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Wiley Wandering

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Wondering While Wandering: Tripping in LA? – Part Two:

Okay, so it was the wife. Upon seeing this vivacious young woman with me the wife looked as if she was holding her breath and couldn’t find her way to exhaling until I introduced Tamarah as my goddaughter. Not once did she say anything rude, and she wouldn’t, because she doesn’t roll like that. However, that is all the more reason why this story is somewhat profound in its simplicity as well as simplistic in its profundity. There is no secret formula that transforms good people into jingoists, sexists, racists, homophobes, etc. If there is a prototype of the type of person who will say and or do socially unjust things it is the person who has not had much experience being immersed in conversations that engage otherness. That description fits most of us. In an ever changing world where we will face so many different people those of us that want to represent our selves best to everyone we meet pursue opportunities to engage caring people outside of our comfort zones as an excellent opportunity for growth. I could understand the concern that someone might have about the corruption of our youth. I teach Philosophy and have started every ethics class I have ever taught with a discussion about Socrates being condemned to die for allegedly “corrupting the youth.” It is a serious offense and still is a significant concern in our society, as it should be. But is it so serious that we predetermine behavior before tangible evidence has been made available?

I haven’t even gotten to what was the true motivation for this blog posting. So, Angel and I are sitting in our seats, “straight up chillin.” We are talking about life, family, school, career/life aspirations, and yes, how unbelievably “off the charts” my seats are. Now, not to boast, but to give you some insight into how Angel and I mentor one another (without giving you too much detail about the intricacies of me and my little brother), I shared with Angel how I just took the time to build a relationship with the tournament director over the years of having a phone conversation regarding improved seats. I had consistently called trying to improve my seating. A respect grew out of those conversations and subsequently when they opened up a new row of seating around the stadium in an effort to be more accommodating with wheel chair accessibility, they inserted/created Row AA, and I was offered the opportunity to have two of what are essentially floor seats. So, I also share with Angel, after his response to the fact that we are sitting on the floor of the stadium and can practically and literally lean forward and touch the athletes on their back if we choose to do so, that the seats really came out of two people (the tournament director and I) finding a nice rhythm in our conversations, because we both wanted to achieve it. To this day I have never met the tournament director.

Anyway, Angel and I are rapping and all of a sudden a man and his three little children approach us and the man says “Excuse me, you are in our seats!” I look at the man and somewhat pensively respond by saying simply “No, you are mistaken!” I then turn back around prepared to further my conversation with Angel, when I am interrupted again by the man with a reassertion that he is right. Appearing irritated that he has to reassert himself he says “Are you sure those are your seats?” I turn once again and say to him “Believe me, more sure than you are! You may want to discuss this with an usher.” He then turns to greet an usher who spies the situation and decides to get involved. When he realizes that he is in the wrong section, he says “Oh!” and then moves on to the correct seats without any apparent after thought or acknowledgment of his assumption of correctness.

What is your take, your analysis on why I was approached in this fashion? Was there anything wrong with his approach, or my response? Does the incident take on more significance, or a different significance, when I tell you that the man was White and that Angel and I both appear Black (Angel, who actually is a dark skinned Latino from the Dominican Republic with a fairly large Afro perhaps even more than me). It might also assist you to know that I have had this happen almost every year to me, and had it reported to me by various friends I have shared the tickets with from time to time. It might also help you to know that there aren’t a great many underrepresented people who appear to own box seats to this tennis tournament and I haven’t seen anyone else sitting on the floor. While my guests and I are already prepared for a certain amount of scrutiny, with people wondering who we are to have such sought after seats, it is further exacerbated by the casual conversation with other box seat holders who aren’t good at cloaking their curiosity in knowing what I do for a living (that allows me to afford these tickets).

So tell me, if you wonder about these wanderings, what are your thoughts? Was I tripping or was anyone tripping during my trip in L.A.?


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First off I got to say “Damn those seats sound nice.” As for the incident it is pretty hard to judge how a person spoke just from reading their quotes as I have learnt from reading and then actually hearing what a person said. You can’t tell what words are stressed etc. However, I am pretty sure you would not have found it necessary to ask for opinions if the person did not come across somewhat aggressively in tone.
Personally I have found that people tend to come across quite aggressively when they believe persons are in their seats (quite often to their own embarrassment since they read their own ticket wrongly). I have seen this on flights home quite often, and Caribbean people do not waste time in turning to cursing! This makes me wonder how someone can come across so self righteously, ready to argue without making sure your argument is airtight (that the ticket actually shows you have the seat the person is in). It could possibly be that this white guy said to himself that there is no way these young or looking fairly young (yeah JW you could take it as a compliment) African American men could have afforded such great seats. It may not even be something he seriously thought about but may have been in his subconscious due to this being ingrained in his head through his socialization.
Shoot just today I was in the gas station and a young African Trinidadian males approached me because he recognized me from when I played football (soccer) in high school and wanted to know if I was still playing. I had never seen this guy before but we were just chatting about what I had been up to when his friends approached and immediately starting telling me that I should give them a job. While it is admirable these young guys are attempting to find gainful employment it is somewhat annoying that often people here believe that because I am a young white male that I have a father that can automatically give me and anyone I want a job. However it is hard for me to blame them for the stereotype as I can just look amongst many of my white friends and see that this is the truth for them!
It is sad that people are often so quick to let stereotypes that have been ingrained to their consciousness. Yet it will continue to rear its ugly head often in stress situations.
What also makes me believe how incredulous this person was that two “young looking” African American males could possibly have those seats was that you don’t mention any apology from the person for disturbing your tennis viewing experience! This shows that he does not see anything embarrassing about how he conducted the conversation with you and that he has a right to talk to people in that way.

Stereotyping and prejudices are all too common in this country. Education, that which you are so eloquently taking part in, seems to be the best (and maybe only) way to combat such ingrained behavior. For some people, the education may be too late -- or at least might require an education "hitting home" a little more. If that man had a daughter and maybe that daughter fell in love with and married a black man he would have acted differently.

In my opinion his initial ignorance to your feelings is not the sole issue. His handling of the matter once he was proven wrong is what should be highlighted. He failed to act in a compassionate and caring manner. He failed to act in a humane manner. He failed to engage his human brother in a meaningful acknowledgment of his misunderstanding.

We may never know what baggage that man was coming into the situation with. Maybe the day before someone had taken his seats at another venue and he had to fight to retrieve them. Maybe while driving down Sunset he was cut off by some people (either of color or not) and was already upset when he walked into the tennis tournament.

The only thing we know for sure is that he will never know how you feel when you are in situations where race is a perceived issue. The best he can do is try to understand your perspective. However, the least he could have done is a sincere apology.

*** Welcome to the discussion Mark. Your point about how "familiarity" can make a huge difference in our level of engagement with the Other, whomever the other might be is so true. Many of the walls of discrimination came down after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in major league baseball. The whole concept of integration was that familiarity wouldn't breed contempt, but concern for one another.

The man who questioned my seats wasn't wrong in questioning my seats, but inconsiderate in his approach. He started off assuming that we were in the wrong seats with no consideration about the fact that he could be wrong. I still ask the question where might this have come from? What is it that might have made this man approach me with so much certainty about his seats?

