Wednesday, May 25, 2011

On naivety, overcompensation, anger and hope

I lived in Maine for the first 40 years of my life. Maine is 96.1% white according to the 2010 census and was probably whiter while I was growing up. My parents were both prejudiced, but I don't remember either of them teaching me to think in like fashion.  Neither do I remember them teaching me to be homophobic, but there had to be a reason I didn't know I was lesbian until I fell in love at age 21 with another woman. If you didn't follow that logic, I'll explain. It was because back then GAY WAS BAD, so I didn't even consider the fact that I might be gay myself.


In my teen years, I assumed that civil rights issues would no longer be a problem when I grew up. I thought bigotry and prejudice were so obviously wrong they would just die away as my generation started voting, becoming part of the workforce, running things and joining the police, firefighters, civil service and military.


After that came a period of overcompensation as I realized it was mostly stupid white men who ran things in this country, and they weren't about to share the reins. I bent over backwards to give a leg up to other races because I realized 1. THE MAN wouldn't and 2. being white myself, I still had an advantage.

Guilt tripping.

Sometime in the last decade, I started to understand how stupid white people can consider themselves unprejudiced and yet continue to hire and promote people who look just like them excepting the occasional overachieving token other-race person. Given two people with like abilities, experience and any other meaningful harbinger of future job performance, stupid white men usually choose the white guy since they have more in common. Maybe they connected with sports talk or a wife joke or some other not-pertinent-to-the-job shared experience. What is worrisome is that I might do the same. Given two people with the same qualifications, I believe I might take the one who agreed with my political, religious and/or world views over one who didn't. It would make for a more pleasant workplace. Is that wrong? At least I'm aware of it and, I hope, not likely to make it a prerequisite.


So many of the top positions that involve hiring and promoting are already held by straight white men. They will continue to hire and promote each other more than nonwhites, the GLBT or women which ensures that straight white men will still have most of the future jobs that hire and promote.


Ask those straight white men about privilege or entitlement and they'll be insulted. They think they got where they are solely because of being the terrifically hard-working, talented people they are, and any inference that they were born into a life with better chances dings their self-esteem. That doesn't mean they don't deserve what they have but it does mean they MIGHT not. Tell them they are where they are partly by birthright and not merely aptitude and watch the blood pressure rise. You'll start hearing stereotypical stories about laziness, drug use, bitchiness and all the other racist, sexist, homophobic crap that makes them feel superior.


Do I hate straight white men? No. I just don't agree with them that they are all that and then some. And I enjoy knowing the melting pot won't be mostly white in the future. I actually feel better that the generation of straight white men who have been running and ruining this country are getting old enough to be dying off, and their replacements are not ethnocentric.


UPDATE: (Thanks to a tweet from @dailyrace) More on the same from someone much smarter than I.

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