Since I posted “Privilege“, I’ve had a number of discussions with clueless folk about the privilege they do not believe they have or would like to discard because they are tired of being called out on it.
First, I am going to go over some basics (in a list that is not comprehensive):
Congratulations! You have privilege.
White people: You have privilege. You aren’t immediately flagged as potential trouble in stores and airports. You are more likely to get a job than the more melanin-enabled. People don’t assume you will be lazy, or late, or trouble on the streets. You don’t get extra targeted by cops. There is no such thing as Driving While White. You get to wonder why the brown people are upset about racism in movies and tv, because it’s just entertainment.
Men: You have privilege. You don’t worry about being sexually assaulted if you go out alone. You don’t have to automatically wonder if that guy in the elevator with you is a creep. You get paid more than women. Nobody assumes that you don’t know what you are talking about professionally just based on your gender. You don’t have to sue companies for promotions, universities for tenure, newspapers to be allowed to get out of the researcher/secretary pool. You get to wonder why women get so upset when you approach them on the street.
Rich folk: You have privilege, and everybody knows it. You get to wonder how families can possibly live on only $250,000/year.
Straight people: You have privilege. You don’t have to constantly fight for the legitimacy of your intimate relationships. Your right to marry is not up for a vote. Nobody says things like, “I’m not heterophobic, but…”. You don’t have to wonder if your state will let you adopt a kid, or if you will have any parental rights over the kids you are helping to raise. You don’t get bullied, beat up, maimed, or killed for being openly straight. You get to wonder why the queer folk want to deal with the misery and complications of marriage.
Cisgendered people: You have privilege. You haven’t had to go through an extensive (and expensive) medical, psychological, and emotional process just to feel like your body is your own. You haven’t faced bigotry from every single community around you because your outsides don’t match your insides and you need to do something about it. You don’t get bullied, beat up, maimed, or killed for identifying as a gender that does not match the one on your birth certificate. You get to say stupid shit like, “That’s so weird. I would never put myself through that.”
Educated people: You have privilege. You have never had to have somebody read a document to you because you cannot. You have never faced the embarrassment and shame that our culture heaps on the uneducated. You aren’t stuck in jobs that nobody else wants because you never had the opportunity to finish grade school, let alone high school and college. You have never been without a voice. You get to wonder about and mock all the godawful grammar on the internet. (Approximately one in seven people in the US can’t even read this post I am writing.)
Tall people: You have privilege. Just kidding! I know it sucks to be able to reach everything.
Second, I am going to make a point I seem to have to make repeatedly, but never seems to get taken to heart:
The lack of one kind of privilege does not cancel out all other forms of privilege.
Grew up poor as shit, but still straight, white, cisgendered male? Guess what? You still have privilege. Grew up poor, brown, gay, and male? Guess what? You still have privilege. Poor, brown, queer, female with an amazing education? You still have privilege.
I can keep going with the combinations until this looks like an LSAT question, but I won’t, because the LSAT sucks. (I get to make that shitty joke because I get to claim educational privilege.)
Third, I am going to expand on what I discussed in “Privilege”:
It’s just something you have.
No, you didn’t ask for privilege. You aren’t necessarily looking for the special treatment you receive because of it. You may not even be conscious of it. That’s all well and good, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have it.
The thing about privilege is that the benefits are automatic and not always visible to the privileged. Which is another way of saying, you don’t notice you aren’t being discriminated against. Men don’t notice that they aren’t on constant alert against being sexually assaulted on the street. Straight people don’t notice that they aren’t being treated differently when with their partners.
When you get called out on your privilege, nobody is telling you to change it. Nobody is telling you that you are a bad person because of it. Nobody is saying that it’s your fault. What you are being told is, people who do not field specific kinds of discrimination have a very different perspective on the world than people who do. What you are being told is, what is an intellectual exercise for you may not be for somebody else.
What you are being told is, take yourself out of your privileged shoes and put them in somebody else’s (let me guess—they don’t fit. Kinda uncomfortable, right? You’d like to take them right back off, right? Yeah. That’s what people are talking about when they call you out on privilege). This goes back to my initial post. Because ultimately you need to recognize that you have it. You should acknowledge it. And while acknowledging it doesn’t change the fact that you have it, it does go a long way toward helping you understand where people are coming from when they say, “Dude. You realize you just spilled a bunch of cold unpleasant privilege into my lap.”
Don’t be afraid of those uncomfortable shoes. Seek them out. Walk in them for a minute, if you can. Marvel at the blisters and bruises. So that when you put yours back on, you can appreciate how well they fit, and how comfortable they are. That, metaphorically, is what you should be doing when your privilege is pointed out to you.