Your thought about some of the mitigating factors that may have influenced his behavior is the type of consideration we should try to take with one another. However, you are right! The scars I have from being approached with similar questions have made me somewhat insensitive to this type of questioning/assuming. Hence I probably am not my usual accommodating self because it isn't easy generating a happy face for someone's possible insulting assumption. And if his was absolutely innocent, or a deeply subconscious action, it still makes a large statement about the human condition, in regards to racial relations in this country. *** -- J.W.

I am having a difficult time contributing to this discussion because without actually witnessing the scenario, it is hard to imagine the exchange that took place between the individuals involved. The tone of a conversation, along with one’s body movements, can implicate a totally different view of a situation compared to how another would perceive it based on hearsay. I’ve been involved in discrepancies at concerts in the past where inconsistency has never led to any more than a friendly apology or a pleasant exchange of verbals. The first time this happened, my friends and I were actually the culprits who were sitting in the wrong seats. After comparing ticket stubs with the party who questioned us, we realized we were indeed the ones at fault. After admitting our guilt and apologizing, we headed off to our correct assigned seats. A few weeks ago, however, the reverse scenario took place at a concert I attended with my family. We arrived at the venue early only to find a group of individuals sitting in our reserved seats. Being the oldest in our party, I was delegated to the task of questioning the foursome that was occupying our territory. I articulated in a very professional manner that they may be in the wrong section of seating. Upon closer scrutiny of their tickets, they realized they had made an error. During the entire exchange, which only lasted a few minutes, I never detected any sign of arrogance. They were sincere in their apology and we actually joked about how their new seating assignment was an upgrade. They were now closer to the stage and would have a better view of the performance.

The single, one expression that caught my attention in J.W.’s viewpoint was the word “respect.” Everyone has a right to be respected. But, in return, it is that individual’s responsibility to treat others with respect. I am hoping that the reason for the conceited behavior of the individual who acted the way he did towards J.W. and his guest was due to the fact that he was never taught how to respect others and that it was not due to racism. Unfortunately his performance only resulted in a negative teaching experience in front of his children.

As I conclude this discussion, I would like those of you reading this to think about the following quote from Marion Asnes:

“You don’t get respect because you want it; you get respect because you earn it.”

We all wish to be treated with respect, but in order to receive respect, you must first give it. Keep that in mind next time you are at an event in which someone is occupying your seat or you are accused of sitting in someone else’s reserved area.

*** LMM, You are so right, sometimes it benefits us to actually have been on the scene. There is no doubt that my biases (influenced by my experiencing moments like this more than thrice) could be influencing my storytelling. It would have been nice if my story ended like your''s did. Fortunately/unfortunately, if that had happened, this blog wouldn't have been written. Then what would we be talking about? *** -- J.W.

To carry the theme of respect.... I overheard a conversation today while putting my groceries in the car at a local grocery store. The participants were a young mother and 3 elementary aged boys. They were discussing an issue that the boys experienced while at the day camp they attend. Two of the boys were being chastised for their nationality. Some of their fellow campers taunted them by calling out "China-boy" repeatedly while "dancing" in keeping with the choreography from The Nutcracker.

While it might've presented as cute to some on-lookers, these boys were clearly upset by the persecution. It boggles the mind to know that we live in a society where tolerance and acceptance are catch-phrases and the true meaning of the words is being ignored. What is being taught in our schools is not being reinforced at home (or society at large). The camp counselors were informed immediately, as the story is being told. Yet there were no consequences imposed. None of the offending campers was even spoken to about the matter.

To this mother's credit, she stated to the boys, "You have presented me with a problem, let's see if we can each come up with a solution." Each boy considered his intellectual response carefully before responding. Of the three boys, not one suggested beating anyone up or fighting or name-calling in return. I was so proud of each of them. Although i don't know what the plan will be, the gladness in my heart knowing how thoughtful these kids were in light of what they had just been through almost made up the sadness i feel at the thought of this terrible circumstance.

If we do treat others with respect (tolerance and acceptance), but we are treated disrespectfully - as these boys were - what then?

*** Valeri, I join you in celebrating the way the boys handled their situation. Violence is often the first response when we are disrespected. I also concur with your concern, but with my students and in my educational travels I have discovered that toleration and acceptance are not just problematic as "catch phrases" but possibly also as "strategies." In the process of "tolerating" one another and only "accepting" one another perhaps we contribute to a settling-for-less in terms of how we engage one another's differences, instead of celebrating and appreciating one another's differences.

Your question is a complex one! We live in a world of hypocrisy because of how inconsiderate we can be at times. The solution to the problem may be that we need to find ways to educate one another so that we can minimize or mitigate such occurrences. Unfortunately the situations will continue to happen though because as humans hypocritical actions are par for the course unless we are really focused/enlightened about our propensity to be self centered or in denial about certain unearned privileges that we have inherited. *** -- J.W.

I've experienced just what you're talking about JW - both sides of the coin actually. Most of the time, everyone involved is polite enough to at least go through the motions of re-checking their ticket stubs so that all parties may confirm to the mutual satisfaction of each just who needs to move-it-on-over somewhere else. Placing myself in your shoes, I probably would have pulled out my ticket stubs to politely show the mistaken person that I and my crew were, in fact, in the right place. I don't get the sense that you did that, but rather, it seems you didn't even entertain the posibility that you might have been wrong. Now, I understand your reasoning for telling the back story behind how you got those seats- you could probably find them blindfolded and are as sure of their location as you are of your own front door, but, your abrupt and dismissive response to the man (again, hard to get a sense of tone when reading between the quotation marks) really gave him no chance to save face or graciously extract himself from an embarrassing situation. Why were you so abrupt? Did you automatically assume the man was questioning you and Angel because you're both dark-skinned?

Putting myself in the other man's shoes...if i wasn't sure of the location of my seats, and, if I saw someone sitting where I thought I was supposed to be, I probably would have asked the usher for assitance first, before accusing someone else of being mistaken.

Along the theme of respect...I studied marshal arts for a time when I was in college and the instructor talked of two kinds of respect; primary respect and secondary respect. Primary respect can be summarized as the general politeness with which you might treat a stranger. The concept is that everyone deserves a certain level of humane and gracious treatment until they prove that they DON'T deserve it. Secondary respect is different. This is the respect with which you might treat your parents, your friends, or anyone who has consistently done right by you. Secondary Respect might also be viewed as the way you treat someone who has earned a certain generally-recognized stature - a teacher or professor, a marshal arts instructor. This is the kind of respect that must be earned, either on an individual basis, from society or both.

Frankly, I"m not sure either you or the man you describe treated each other with any kind of respect - at least from the way I read your description.

