Beware These 10 Types of Feminist Men. The Body is Not an Apology, December 16, 2018.
- Olsson, Joan. Detour spotting for white anti-racists. 1997.
- Zane, Zachary. Should Straight People Attend LGBTQ Pride?. Rolling Stone, June 1, 2019.