ETA: Since enough people have the need to make this argument, I feel it ought to be addressed. There seems to be a new “solution” to the use of the word “privilege” that seems to have been created by people who are deeply afraid of the word. I have tried to unpack it in this post, but I guess I can’t stop people just reacting to it instead of seeing that. So let me please state: calling discrimination “human rights violations” instead of using the word “privilege” changes absolutely nothing about the above post. All it does is try to shift focus and say, “I don’t have privilege, these people are simply being wronged.” Not only is the use of “human rights violations” a bit overwrought, it doesn’t work that way. People are being wronged, it’s true. But it is on a systemic level, and thus it is what actually creates privilege. The fact that people are suffering from various kinds of discrimination and lack of safety on a systemic level is the very reason that people who do not suffer—on that same systemic level—experience privilege. Taking the focus off of the privileged for these discussions does nothing to change that, it just makes those who are uncomfortable with it and think people who are using it are calling them bad people feel a little better in the moment. My suggestion is that you stop reacting to the word and start really considering what it means in this context.
Uh uh, Right Foot. No. No fucking way do you get to fall asleep while I have to work. I got up at 6:30 this morning so I could take care of business, and that business does not end until 5:00 PM at the absolute earliest. You know that that means? No naps. No naps for me. No naps for my hands. No naps for my goddamn feet. You are one of those feet, Right Foot.
Speaking of which, you don’t see Left Foot falling asleep, do you? Left Foot is on the job. Left Foot is happy to support me in my walks across the office and to the corner store for provisions. You won’t catch Left Foot snoring. Why can’t you be more like Left Foot, Right Foot?
It’s a Monday, Right Foot. That means I really need us all to be working as a team. I understand that you are undercaffeinated, but guess what? We are all undercaffeinated. We all have gone without coffee for over a week. We all are trying to make do with tea and the sleep we are able to sneak in before the girlfriend starts snoring and after I manage to find my earplugs in the dark.
I need to work and I need to walk and I need your help to do it. So, wake the fuck up, Right Foot. Wake up and get through this day with the rest of us. I promise you, it hurts me as much as it hurts you.
Let’s work together on this, Right Foot. I really don’t want to have to outsource your job.
I have officially typed the word “raccoon” too many times and now it doesn’t look like a real word. What the fuck, raccoons? What the fuck kind of word is “raccoon”?
If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter or pay even the slightest bit of attention to my (personal) Facebook posts, you know that at my new job, we have an office dog. He belongs to Toni, the founder and executive director of our organization. His name is Guinness, but I tend to just hash him as #officedog. For those of you who have the good sense and taste not to follow me on Twitter or Instagram, this is Guinness:
Guinness is not always content to hang out on the couch and watch me work. Sometimes he has to tell me just exactly how bored he is and just exactly how much attention I am not giving him. Now, he’s a Rottweiler-German Shepherd mix, so he’s not just a relatively large dog, he’s strong. His method of getting attention from me involves shoving his nose under my arm and flipping my hand over his head. Repeatedly.
Note: Guinness only speaks Dog, but he speaks it A LOT. He’s a talker.
Me: *working diligently*
Guin: Arrrph. *nose on arm*
Me: Hey, Mister. *pets dog, goes back to work*
Guin: Hrooo. *armflip*
Me: Okay, okay. *pets dog, goes back to work*
Guin: Ahroo. HRF. *armflip*
Me: Guinness. They aren’t paying me to scritch you. *pets dog, goes back to work*
Guin: Yes they are. *armflip*
Me: WTF, you don’t speak English.
Guin: ROOROOOROOO. *armflip*
Toni: GUINNESS. LIE DOWN.
Guin: HMPH. *curls up directly behind chair* *heavy sigh*
Me: *quiet sigh*
Of course, I’m completely in love with this dog. I’d happily put up with his armflips pretty much all day if I could. I think the love is mutual:
This is the general progression for any time I catsit for longer than a few days.
For the record, I did not actually find any cat journals. All cat journal entries are 57% fictional.
Some number of days ago, I took this photo of my cat:
But then I couldn’t decide whether he was plotting or pouting. So I made these:
And now…now I just don’t trust my cat anymore. Let’s not forget: he’s got thumbs. There’s no telling what he could do if he set his nut-sized brain to it.
I’m sure y’all remember Moto, by now.
This handsome fellow is Nijinsky. Nijinsky is Moto’s long-suffering-yet-charmingly-(mostofthetime)-neurotic older brother.
Nij: Ummmm….whatcha doin’?
Nij: Soooo…. *headbutts my knee*
Me: Just a sec, buddy.
Nij: No. Right now. *paw on my leg*
Me: Nijinsky. Can’t you—
Nij: But I love you. So much. Right NOW. *nose on my nose*
Me: NIJINSKY I HAVE TO PROTECT THE WAGON FROM THESE BANDI—Well, fuck it. Now I’m dead.