*** CB, what I love about you is your level of comfort asking the really tough questions. You, Whaler, AMW, Steve, E, ABV, Via Via and LMM are as much this blog's persistent gadflies (in the Socratic sense) as anyone. You ask a very engaging question that I am going to try to answer as thoroughly as you took the time to pose it. First, why should I have to continually bend over backward to give an extra serving of respect to every person who disrespects both them self and me by approaching me and assuming that I am in the wrong seat? I am already giving them quite a bit of respect by not going off on them, raising my voice in response to them, or straight out ignoring their very presumptuous posturing and questioning. Just as I can only imagine the scars that women must carry around with them from their daily disrespect at the hands of men--many whom don't disrespect intentionally but just can't help themselves--I am scarred by this continual exhibition of classism, racism, or privilege (choose any one or a combination) that I am subjected to. Hence my approach of not extending too much conversation (which you call abrupt) to conserve my energy in what is actually a very insulting and awkward situation for me (especially in front of various guests of mine) is a protective measure that you might only be capable of appreciating if you were constantly subjected to it. It isn't too dissimilar to the opening scene in the film Me, Myself, and Irene, when Jim Carrey replies to the short, Black limousine driver that he "didn't say anything remotely racist" when he asked the driver "if you people take checks?" I ask my students at the beginning of my African American culture class if they think that the limousine driver is excessively paranoid in his reaction to Carrey's question. Almost all of these predominantly White students say they think he is excessively paranoid. However, at the end of the semester when I ask the same question of the limousine driver's behavior, most of them now have a different perspective. The reason is because they have more insight into the intricacies of the African American experience which might contribute to a level of paranoia that Blacks have which many Whites may not be able to relate to.

Your assumption that I might have been "abrupt and dismissive" is disappointing. You place far too much onus on the victim making the victimizer feel better. Ask yourself why that would be? Seriously! Also, please inform me of how exactly my simply not responding in detail to an inane, inconsiderate question frames me as disrespectful? Your articulation of me having the onus to make him feel respected beyond the respect I gave him after he asked me an inconsiderate question is bewildering to me. Let me be more clear. If he is actually subconsciously stating to me that because I am black he can't imagine me in those seats--enough to assume that he can't be wrong--you somehow suggest that I need to further nurture him. You must not realize how often and old it gets for oppressed individuals to carry the expectation of extending a level of respect to those who disrespect. While it is a nice ideal it isn't very realistic. Oh, and if it isn't racist, then why have I never noticed it happening to any of my box seat neighbors in the many years I have had my tickets? Never? *** -- J.W.

Card Buddy with all due respect, you have exposed your naiveté. I believe I’m correct when I write, since I read this Blog routinely, that you have previously identified your self as a White Male. Your statement “ I have experienced just what you are talking about, JW” is steeped in “White Privilege” and couldn’t be further from the truth. The truth is, you and I, both being white, could never understand the reality of a Black person’s. Maybe we could empathize and show our compassion but, quite frankly, our experiences relative to the color of our skin can never be compared. That you should make such a claim gets to crux of “White Privilege”. We’re so deeply embedded and immune to our privilege, and I speak in the plural because I speak for most white people, that we just presume “ We Can”. It’s not ok. Do you see where the problem lies?
I apologize for targeting your submission but it’s given me the opportunity to discuss a very critical and sensitive issue. The color of our skin affords us many advantages the most serious and insidious: being able to disadvantage. JW speaks to this briefly in his response to your posting when he shares that he has been scarred by the continuous displays of racism, classism and/or privilege that he has been exposed to: not unlike his and Angel’s encounter at the tennis match. What’s most troubling, Card Buddy, is how well we’ve been socialized. I don’t believe we’ll truly attain a just society until we all begin to understand the subtleties of privilege: not just the privilege of being white but also the privilege of gender and class and then work to eliminate them.

This situation is funny to me because I don’t know what had occurred in this man’s life prior to his interaction with you J.W. This man may have been spat on numerous times in his life by people more powerful than himself in society and when he found an opportunity to assert power over someone he may have felt was inferior to him, he jumped with giddiness (on the inside anyway). What if he worked his butt off to get to a certain point in his career that awarded him the treat to floor seats, and suddenly he is reminded that his reward is being equal in worth to a Black man (someone he may consider lower than him in society)? Maybe this man wanted to make some sort of statement that J.W., although he may be in the best seats, is still a nigger and should be reminded of that.

This is hurtful in the eyes of a Black woman because seeing Black men disrespected does many things. I’ll share only a couple with you. 1) How can I expect to be treated with respect when Black men are not even given that right? Traditionally, men are to be the protectors of the home. So if a Black man is being mistreated (either in words or deeds) how safe can I really feel? 2) The Black male that is disrespected may turn around and disrespect the Black female because he may feel that he has power as a male to oppress someone. It is his turn now and he is doing the same action that was done to him on someone who he has been taught to see as weaker than him. Isn’t learning wonderful.

JW - are you suggesting that simply by NOT escalating a disagreement to the level of verbal or physical violence, you are giving respect? Was it this particular person who asked you if you were in the right seat every single time it happened? Are you expecting this particular man to "pay" or be responsible for the actions of those who came before him?

For the record - while in college I attended a speech given my Minister Louis Farrakhan on campus. As you can imagine, the hall was sold out - packed - probably 400 people. I was one of maybe 50 or 60 White students there. All of the white students were seated in the balcony, in the last couple of rows....not because that's where we just congregated, but, because that's where we were told to sit. I heard remarks like "are you sure you're in the right place?" or "why are you here?" maybe a dozen times while standing in line and filing in to the hall. Now, I don't pretend that this experience equals a lifetime of such treatment - but I do have an idea of how it feels.

I think I tend to view interactions such as the one JW describes in the micro rather than the macro....that is, issolated, stand-alone, not connected with any other interaction I've had before. I don't think that's naiveté as much as it is a personallity trait. And, perhaps because I have not routinely be subjected to the kind of treatment I describe above (I don't have the scars that JW describes) I'm more likely to view such interactions as honest (if in-artfully addressed) disagreements.

I have a few more questions, JW. When two people of different races interact, must there always be racial overtones to that interaction? If the conversation evolves into some kind of dispute, must there always be a victim and a perpetrator? Or can it just be two people with an honest disagreement? When I interact with any other person (who is not of my race/gender), is it my responsibility to assume that anything I might say can/will be taken as racist or sexist and to consider my remarks/demeanor appropriately? If a person takes something I say as racist, have I necessarily uttered a racist remark? If a person feels offended, have I necessarily offended that person?

Finally, if the socialization that abv describes plays such a huge role in the way we see each other, how can any white person possibly overcome that socialization? Abv seems to be asserting that whites cannot even understand the problem, much less contribute to the solution.

*** CB, good questions and fair questions. My answer is yes, I was giving him respect by not escalating the situation. I could have been matter-of-fact about it and challenged him to revisit his ticket, but I didn't. I could have asked him to give me the benefit of the doubt that I was in my correct seat and that perhaps he was wrong. And yes, I could have blown my cool and "disrespected him" by being loud and ignorant about him asking me such a question with a pompous certainty in his voice, exacerbated by him reasserting that I was in his seat after I told him he was mistaken. HOWEVER, I didn't do that. I "respectfully" informed him that he was wrong and returned to my conversation. No, two wrongs don't make a right and because he (arguably) disrespected me by interrupting my conversation to tell me I was in the wrong seat, it didn't give me the right to disrespect him. So, I didn't. But somehow you seem to want to insist that I did, justifying it because of something that happened to you at a Farrakhan talk. Come on CB! Are you suggesting it was my duty to put Chapstick on my lips and kiss him where he sits to make him feel more comfortable about how rudely and inconsiderately he approached me? Oh, I get it, I need to be superhuman and not emote or get beyond the fact that I somehow must not fit the profile of someone who sits in those seats because it only happens to me. Yes, not once have I ever heard another box seat holder in my vicinity have to engage the "are you in the right seats" question. CB, why would that be? Perhaps if I wore a dress suit to this tennis tournament I might get the respect of appearing as if I might actually belong in those seats.

