I watched our world for the last couple of weeks and have tried to think about where logic and reason reside. The issues of society are present on every front. Masks, protests, riots, politics, violence. What do I offer my children as cliff notes and guidance for the heavy issues of the day? How do we explain how people commit such callous evil towards one another? How do we talk about equality and equal protection under the law?
I started with the privileges and biases. Privileges exist on several fronts but there are four that we deal with most often.
- Men are assumed to be stronger, smarter, or more capable than women. Ask any women wandering a car lot or perusing a power tool section in Lowes if they see any difference in the way men are approached by a sales associate. I’ve watched it. It is real. I prep my girls to confront this head-on and challenge the notion that they can’t do anything because they are “just a girl”. The default advantage is often given to men so this is male privilege. This is why we have women’s right discussions. I’m not a woman but I support equal rights.
- We also talk about sexual preference and gender identity. We discuss how these are personal things that only require your opinion if they involve you. If someone tells you their name is Eric then that is their name. We don’t get to tell people how to feel/love and sharing our opinion when we weren’t asked isn’t helpful either. The only people who are never really hassled or forced to talk through their choice in partner are people in a heterosexual relationship. I would imagine this equates to straight privilege. This is why we have pride month. I’m not gay but I support equal rights.
- In countless studies and cases about bias and racism the results have shown time and time again that a societal/systemic bias against people of color exists. This is one of the most dangerous topics to discuss within the white community because it causes defensive reactions and mental fatigue. Most people start quoting stats about crime or murder or how many friends they have who meet the criteria to prove that they are most definitely not racist. But that is missing the point. We grew up in a system with a prepackaged point of view. Racism as an institution. I heard a discussion the other day about which is better, a dog or a cat? The author suggested it must be dogs because the highest compliment for a cat is “it acts like a dog”. That is funny for animals but I have heard analogs of this idea for people and that is horrifying. Chris Rock comes to mind and his bit about how white people talked about General Colin Powell; he speaks so well. There is an unsubtle subtext to that idea; that an educated and well-traveled man and who is also a seasoned veteran and a fucking world leader was most accomplished for his integration to the English language. He’s such a good cat that he’s basically a dog. That is racism. It’s not the hate but the assumptions of a limited capacity or lower bar that is most sinister. The idea that skin tells you anything useful about someone. The most dangerous iteration of racism is the idea that a black man, all other things being equal, is more dangerous than any other man that you will encounter. This translates to more aggressive and violent treatment of black men by authority figures. I don’t generally worry about life threatening assumptions being made by an officer in a traffic stop on the basis of my white skin. That is white privilege. It doesn’t mean my life is easy, it just means the world’s default opinion of me doesn’t make it harder. This is why Black Lives Matter exists. I’m not black but I support equal rights.
- There is a fourth privilege that exists and that is the privilege of authority. Authority is given latitude and freedom that regular citizens do not enjoy. Authority it the essence of privilege. That is just true. Policemen and policewomen can disregard traffic laws and perform other functions necessary to their jobs that would be a blatant violation of law for anyone else. This is a necessary part of law enforcement. The problem comes in when authorities start to feel like this exemption applies all the time and to everything they do. Boundaries get pushed and co-workers let little things slide to avoid discomfort at work. Before long, there are gross violations that don’t seem out of the ordinary for the people in authority. Entire teams and departments run the risk of becoming complicit in an evil that few men would perpetrate on their own. It’s mob mentality when the mob is given an exemption or a blind eye. A relevant quote on authority, “Be careful at the laws you make because there are none so minor that authority won’t kill you to enforce it.” I think that is power privilege. I’m not oppressed by authority but I support equal rights.
We don’t have to be part of a group to support equal rights. We don’t even have to understand a different point of view. We can start with the basic knowledge that all humans should share the same basic rights. That is that what our America should stand for, equal opportunity in an equitable system.
It’s my favorite part of the pledge; Liberty and Justice for All.
If you are already exhausted by 2020 this post is for you. It’s only halfway over so buckle up. Be kind to each other. Remember that two things can be true at once and not every choice or opinion should be about supporting your chosen team. Think for yourself and when in doubt, choose with love not hate. You’re welcome.
-Underdaddy to the rescue.
ps. Happy Pride Month!