Nij: *purr* *gentle headbutt*
Dear Jew Fro,
You’ve been getting a little uppity lately, and I need you to chill the fuck out, already. You’ve been an active half of my hair situation all my life, and you know damn well that you have got to function in tandem with the afro to make this work.
So, what’s with you? Is the mid-day frizz fest some kind of farkakte passive-aggressive bid for attention? Or is it actual aggression—are you fighting for dominance? Is my head a battleground, Jew Fro v. Afro, Jets v. Sharks?
When you’re a Jew,
You’re a Jew all the way
From your first frizzy hair
To your last holy day.
Look, you’ve seen West Side Story with me enough times to know that this does not end well. And if you have seen me in the mirror at the end of the day over the past week or so, you probably already realize this, so what’s the deal, Jew Fro? You are not Old World enough to be able to pull off that special brand of cranky schwarzophobia, and any way, it seems a little late in life for that to be surfacing.
Tell me what gives, because this meshugass must end, and it must end soon. This is all about teamwork, Jew Fro. Put aside the issues you have working with the afro; do it via montage if you must.
I don’t care how you do it, really. Just…just do it.
In case you missed The Misadventures of Ed and Bob, here’s a tiny bit of context.
So, C. has been on her way home from Oregon in a minivan she is not driving. This apparently has meant that she has become intimately familiar with all of the on- and off-ramps from Oregon to California. She may even have named a few. I didn’t ask. Seems kinda personal.
So I thought I would mention that sometimes you just gotta take the wheel.
Hoof to the pedal, Bob. Hoof to the pedal.
(But not donut holes. Seriously, fuck those. They aren’t holes. The hole is what is left in the donut. They are donut balls. And that’s all I’m going to discuss about balls and holes today, or at least before lunch.)
Shit’s been heavy lately, and it’s time to lighten it up for a minute, I think, and tell you a story. The last time I did this, I told you the story of The Dick House, a terrifying tale of cannabis and disorientation. Today’s story will be much briefer, but I was reminded of it by the man sitting across from me at Arbor Cafe in Oakland. This guy looks just like a young Denzel Washington.
This is the story of why, even just aside from The Book of Eli, I can’t take Denzel Washington seriously.
When I was in college, I had a dream. In this dream I owned a bar. It was a beautiful bar, all wood paneling and a pool table, and polished brass accents. In walked Denzel Washington and a few of his friends, all dressed up like early 20th century mob bosses. He took off his fedora and smiled, and I said, “DENZEL!” And he said, “[WHISKEYPANTS]!”
And then I woke myself up laughing, because the entire dream was so absurd even my subconscious couldn’t keep a straight face. My girlfriend at the time was a witness to this, and will likely mock me until the end of time for dreaming that I was buddies with Denzel Washington.
But to this day, every time I see Mr. Washington in a movie, all I hear is “DENZEL!” And I laugh and then all the gravitas disappears from his character. (Team America: World Police did a similar thing and made it impossible for me to take Matt Damon seriously.)
But I’m not buddies with Denzel. Otherwise, I could call him up and say,
“DENZEL! What the fuck is going on in this photograph?
DENZEL, seriously. WTF. Wanna get coffee?”
And that’s the story of why I watch American Gangster for laughs.
Okay, so the very first thing you have to do is spend 30 seconds watching this video. Yes. This post has a video component. Watch it. Waaaaatch it.
Okay. Done? Now, this is what happens when C and I are allowed to:
- Run rampant on YouTube
- Think we are very clever and hilarious; and
- Text each other.
For reference, I am Ed. C is Bob. For this convo.
I am at my wits’ end. I have been trying to find work for a couple years, now, and I cannot so much as get a response from the employers to whom I am applying. I am hitting rock bottom, financially. Additionally, my perspective on the world around me is increasingly negative and I am losing focus. In short, with the exception of my love life, which is suddenly amazing (although I fear misstep in that area, too), I feel like I am going about life entirely wrong, and that I need some guidance.
Hollywood, I am going to say it outright: I need you to send me a magical negro. A magical negro would fix everything. Nobody gives out life advice and guidance like a magical negro. Obviously, Sidney Poitier and Joe Seneca (see: Crossroads) are no longer available, but I would certainly love the services provided by Morgan Freeman or Whoopi Goldberg, and I would absolutely settle for Will Smith, because, you know: Bagger Vance. Djimon Hounsou is a real up-and-comer, too—and we all know he is extra magical because of his accent—so if he’s looking to expand his magical negro resume, I’m down to help.