You ask do I want this man to pay for the transgressions of others? No, that would be ridiculous. HOWEVER, do I have a responsibility to overcompensate in extending respect to someone who just asked me a ridiculous question, twice!! Twice!! He got respect when I turned to him and "respectfully" informed him he was mistaken. I didn't owe him a show of a ticket or more conversation.

As you say, for the record, your Farrakhan story is poignant in that it does show you have had a moment of empathy. HOWEVER, as you said, it was just a moment and you had control of it. You chose to make yourself vulnerable that day. In general you have that choice. As you can see, I chose to not make myself vulnerable by working a lifetime to get two box floor seats at a prestigious tennis tournament only to be questioned about my intelligence, or integrity, or ethic, or socio-economic class status, what ever it was that was embedded in the question when he asked the question.

I appreciate how you are situated to give people the benefit of the doubt when you are on the outside looking in on a situation like mine. HOWEVER, didn't you just not give the benefit of the doubt to a room full of Black folk trying to listen to a Black leader trying to engage them about the realities of Black struggle. Did you not realize that you represented to many of those Black people an image of oppression, even though you had no intention to oppress. Was it not within you to extend the respect to these wounded, perhaps even angry African-Americans, as they consciously or subconsciously grappled with what I would call Farrakhan's complicated message? Oh, no, you were offended because you were relegated to sit in a designated section of an event for the time you chose to be there. Come on CB, you coudn't have been serious using this story!

HERE WE GO! The fact that you "tend to view interactions... in the micro rather than the macro....that is, isolated, stand-alone, not connected with any other interaction [youI've] had before" is nice, for you! It is also a privilege. That's right, I said it, PRIVILEGE! I know that you and our brother blogger Whaler don't necessarily care for that word/concept, but it is what it is. You know CB, one big difference between you and me is that while we both have privilege, you are so comfortable with yours that any assault on it befuddles you to the point where you run from it, fearful that you may be revealed as someone who has it but doesn't really want to own it. I on the other hand own mine. I belong to the gender that benefits from a society that privileges me. If I wanted to ignore that gender privilege or attempt to frame it as not really a benefit, all I would be doing is demonstrating to any and all that I am somewhat clueless about my privilege. Instead, I own it, and wake up every morning aware of it and attempting to not trip over it throughout my day. Instead of making excuses about it, or wanting to deny it so vigorously that maybe it will go away, I try to show by my actions that I know I have it and instead by my actions am always trying to apologize for this unearned privilege I gained merely by birth. I could paint the same scenario in terms of my sexual orientation, socio-economic class status, and ability.

You asked quite a few questions and so forgive me for how long my response is within your posting, but I figured you really want the answers, so I will continue...

When two people of different races interact it doesn't always have to somehow reflect race. Unfortunately though in most cases it does. Why? Because our society has a fixation/ignorance about race and an ignorance/fixation about socio-economic class that borders on putting the cart before the horse. If our educational system was truly addressing isms within our school system the way it could/should, race would be much less a factor in racial interactions. It is all about the conversation, or lack thereof. Until we have those conversations, all of our children threaten to violate the statistics of "no child left behind" because our children are being left behind due to the fact that we are socializing our children to be heterosexists, racists, sexists, ableists, classists, and clueless about their privilege.

I don't think ABV was suggesting that whites don't have a role in the social justice movement anymore than ABV would suggest that men don't have a place in the feminist movement. Each underrepresented/oppressed group needs allies. It took me being receptive to the pain that women have deep in their hearts about their second class status in society, listening to the stories of my mothers, sisters, female friends and cousins, lovers--and being determined that my daughters don't necessarily have to experience the same thing--that motivated me to get into the game. Oh, and because it is the right thing to do.

So, CB, tell me, why is it that you have to play the 'woe is me" card in response to ABV and her assertion that you have racial privilege. I don't have a problem admitting that I have it. In the North Country of NY where there are few Black professionals, I get opportunities to do things that might not be as available to me if there were more people who look like me. Now, see, that wasn't hard to do. Try it sometime. Just because you have been socialized to not see your whiteness as privileged doesn't mean you have to continue to walk around with the blinders on, especially after someone has momentarily removed them from your eyes to assist you in seeing the light! Wake up my brother, wake up!*** -- J.W.

After reading the responses to this particular blog, I can’t help but notice that a few seem to actually be supporting the gentleman in question and making excuses for him and his behavior. Although none of us were there to witness the event, the one thing we know for sure is that one party felt disrespected that day. Regardless of one’s past or present issues, it should not be an excuse to treat another human being with a lack of respect. Maybe J.W. should have jumped at the opportunity to verbalize his disappointment at the way the man conducted himself in front of his children. He could have used the exchange as a teaching moment for anyone within earshot to find out what the real issues were behind the accusation. Although, we can only speculate what the outcome would have been in this case, the discussion may have produced positive results with both parties benefitting from each other’s views. It is through education that we will discontinue the mindsets of individuals who continue to act in a condescending manner towards others they feel are inferior. It is time to put aside all of our indifferences and stop making assumptions based on color, sex, or class. We need to treat people with the dignity and respect they deserve.

I will conclude with another quote that I thought was pretty interesting and relevant to the discussion we have been having.

“The only remedies against race and prejudice are enlightenment and education. This is a slow and painstaking process.” - Albert Einstein


I don't think Card Buddy's response was naive at all. Given the way JW worded his post, I took it almost the exact same way. I got the impression JW was actually annoyed to have to even respond to the questioner (albeit obnoxious questioner).

And not to pick on you either :) - but you based your response on that topic that irks me so...PRIVILEGE.

Is that what all JW's posts ever come down to? Is someone always going to boil every complaint/dispute/argument/INTERACTION down to privilege? As much as I enjoy reading, and taking part in these discussions, it's starting to all sound a bit whiney.

The bottom line in ANY interaction is that the people involved carry baggage. They have experiences that the other can't/doesn't know. It may be racial baggage, or gender baggage, or economic baggage, or simply self-esteem baggage. So when one interacts with another it's best to be aware of how others might interpret what you say.

I think it's ridiculous to overthink every little word, and over-interpret every little action others make. Maybe the guy just had someone back into his car in the parking lot, and was a bit irritated. Maybe he just smacked his wife around at home, and was "all puffy chested". Maybe he's just a jerk.

The person who assumes the worst is as much to blame as the one who leaves his actions open to interpretation.

Speaking of whiners...what was the point of whalers post? Sounded a bit whiney to me...

