What are…Calling Out and Calling In?

Some terms are criticized as social justice jargon. However, many of these terms are important to know about and understand. Two such terms are “calling out” and “calling in”—words that are often used right next to each other in many social justice circles.

But what is calling out, and what is calling in?

Calling out is when someone publicly points out that someone else is acting unjustly, while calling in is when someone privately points out to the unjust actor that they are acting unjustly. Both calling out and calling in involve pointing out someone else’s wrongful actions, but calling out has a different approach to handling someone else’s actions than calling in. Calling out and calling in have both their benefits and their limitations.

I’ve come to notice that “calling out” has a bad reputation, even in some social justice circles. The issue, as far as I can tell, is simply by virtue of the fact that calling out someone is humiliating for the person being called out. And it is true that being called out is humiliating—I know that because I have been called out on one or two occasions before and have felt rather embarrassed about my own injustice being laid bare for an audience to see. However, what people forget about the importance of what calling out is supposed to do is that the act is meant to do more than educate the person being called out about that person’s injustice—it is also supposed to educate everyone in the room about the injustice of the person, so that nobody else can repeat the same issue. While it may feel humiliating to be called out, believe me when I say that it can be for a greater purpose for all who listen—namely, making sure that the injustice you are believed to have committed is not repeated by other people.

While a lot of people prefer being called in to being called out (since being called in doesn’t involve the public humiliation of being called out), being called in has both benefits and limitations. In my experiences (I have been called in, as well, on a few occasions), being called in when you’re in a private setting can really give way for an opportunity to discuss at length about why you’re being unjust and how you can do better in ways you wouldn’t be able to discuss in the public “calling out” setting. The limitation, however, is that you’re only educating one person about an injustice when you’re calling in someone, while you’re educating dozens or hundreds of people about an injustice (or, if you have the national profile of someone like Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, possibly millions[1]) when you’re calling out someone.

Regardless of the benefits and limitations of calling out and calling in, it is important to understand these two terms as approaches to tackling injustice within one or more people. After all, if the goal is to make the world a little more just, having a good understanding of both calling out and calling in, as well as recognizing the value of both approaches,[2] is important.


[1] Congressman Ted Yoho reportedly accosted Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez. AOC responded with this speech on the House floor. The speech, which is on C-Span’s YouTube channel, has nearly 3 million views as of the date of my writing this post: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LI4ueUtkRQ0

[2] Some debate whether calling out or calling in is better. For the purposes of this post, I will not weigh in on that debate. However, I think it’s good to be aware of how both can be beneficial.

6 Replies to “What are…Calling Out and Calling In?”

  1. I hadn’t seen that video of AOC before. Wow. For calling in to do anything, there has to be some chance that the person will give a crap about the injustice. If not, then it would just be a waste of breath.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You are correct they are both beneficial. Calling in is good if the other person is willing to enter into a discussion and possibly see the error of their ways, but if not then it is a waste of time. Calling someone out does involve others and public shame is a learning experience, but you can come off as being nasty and get people to side against you because you are shaming someone. You need to read the room, so to speak.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. This is definitely a good breakdown of some of the other benefits and drawbacks to calling out. Calling in doesn’t do any good if the person being called in isn’t willing to learn–that’s the consensus I’m noticing with readers.

      Liked by 2 people

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