Now, normally I’d ask for a fairy godmother. However, while she might fix everything with a wave of the wand, I don’t know how I will learn all the wonderful life lessons and find whatever I need to find in my soul without a journey by the side of a magical negro. Also, I have plateaued on my guitar playing lately, and I just don’t think anybody could help me with that like a magical negro, preferably one in a battered hat and clothes that were in style somewhere between 1860 and 1960. And Hollywood, you know as well as I do that the kind of wisdom magical negroes offer sounds better when they look and sound like they stepped directly off the plantation or out of some ramshackle blues club in Mississippi or Louisiana. That is, of course, unless he’s a displaced African tribesman (also totally acceptable but probably less helpful for guitar).
Admit it, Hollywood: you know this is the obvious and best solution to my problems.
Please get back to me with your plan and method of delivery (e.g. wall of mist, pretend janitorial staff, surprise trip to Africa or the Crusades).
We only send magical negroes to white people. Negroes don’t need magical negroes because you are all inherently magical or criminals who either cannot benefit from advice or who need a helping hand from some upper middle class WASPs. We have faith that you will figure it out despite the handicap of also being part Native American, and therefore likely incredibly naïve and in desperate need of protection by white people, who will also play you in whatever movie we make of your life. Best of luck in your endeavors!
Dear Stephen King…
Remember Otto? As it turns out, he’s much better with paint than he is with unfamiliar musical instruments—as my beloved friends Sasha and Nate discovered while painting their imminent baby’s room this week (“Imminent Baby” is now my Britney Spears cover band name). He likes to help. And by “help,” I mean, “‘help’”. Sasha submitted this for your perusal and enjoyment, Gentle Readers.
So with no more ado, Conversations Sasha Gets To Have With Otto, and don’t forget—Otto speaks in all caps. It’s a thing.
Sasha: Hey, Otto. What are you up to?
Sasha: Wait, what’s that on your whiskers?
Sasha: Your whiskers are green and blue. And you have paint on your face.
Sasha: Oh, no, have you been in the baby’s room?
Sasha: Dammit, cat! I’m eight months pregnant. Don’t make me chase you. Oh, shit. Stay out of there!
Otto: *running away* HELPIIIING!
WP note: It’s true. He was definitely HELPING. I visited the apartment last night, and Otto had at least two different colors on his neck and whiskers. Good thing everything goes with black.
My dear friend Sasha pointed out that my blog composition has settled into a sort of triangle of topics. And I’m cool with that. It’s just not the topics I thought they would be. Witness:
Once again, the cats have won the internet. Resistance was futile. We’ve all been assimilated. And with that in mind, prepare yourselves for the most recent conversation with Otto, a guest blog from the abovementioned Sasha.
This is Otto (and my guitar):
(Otto speaks in all caps.)
Otto: WHAT IS THAT?
WP: It’s a guitar. You have seen these before.
Otto: YEAH BUT WHAT IS THAT?
WP: It’s a guitar, Otto.
Otto: DO I EAT IT?
WP: You can try.
Otto: OKAY. BUT WHAT IS IT?
WP: It’s a— Okay. Listen. *strums guitar*
Otto: OMG WTF WHAT IS THAT YOU SAID I COULD EAT IT.
And then he ran into the hallway and yelled at me from behind the door for five minutes before he forgot what had happened. The photo was taken at his second attempt to determine the nature of the guitar.
So, not too long ago, I posted this status on Facebook: “In a weird turn of events, I might be about to start dating somebody who actually likes me.”
While to my delight this post received a surprisingly high number of “likes”, there was also some concern (both on Facebook and off) that if somebody were busy making me happy, this blog would become, as my friend Mike put it, “all fluffy bunnies and hearts.”
Gentle Readers, don’t worry.
This fantastic, amazing girl may be making me pretty stupidly happy thus far, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a million things to be angry or frustrated about in the world. Privilege and privilege deniers still abound. Wall Street is still fucked up. The Republicans are still waging war against women, minorities, and the poor. The queer community in general is still comprised of second-class citizens in some way or another. Black kids are being murdered by racist fucks, who seem to be getting away with it. I remain constantly teetering on the edge of being unable to support myself. I still suck at guitar. I still work at two clubs. I still ride public transportation. I am still surrounded by other human beings because the stupid zombie apocalypse is late.
I could go on. But you get the point: This blog will never, ever be all fluffy bunnies and hearts. Or fluffy bunny hearts, because I want to keep the five or six readers I have.
I promise: if I have accidentally found actual romantic happiness, almost nothing will change here. The irritable snark is alive and well at terminallysnarky.com. And while I would find it extremely disappointing, this girl could always decide to dump me in some horrible way that includes kicking me in the shins and laughing while I’m down. It seems unlikely, but for those of you who are still worried about the potential for this blog’s descent into cheerful bliss, you can always hope for the worst.