People who have privilege can walk around and make comments about the complaints of others. I recognize that this statement means that I have privilege, but unlike some, I am comfortable admitting this fact. Is it that some are guilty of the notion that their privilege is crippling others? There is an old saying, "if you throw a rock into a pack of dogs, the one that howls is the one that got hit." I do believe there is a dog in this conversation that has been hit with a rock...

Further, everything in life is complex and it takes a strong mind to handle the intricate details of interactions. If J.W.'s thought process is intimidating to anyone reading/posting to this blog, maybe they should leave the computer screen, and put on a coat because their skin is obviously not thick enough to handle an adult conversation.

Via Via-

That's what you got out of my post...that I'm whining? Ha!

You can talk about priviliege until you're blue in the face...but the bottom line is, INDIVIDUALS have to change how they act if things are ever going to get better.

Call me naive or ignorant or whatever you choose. And you can read into my words if you'd like. But watch who you attack. I'd consider myself, along with guys like Card Buddy, to be some of the "enlightened ones". We may not have experienced the things JW has, but on an intellectual level we can understand the nuts and bolts of the problem.

And further...just because I don't buy into your definition of privilege...or think it necessaryily is the driving factor in ALL INTERACTIONS between people, doesn't mean I'm wrong and you're right. It just means we have a different opinion.

Should I be complaining about the intellectual priviliege you OBVIOUSLY hold over me because you know exactly how things are and I'm clearly mistaken?

*** Whaler, it is true that you and CB are two of the enlightened ones, at least in terms of entering conversations that have the potential to provide you a perspective you hadn't heard, while giving you an opportunity to contribute to other's perspectives. However, it saddens me that anyone would think that conversations about diversity and social justice could be construed as "whiney" because they ultimately are summarized as reflective of privilege. In your earlier post you stated you were tired of all our conversations terminating in some dimension of privilege. While I think you overexaggerated, you didn't do it much. Most of the dysfunctional social interactions that take place between two different people are a result of privilege. What you referred to as baggage earlier (racial baggage, sexist baggage, etc.) is often semantically the same thing as privilege. Some people simply don't take the time to unpack their baggage which is a privilege itself. We don't have to unpack the way we witness same sex affection, or our perspectives on the haves and have nots, but when we don't, in many cases our inability to unpack those perspectives vary on how deeply we have been socialized into a level of comfort with our communal/normative gaze.

What I really hope that you (and maybe CB whom I also responded to, at length, which I hope you take the time to read) notice about this one conversation we are all a part of is how you grew tired of a conversation about privilege and registered that discourse fatigue. You give me the impression that somehow your disdain with that conversation was okay (respectful), but my disdain with having to engage another query about whether or not I was in the proper seats was disrespectful. How do our responses differ except that mine was concise enough to not get me caught up in a heated exchange with a man who I knew for a fact was wrong? It appears as if Via Via and ABV took you to task for your impatience/disrespect with the conversation. You should have more of a feel for how I felt when CB took me to task for basically the same thing, impatience with others method of engagement.

Whaler my man, I hope as such an enlightened person, that you haven't gotten so comfortable with your perspective that you are incapable of expanding your intellectual horizons through worthwhile debate. *** -- J.W.

I do own the privilege that I obviously have over you in the intellectual sense...and yes you should be complaining if as you say, "INDIVIDUALS have to change how they act if things are ever going to get better." Forgive me, but do I detect anger due to my challenging who it is you thought you were? If it bothers you that you cannot clean your lenses enough to see past your own hand, try on some new ones.

You claim to be enlightened almost like it's a trophy you have sitting on your shelf. It's dusty and lacks of shine because you rarely polish it. It's there for the amusement of others, a conversational topic for passer-bys. I do not know exactly how things are, but I am not afraid to discuss the possibilities of anything...even something that seems to be difficult for you to comprehend-you guessed it...privilege.

Differences of opinion vs. failure to use more than 4% of your decide.

CB ,you were very gracious in your reply to my post; especially in light of my criticism of yours, thank you! In answer to your question “ How do we over come our socialization?” That’s simple: it’s what we are doing right now… dialoging… constructively! Imm dropped an Einstein quote that sums it up quite succinctly.

Whaler, I have to admit that your posts are entertaining. But, the fact of the matter is I can’t ever get a handle on whether you are firm in your convictions or just enjoy playing “devil's advocate” because, you really can’t sort out how you feel. Certainly when it comes to the topic that most irks you “Privilege” you have the most to lose being a white male. The “privilege” you’ve come to enjoy and, yes, expect in your life ensures you a position of power only other white males can enjoy. It’s got to be a little disconcerting when that position of power is challenged. Quite frankly, Via Via is right…. you’re the one whining. I’d add…. if you can’t stand the heat then get out of the kitchen. Whaler, we all need to be accountable for actions, including you. And, just maybe your definition is wrong. abv

Via Via,

That's a pretty personal attack to my response. Yes, I was critical of your post, and my response was edgy...but it wasn't personal.

Let's see. In just over two paragraphs you managed to say you were smarter than me, that I'm not open-minded, I'm afraid, ignorant, and only using 4% of my brain.

Maybe I should take that as a compliment? I've got 96% untapped potential!

Let's get to the meat and potatoes. I think attitudes like yours are what help keep the racial divide alive. The problem? You've set the definition of the problem (privilige) in such a way that nothing can improve, or ever will improve, because the blame is placed solely on one side.

Privilege exists. It's real. But where I refuse to allow the argument to go, is to claim that it is the sole reason why people behave the way they do. I have too much faith in human nature to think our future is predestined by our past.

On a macro level, people behave certain ways because of their past experiences. Those experiences certainly have influence on what we say and do. However, on a micro level (i.e. an "on the street" encounter such as JW's example) we still have the ability to choose how we act. Despite our past experiences, we still have the ability to treat A COMPLETE STRANGER we encounter with the respect they deserve.

The crux of this argument for me is that as long as you define yourself as FIRST a black woman, and SECOND as an individual, the problems we see will not go away. I don't define myself as a white male. I'm a person, with a heart and a mind of my own. And when I interact with someone I meet, I don't look at them as a white woman, or black man, or poor student. I see them as individuals deserving as much respect as I expect from them.

I can anticipate your response that the fact that I'm a white male AFFORDS me the ability to not define myself that way. That's a crock. There are good, honest, well meaning white and black people, as well as creeps of both color. Your definition of priviliege HAS TO lump all white people/poor people/whatever type of privilege you want to discuss, into one big pool of people who have power over others. I not only find that argument lacking...but I find it incredibly offensive.


I'm glad you are entertained by my posts...but I hope that's not all you get from them. This IS a forum of ideas, isn't it? And aren't we all here to learn a little from those unlike ourselves?

I responded to one of JW's comments once about my convictions. Trust me they are firm. I don't like playing games, so no, I'm not just playing Devil's Advocate. Just like JW, I am a philosopher both by education and by interest.

Could you point out an example of how you feel I have difficulty sorting out how I feel? That comment baffled me. I'm a thinker...and if I take the time to write about a topic, it's one I've thought through thoroughly.

And if you have read any of my previous posts, and some of the back-and-forth I've had with JW, then your implication that I "can't stand the heat" is laughable.

