Getting In, and Challenging to Change the Game
One of the easiest and most consistent things I have done, that unfortunately most of us do, is root for the team, play arm chair quarterback, casually observe, or accept the role of a bystander. We don’t think that is what we do, but it is. Somehow we convince ourselves that we are too busy to take a stand, or not significant enough in what we may bring to the game to make a difference when we very well could be the difference.
Many of us aren’t sophisticated enough to actually always know how we offend others, but when someone points out the various ways that we do, if we have been comfortable doing it for any length of time, we listen to their critique, but don’t “really listen” to the point where we own what they are saying as applicable to us, and seriously undertake the effort to change. When someone told me that using the term gypped was referring to some of the transactional manners of Gypsies, I immediately stopped using the term. However, when I correct young men about their use of the term girl in the context of a story they tell about grown women, they tell me I am getting too politically correct. I agree, while too much political correctness threatens to make everyone fake, there are some things we need to overcompensate towards to find the real. When we casually continue to frame our women as girls, what are the psychological or sub textual overtones or implications from this act? Might we subconsciously be situating our women as lesser beings, in some ways making it easier not to see them as equals? Is this a gendered concern? When men tell stories about grown men, do they refer to those men as boys? Unless it is in the context of “my boys” the answer is no! Conversely, when women tell stories about grown men, do they refer to them as boys? Well, before you answer that, let’s just recognize that both men and women succumb to this dysfunctional behavior at times, so no one should have their chest or breast out too far. The larger point is, upon recognizing it, how many of us are ready to get in the game, and challenge for change?
I remember what someone once said to a date of mine at a dinner party in Los Angeles. We were the only two black people at the party, and my date was in a casual conversation with a woman when the woman casually tells my date that at times her husband treats her like a “nigger.” Now my motivation to change the game isn’t altruistic, as if any action is or could be. But my motivation to change the game could be rational as opposed to appetitive, though they both would be personal. If I attempt to change the game I am not only doing something that benefits me, spreading the seeds of social justice about so that others can reap what I sow, as well as myself since I would ultimately be living in a better world without all the hateful drama that overburdens us. But also perhaps I could be modeling actions that others might want to emulate. When I am around a guy or guys, and one of the guys starts in on some tirade wherein casually telling a story or making a point, he continues to casually berate women, though he doesn’t necessarily mean to do it, I can enter the game by asking him why were the women in his story being constantly referred to as “bitches” or “girls?” When I have done this, some of the people in the mix get irritated because I derailed the story teller. Others think, “Oh, here he goes.” But I believe more and more people enjoy the fact that someone is challenging the story teller to be even more creative and less stereotypical in telling her/his story.
Everyone doesn’t necessarily know that referring to women as girls, wearing attire that might make others uncomfortable or criticizing other’s attire because it isn’t what we would wear, flaunting our size, economic status, or educational accomplishments, all contribute to a dysfunction that tears away at any sense of team or team building. When most of us are introduced to the thought that these things are painful to others, many of us try to change. But how many of us are prepared to not only change ourselves, but strap on the equipment and get in the game. If the game is life, and we can’t help but play it, shouldn’t we be playing a game that we can win? Hate, and anything that contributes to it, is a loser’s game. That is why the game plan for it is always developed in the shadows or whispered, but seldom shouted. If people who hate, or perhaps hate is too strong a word, how about dislike, or don’t care for others, have a difficult time describing why they feel that way, perhaps the reason is something that should really be considered. If everyone who hates actually took the time to critically engage why they feel so negative about this or that, perhaps they would discover how ridiculous it is too carry around all that negative energy. Half the people we hate aren’t thinking twice about us, so we spend all this energy thinking about them, and they are living life to the fullest, oblivious of their haters.
Are you a player in this game called life, or a benchwarmer, who when given the opportunity to play, or make a play, you don’t take advantage of it. I guess some people are just happy to be on the bench, close to the game.
Did I just describe you or someone you know? How so? How could you or them change? What’s preventing you or them from changing? How would your life be if everyone who has given up some aspect of their privilege to make you more comfortable had not done that? What type of world would we live in if everyone had your attitude about giving up a bit of their privilege to make others more comfortable?