I’ve really been giving this some thought lately. Well… as much as my paltry capacity to be able to deeply consider complex issues allows… and then post rumination (which to the casual observer smells a lot like something burning) occasionally manage to string two vaguely coherent sentences together, one of which will almost certainly express the heartfelt need to eat a sandwich.
I’ve really struggled with this. I think this is likely because of two reasons. One, I’ve never been discriminated against. And if I have been, I didn’t notice, either because I’m incredibly dimwitted (very possible) or that I am protected from such barbarity by an inflated sense of self that deflects these sorts of barbs away from my squishy core.
I think any overt act of discrimination towards me would likely evoke a sense of incredulity that my brain would immediately dismiss as some sort of aberration. I wouldn’t even know how to be offended. There is a bulwark in being an affluent white male that is difficult to emulate inorganically and difficult to circumnavigate without a trebuchet.
So there’s that. Problematic on the whole empathy front. I have to pretend to know what discrimination feels like… and I think we can agree that reality versus make believe are often quite far apart.
Two. My stoicism. When confronted by something to which I should (under normal social conventions) take umbrage with, I simply, eh… don’t. I mean I have to choose to be offended by someones actions… so unless they are punching me in the face (in which case a different set of problem solving skills come into play)… but people mocking me… would and should generally illicit some sort of ‘meh’ response. These things can’t really hurt you. Can they?
I started off by thinking about things that I thought were innocuous but for some or other reason I moderated my behavior not to do that something because of another persons feelings. I didn’t have to think very hard about this. I often moderate my behavior for my wife’s benefit. I resist the urge to scratch my testicles in her presence, I curb the desire to burp the alphabet, pee in the garden, pick my nose (and examine it) or pass wind in thunderous fashion and then hold her head under the blanket. I mean none of these things are inherently damaging, but I consider her… ummm… proclivities on the subject matter and moderate my behavior accordingly. I don’t tell her to get over it. Or to ‘toughen up’. Or negotiate. Or ease her into some sort of acceptance of the situation. I just don’t do it. That seems fairly considerate of me. But then again I kinda like my wife (plus that whole reciprocity dynamic we’ve got going on) As people decay out of my immediate social orbit I’m inclined to care less and less about their feelings.
But then what about basic civility and potentially just good manners. Menschkeit as it were. I believe this is important. Of course now I run into degrees of scale where I have to remember who is offended by what and to what degree. Make fun of Mormons, totally fine. Make fun of Islam, bad. That one is pretty easy to remember. I mean either everyone (and everything) should be on the cards or no one right? Believing some humans ideals to be more sacrosanct than others doesn’t feel very egalitarian. Of course then again, its easy for me to espouse this kind of moralist equal playing field bullshit because… well… point one.
Let me think about this another way. Is it acceptable to don an SS uniform and a Nazi armband for a Halloween party? Weirdly that’s one is easy for me. I mean I suppose you could (you can do anything you want), but really, there are some very unwholesome connotations associated with that particular outfit.
Isn’t Blackface in the same ballpark? When I think about it that way, it starts to make more sense to me. Besides you can emulate someone of differing pigment without having to resort to tincture and shoe polish and thereby associate yourself with a practice that was on the whole meant to degrade a segment of humanity at some point in the past.
Case in point.
Brody Shafer dressing up as Neil deGrasse Tyson. Kudos to him for a great choice.
Of course at this point when I’m almost there I throw a libertarian spanner into the works. If a pale skinned compatriot of mine were to don blackface because either he doesn’t know its offensive to some… or indeed has decided that everyone should just get over themselves, whose side would I pick..
Fuck. I’d probably inch towards the pale skinned compatriot. Not because I agree or endorse his decision… in fact I would likely find him quite loathsome (and likely tell him that), but perceived harm through his actions is so difficult to quantify… as opposed to actual physical harm…. so the decision comes down to defend this persons freedom to be an asshole or stand with the aggrieved.
Unfortunately I have to stand on the side of the asshole. Which sucks. I don’t think you can pick and choose your freedoms. I really do believe that.