The problem with privilege, is how you define it. Card Buddy touched on this in his response to you. The way you set up the problem is such that the so called perpetrators have no ability to correct or better the situation. No matter what I do or say as a white man, others are going to attribute it to privilege...because that's who I am.

In all honesty it's a brilliant argument. Privilege is undeniable...and it can influence our interactions with people. BUT, IT DOESN"T GOVERN OUR ABILITY TO ACT APPROPRIATELY IN EVERYDAY INTERACTIONS! To say it does would take away our freedom to choose and to better ourselves, and would throw us into the realm of a predetermined future.

I tell the story because I think it's relevent to the discussion. I don't seek sympathy or pity, or pretend for a moment that it makes up for anything anyone else experienced. And, I don't think I passed judgement on others who attended the talk. I merely re-told events as they happened. Someone challenged that I had no idea how you (JW) might have felt at that time. I simply tell the story to note that I do, in fact, have at least a "moment of empathy."

I don't know if it's about what one "owes" another. Nor do I believe it's about what one deserves. (Frankly, at the time I thought I "deserved" a little credit for being a white guy willing to put himself into what was predictably a difficult sitation in order to hear another perspective, gain knowledge, broaden horizons, and, just hear what the Minister had to say. Years later, of course, I realize all the things you mentioned, JW). Rather, it's merely about how we choose to treat each other. Perhaps being able to view interactions with strangers without all the baggage (scars) others may have is a privledge. I've never seen it as such - again - it seems less a choice and more my nature.

No, I don't believe you owed him a butt-kissing (with or without chapstick). And I surely am not defending his actions. Based on my own experiences, I would have handled the situation differently. Just as you handled the situation based on your experiences.

Item: I was jogging the other night when I saw a woman jogging toward me on the same side of the street. I moved to the other side of the street concious that she not feel intimidated or threatened by me in any way. Now, tell me fellow bloggers, did I act with an out-dated form of chauvanism thinking that she being a "weak woman" might be intimidated by me, or, did I act with sensitivity for a young woman jogging alone at night and all the baggage (scars) that she might be carrying with her?

*** CB, don't get it twisted, I think it was quite admirable that you attended the Farrakhan meeting. Many people find fault with Farrakhan's message and others hear that it is problematic and wouldn't even take the time to find out themselves. As well, to be one of a few whites in a multitude of Blacks is not the easiest of moments to participate in. However, an argument can be made that the reason you are comfortable participaiting in the type of conversations that we have on this blog may be directly related to your pursuit and actual experiences engaging differences earlier in your life.

I also thought you acted appropriately by respectfully giving the woman jogger her space. I also think the same action would be appropriate for a man jogging. *** -- J.W.


Your point is well taken. My impatience may well be a good parallel to your story. However, the reason behind my impatience isn't the obvious.

Yes I am a philospher...a thinker...but I'm also a doer. I take pride in the fact that I think things through, determine what's right, keep an open mind, and ACT THAT WAY.

What irritates me is how quick some are willing to criticize based on the DEFINITION OF A CONCEPT, and yet seem to be unwilling to address actual day to day activities. Yes, privilege may EXPLAIN certain behaviors, but it doesn't JUSTIFY them!

The impression I get from via via is that if I walked by her on the street, I'd automatically be -1 in the score column. Actually make that -2, I'm white and I'm male. Thank God I don't drive a Volvo and dress fancy, or I'd be -3. [yeah, I know...a horribly insensitive comment].

My point is that I'M (from my perspective)going into the interaction 0-0. I recognize that people come from different backgrounds, and have various influences that drive their behavior. And I factor that into my thinking when dealing with people I meet.

Should I have to come here and preface any comment I make by saying "I had a positive interaction with a black women in the mall today despite her being abrupt and in my face"? [sarcasm inserted ] Is via going to jump on me again because I'm furthing my privileged display? That's completely ridiculous.

I don't hold my "enlightenment" as a trophy. I only brought it up as a response to an absurd implication (that I was a closed minded, ignorant half wit). Enlightened is actually too strong a word, as it implies I have more knowledge than others. I used it in the context of being active in the discussion.

Really take a look at how this debate has moved...go back and read the individual posts.

I acknowledge that priviliege exists.

I state explicitly that this influences how people act and what they say.

I disagree with the concept that privilege is a valid excuse for the way we act.

I get attacked for being an insensitive cretin.

Sorry to vent in my response to you. One problem with this discussion is that broad generalizations have been made about privilege and race relations based on one interaction with you and a stranger. Yes...analogies are good vehicles to illustrate a point. However, they have to be valid analogies. For privilege to work, white privilege in this case, it has to work across the board.

Let's concede this guy was a creep...insensitive, rude and offensive. He didn't take the time to really look at his ticket and find his appropriate seat. And when he saw you sitting in what he thought was his seat...some of those buried subtleties came out in inappropriate behavior.

But my question to you is...How many times have other white guys approached your section thinking that's where their seats might be, but instead of bothering you, went to ask an usher for assistance? How many others took the time to climb back up the stairs without bothering you to double check what section they were in? How many others ACTED RESPECTFULLY?

You don't know the answer...because you CAN'T know the answer. They never interacted with you. They never made an implication based on a black guy in what they thought was their seat. They did what respectful people do.

So by calling attention to the ONE situation you may have a right to complain about, but COMPLETELY disregarding the possibility that there were other instances where people may have treated you respectfully is deceptive.

There are instances where privilege rears its ugly head. Maybe lots of them. But there are also many cases where people treat people like people...regardless of their race/gender/economic status.

*** Whaler, I was totally feeling you in this correspondence until you intimated that I was being "deceptive" by not considering all the other people who may have handled the situation differently. Come on my brother, you can't be serious about that. I don't have a responsibility to imagine what might have happened relative to what actually occurred. Not only is the lack of my not doing that not deceptive, but unrealistic. It is like me having an expectation that you should consider all the other people who didn't put these types of thoughts out for us to discuss. Because they didn't, you have a responsibility to be kinder and gentler to me in respect to their noble actions.

Aside from that, it has been an interesting time engaging a topic that you aren't excited about engaging. I don't anticipate the topic will stay out of our discourse for long because privilege is the underpinning of most isms and breeds a certain amount of inconsideration of others and therein lies the problem. It concerns me that you don't see this, but as Rome wasn't built in a day, Whaler enlightening me or me enlightening Whaler or us meeting somewhere in the middle will probably take some time. Don't quit on me brother and I won't quit on you! *** -- J.W.

After reading these responses, I feel as if I am at an amusement park riding on the merry-go-round. Aside from this conversation going around in circles and getting nowhere, I am beginning to get this nauseous feeling in my stomach which is making me want to vomit. There have definitely been some derogatory remarks and accusations made in this recent dialogue. It is mind-blowing how we can easily belittle and insult one another through the technology of cyber world without any repercussion. Imagine if we took all of the parties involved in this fault-finding, “knife-in-the-back” discussion (and I won’t name any names as I do not wish to offend anyone), took a snapshot of these conversations, put everyone in the stadium where the UCLA tennis tournament was held that J.W. attended, and discussed these issues in person. I wonder if the tone that I get through these web-blogs would be the same if they were done in a direct face-to-face exchange. Picture yourselves, a group of educated, mature individuals, carrying on the way you have, but only now you are literally within arms length from your counterpart. Maybe J.W. did the right thing when he abruptly communicated to the gentleman that the seats he was occupying were indeed his. The discussion ended as quickly as it started, and no negative or offensive words were exchanged. Although J.W. was left with yet another scar and feeling disrespected, he maintained his dignity by not verbally counterattacking the man and creating an embarrassing scene in front of his guest and neighboring spectators.

