Thursday, October 30, 2008

Step outside of your privilege for just a second please

It can be difficult for me to express articulate arguments when I get so worked up about the subject matter. When something is so important, you want to get it right, you want to convince people why it's important. Notice I didn't say convince people to change their minds. I don't think we all have to agree but some people certainly need more education, more perspective, and a different paradigm about certain things. We should not be afraid to speak up, to argue til we are blue in the face, to make a scene. If something necessitates questioning and action then keep talking, keep fighting, keep getting doors shut in your face, harsh words thrown at you.

I notice often that people have such difficulty stepping outside of their privilege, out of what they know to be. This is especially true of those whose privilege is the majority--namely, moneyed, white men. What bothers me is that someone of this privilege cannot comprehend that perhaps the reason that this particular election is so frenzied, that there is all this talk about change, and that there is more turnout all around is that for once, there is a candidate who is speaking to their issues. Someone who looks like them. Someone who could represent them. Let's discuss the terms Us and Them for a minute. The majority considers any other, them, and I speak not just in numbers, because a minority is not just a minority because it is small, but because it lacks power and influence. It is easy to group others into one lump when you do not understand them. This is why stereotyping is so frequent, so convenient. It allows us a frame of reference to begin to comprehend an other.

I am a sociologist. I can spot socialization, I can spot social pressure. I know movements when I see them. We are what we are taught, how we grew up, what we've experienced. This influence cannot be discounted. There are larger social forces acting upon us constantly. We are not always independent actors. Not everyone thinks like a sociologist. If it isn't your reality, then you don't look behind the curtain to ask why. If your reality is comfortable, you don't consider how it got to be that way, if it is inherently good or fair. Why would you? You like it the way it is. For all this talk of change, society and people are not quick to change. It was only 50 years ago we hunted people down and ostracized them for supporting an economic and political model that was in the minority. In America. In the melting pot. In the country that embraces free speech and dissent and the freedom to question government. Twinges of McCarthyism are resurfacing even now. We have learned nothing.

Everybody has a story. The American dream is talked about a lot. But somehow, the real meaning of the American dream was lost. That "real America" became a catchphrase, one that applied only to certain kinds of people. People of certain races, religions, occupations, parts of the country. We have become adept at putting our heads in the sand and living in our own terrariums. When did we become an America that really only cares about ourselves? When did sharing in things like wealth, resources, education, and privilege become a dirty word? When did those who want to do well for themselves decide that meant they had to at the cost of others?

I will continue to speak up, to champion the unpopular ideas, to dissent, to stand up for justice. I will continue to fight because the cause is worthy.


RVAfashionista said...

Very well-written and of course you and I share very common political views so thanks for putting that out there! :-)

Terra said...

This was an excellent post. Also, it made me wonder why we haven't done lunch or something yet. Is that creepy? I hope not...

Generation Next said...


Thanks! And no, not creepy at all! I love blogfriends. I will email you.

anOCgirl said...

i was looking for your post-election reaction and instead found this gem of a post. thank you for articulating perfectly my frustrations with the us vs. them concept. my partner and i struggled mightily to convince his friends to vote for obama and their inability to see outside of their own privileged existence was a barrier we could not overcome.