Maybe we should all set a date aside to get together so we can discuss this further in person. If most of us are within close proximity, a discussion over coffee and donuts on a Saturday afternoon would maybe bring some closure to this debate. We could always arrange for car-pooling and meet in some undisclosed, remote area if there are bloggers who need to come from afar. I’m sure the ride together could get quite interesting. And I promise if you ride with me, that if I decide to kiss any of you “where the sun don’t shine,” that I will only use Victoria’s Secret lip gloss to moisten my lips rather than the inexpensive Chapstick that J.W. carries around in his pocket!!

*** LMM, I think your take on the situation is remarkable and threatening to put me out of business as the moderator of this blog. The only thing I don't agree with that you said is how the conversation is going around in circles and getting nowhere." Conversations about privilege, inconsideration, respect, oppression, isms etc. are always difficult and seldom play out at length. All the players in this conversation are to be commended for staying the course and taking the time to thoughtfully put forth something more for us all to engage. The readrers of this blog also must have found something noteworthy to engage because most of us are not concise or short winded in our communication style, though it is hard to be on such passionate topics.

I like your idea of having a meeting where we can hash this all out. I think we may want to continue to build our community of bloggers and array of topics before we reveal to one another that the person we've been engaging has sat next to us or lived around the corner for the last few years. Also, I need to work on my schmoozing skills to grease the skids for the Press Republican to pick up the tab for our shindig. At this point, they may not be impressed enough to do anything beyond buying us a six pack of sodas. *** -- J.W.

The bracketed quote below is excerpted from a previous post:
"When I interact with any other person (who is not of my race/gender), is it my responsibility to assume that anything I might say can/will be taken as racist or sexist and to consider my remarks/demeanor appropriately? If a person takes something I say as racist, have I necessarily uttered a racist remark? If a person feels offended, have I necessarily offended that person?"

"The bottom line in ANY interaction is that the people involved carry baggage. They have experiences that the other can't/doesn't know. It may be racial baggage, or gender baggage, or economic baggage, or simply self-esteem baggage. So when one interacts with another it's best to be aware of how others might interpret what you say."

"Privilege exists. It's real. But where I refuse to allow the argument to go, is to claim that it is the sole reason why people behave the way they do. I have too much faith in human nature to think our future is predestined by our past. The problem with privilege, is how you define it. Card Buddy touched on this in his response to you. The way you set up the problem is such that the so called perpetrators have no ability to correct or better the situation. No matter what I do or say as a white man, others are going to attribute it to privilege...because that's who I am. In all honesty it's a brilliant argument. Privilege is undeniable...and it can influence our interactions with people. BUT, IT DOESN"T GOVERN OUR ABILITY TO ACT APPROPRIATELY IN EVERYDAY INTERACTIONS! To say it does would take away our freedom to choose and to better ourselves, and would throw us into the realm of a predetermined future."

"What irritates me is how quick some are willing to criticize based on the DEFINITION OF A CONCEPT, and yet seem to be unwilling to address actual day to day activities. Yes, privilege may EXPLAIN certain behaviors, but it doesn't JUSTIFY them!
I acknowledge that privilege exists.
I state explicitly that this influences how people act and what they say.
I disagree with the concept that privilege is a valid excuse for the way we act.
INDIVIDUALS have to change how they act if things are ever going to get better."

JW and lmm, should the Press pop for the tab, or not, I’d love to have the opportunity to continue this conversation around a table. I’ll cover the first round! I do believe, however, the Blog does afford anonymity, allowing contributors the freedom to express themselves in ways they may not if the forum were public. Imm is right though when he/she suggests that we may take license to say things while blogging, emailing etc. we might not otherwise if the conversation where face-to-face. We all need to, myself included, remember to proceed with respect while Blogging. Thanks lmm!

Getting back to the topic at hand….
Whaler, I would love for you to define Privilege for me. As well, I have to admit, I remain baffled by your recent posts. (Although, you may want to move on from this discussion.) I think you would agree that we are ideologically socialized and that much of our behavior is learned. Maybe you don’t agree with that statement? Sure, we’re also a product of our biological make-up; which predetermines some of how we think and act. But Whaler, you can’t say that 1. “Privilege influences how we act.” 2. “INDIVIDUALS have to change how they act if things are ever going to get better.” 3.”Yes, privilege may EXPLAIN certain behaviors, but it doesn't JUSTIFY them!”, and 4. “I disagree with the concept that privilege is a valid excuse for the way we act: You’ve contradicted yourself. Of course, Privilege can and does justify how many act. It is an essential catalyst for all the “ism’s” discussed in this Blog. You govern how you act which is further shaped by not only one’s privilege, but also all the other ways in which our behavior has been molded.

Whaler, I believe that for some futures are “predetermined”, not only by genetic predisposition (i.e. familial cardiac disease, cancer) but also by social class, religion, and race. That doesn’t mean that those paths can’t be altered and allow for some the freedom to choose. I believe, I’m correct when I say , that the single best predictor of an individual’s success is their parent’s education. There are forces we can control and then there are those we can’t. However, it still remains our responsibility to own our behavior, come to understand how we can change it to better the present and future for all. I’d be interested to hear more from you…….. abv

Almost didn't respond to this. Didn't want to in fact, especially when there are feelings that mentioning privilege has become annoying, yet everyone writing here has some sort of privilege and I think the most noticeable is intellectual privilege. How easy it is for someone, regardless of race, to almost become an intellectual bully by dishing out what appears to be more knowledge than the other person. That is a glaring example of privilege. And while privilege should be recognized, no one should be made to feel guilty about their perceived privilege or have to change the core of themselves because another says the only reason they can be who they are is because of their privilege. That reminds me of a Vonnegut short story in which people wore weights, masks, etc. so everyone would be "equal."

Another sad part of this discussion is we seem to have forgotten about benefit of the doubt. Yes, it is true that someone like myself can never know what it is like to be black in America, but at the same time, I think CB had an extremely valid point thinking of himself as human first and white later. Someone may argue that in itself is easy for him because he enjoys privilege being part of the majority, but so do I, and I will go to my deathbed saying I am human first and that is how I TRY to interact with people, and if someone wants to argue that is made easier by privilege, then so be it, that is the way I choose to live my life, and I'm not going to change because someone points out my PRIVILEGED race to me. I WANT to be human first and WANT to give people the benefit of the doubt, even if indicators might taint my perception of them and even if I get burned in the end. I will always TRY hard to give people the benefit of the doubt and interact with them solely on the our SHARED experiences, and not on my past interactions, and if I am largely able to do that because of my privilege, oh well, I recognize others are not as privileged, but embrace the fact my privilege helps me to live the way I want.

That being said, I truly can never understand what it is like to be black in America. My daughter's mother (ex-wife) is black, so I've been offered a glimpse into that experience, but it is only a glimpse. So, for example, if I had been the man who questioned JW about the seats and he became slightly offended and then explained to me why, I would give JW the benefit of the doubt that he has access to experiences I do not have and which have shaped the way he interacts with people, even if at times it causes him to think his color causes something when it in fact may not have in that particular experience. That is me giving JW the benefit of the doubt that his past experiences validate him possibly judging me, though I would still hope if I explained to him I was not being racist he would in turn give me the benefit of the doubt, no matter how much ammo supported his judgement.

Unfortunately, it appears that throughout this dialogue the benefit of the doubt has not been given. What is more unfortunate is it appears for nearly all sides this has become more about being right than carrying on a respectful conversation, when no one is truly right or wrong. We each have our own perceptions and beliefs and if others don't like them, they don't have to deal with us, but for one person to assume his or her stance, is more right than another's, no matter how enlightened that stance may seem, well, that borders on arrogance. Nah, it goes way past bordering, it is Arrogance with a capital A.
In fact, I have found that liberals and those who claim to be extremely open minded are often the most close minded of them all. They claim to accept everyone and be non-judgemental and open and willing to consider all sides, but in fact, they are often only accepting of people as long as they think as they do and are as "open minded" and "accepting" and "enlightened" as they are.

That is a dangerous place to be, no matter how much knowledge and life experience you have under your belt, because even though the so-called "enlightened" person may think they are open minded, they are dismissing another's beliefs and perceptions, and even when those beliefs and perceptions may seem close minded, the enlightened person is in fact far from enlightened when they dismiss another mindset because it does not mirror their own.

Other than that, much of the dialogue has also been inspiring and enliightening here, because it has caused me to want to be more accepting and offer the benefit of the doubt as much as possible, no matter how much someone else's actions may fit into overused generalizations that, when reviewed may present a case for perceived disrespect. There are ALWAYS exceptions to the rule, and people who measure others based on psychological or social generalizations and their own past experiences often miss out on some beautiful exceptions to the rule that could turn out to be brilliant educational experiences. And that is in fact a harder road to take, because it's easy to rely on what you think you know and have learned rather than taking the time to discover something new.

*** Stephen, I also think that there is nothing wrong with CB or anyone else wanting to place their humanity before their racial identity. In an ideal world, we are all doing that. However, we don't live in that world. If you are comfortable living with the expectation that you have done enough to make others comfortable by accepting the levels of unearned privilege you have that they don't, then you should enjoy that privilege to the maximum, regardless of how it might impact others. Just keep in mind as you do this the notion of karma. Is it enough to be comfortable with our unearned privileges in a world that often leverages unearned privilege against unjustified oppression? Since applying privilege to conversations about race are so problematic for people, let's take the Disability Rights Act as an example. Simply because people who were born physically unimpaired haven't CONSIDERED the unearned privileges that accompany their ability, many who were/are born physically challenged have struggled/will struggle throughout their lives because others simply can't/don't relate to their plight. Knowing this, I am uncomfortable simply stating as you did that " I recognize others are not as privileged, but embrace the fact my privilege helps me to live the way I want." Hey, but that's me!

I will end my point here. I don't want to dispense too much more knowledge for fear of becoming an intellectual bully.


I think that much of our behavior is learned...and in many ways, more by default, we are ideologically socialized. But I don't think this is a formal process. I don't think kids blindly learn what their parents say and are inevitably bound to live the same lives as their parents. I think we learn from our experiences...and in the sense that our experiences come from our surroundings, I'd say we learn from what we see.

This is a good spot to jump over to the privilege discussion. If you're white and affluent, your experiences are different than if you are black and poor (or interchange any of those four variables). This affects one's outlook on life...their perspective...and in many cases their behavior. It affects the way we learn.

That answer your question...I don't think my definition of privilege would be appreciably different than anyone else's here. My point, is in regard to how much it governs our behavior. One would be ignorant to claim privilege does not exist...I've never claimed that. It clearly does. And to address the second part of your response, I don't feel there is any contradiction in my list .

1. "Privilege influences how we act." I think there are very few here that will deny this.

2. “INDIVIDUALS have to change how they act if things are ever going to get better.” Again...this is a pretty inert statement that I think few would argue with.

3. "Privilege may EXPLAIN certain behaviors, but it doesn't JUSTIFY them!” and “I disagree with the concept that privilege is a valid excuse for the way we act".

#3 is where I think the heart of the debate we've entered into lies. I think people are born with an innate sense of what's right and wrong. It's within us to know when we've been wronged and when we are "wronging" someone. Privilege is a social construct...whether it is racial bigotry, class/economic opportunity, gender inequity, etc. That social construct can INFLUENCE us to act in certain ways, but I don't feel it can override our ability to recognize right and wrong.

That's the basis for my stance in regard to privilege. On a practical level, we need to deal with INDIVIDUALS in INDIVIDUAL situations to drive change. My opinion is that we do this through accountability. Each individual is accountable for their behavior...for each interaction they have...regardless of the situation they are in.

The best example I can come up with off the top of my head is that of a soccer game. There are times refs make bad calls...some even appear purposefully wrong. These calls can influence the outcome of the game. When a ref penalizes me for an act I didn't commit it makes me angry. I didn't do it, so my anger is EXPLAINED. I could ever go so far as to say my anger is justified. However, would you not agree that it would be wrong for me to "take out" my anger on the first person from the opposite team by kicking him in the knee? My response to the ref's call was EXPLAINED AND JUSTIFIED, but my ACTIONS were not! The other team player was an innocent third party.


Thanks for the comment. As much as I try to pick my words carefully, there's always one or two that end up being irksome! Let me take this opportunity to clarify a couple things.

My intent with pointing out that other people took the time not to bother asking an usher, etc....was not to be critical of you. It was only meant to show that while there is difficulty/tension in some of our interactions with people of different backgrounds, it isn't completely universal. That is to say, not all interactions are laced with the more offensive, disrespectful behavior. one of my initial posts I stated that I thought the discourse related to privilege was sounding "a bit whiney". I'm not really tired/frustrated with the discussion of privilege in itself, just the reaction to my views on the subject. If I was really tired of talking about privilege, I'd just delete Wiley Wandering from my Internet Favorites! :) But, I won't be doing that...this is too important, and contrary to what some may think...I enjoy it.

However...I think it's wrong to blindly accept privilege as a justification for actions. We all need to be aware of how privilege AFFECTS our interactions with what we say can be interpreted...and how we are viewed by those around us. We ALL learn something each time we interact with others...particularly when we interact with others different from us. You and I are case in point. We couldn't be much different in many ways...but we're quite alike in many others...and although we've banged heads a few times, I've got a healthy dose of respect for you (and your perspective) without having ever formally met you.

And as for the meet up...I'm game. The words I put on your computer screen are no different than the one's I'd use at a table in one of your classrooms. I tend toward the introverted side, so I don't usually seek out group discussions...however, I don't get to talk philosophy very often either. Add in a pepperoni pizza with those sodas, and then you'll really have me hooked. :)

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