Girly Thoughts

November 5, 2008

Disturbing

Filed under: Uncategorized — judgesnineteen @ 7:24 pm

I realized that my inability to be excited about this for too long at a time is coming from more than my family.  A conversation I had last night bothered me more than I realized, and the more I think back on it, the more I see why.  I talked to the only two people at the election party that weren’t happy about Obama winning.  They were gracious losers, but I was curious and I asked the more vocal one what his issues were, why he felt the way he did.  So we started talking, with the other person occasionally chiming in.  The other person, by the way, is a close friend of mine who I had assumed was for Obama.  So the guy explained that he was for small government, but he was also for protective tariffs.  Not really a libertarian thing – he seemed to be libertarian but only for the US, he didn’t appear to care much about other countries.  I’m sure he’d rather them not starve to death, but unlike me, he didn’t seem to see a connection between history and current poverty, whether inside or outside of our borders.  He used the “I’ve never met a slave” line.  So I started on my spiel about wealth being passed down – or not – through generations.  He said that the Southerners lost their investment when slaves were freed and I said yeah, but the slaves didn’t get any money either, and they didn’t have anything to begin with, and he said “They got freedom.”  I pointed out that everyone else already had freedom, and I still don’t understand what his point was with that.

UPDATE: I think I see part of what threw me off there.  The financial situation of the former slave owners did not prove anything about the financial situation of the slaves.  For him to bring that up as if it was a contradiction of what I said, and as if the slaves getting freedom took care of anything that was owed to them (WTF%*$#@), gives me the impression that he saw this from an us vs. them perspective rather than feeling detached from either group and just looking back and what was fair and what wasn’t.  And anyway, the slave owners had already gotten returns on their investment in people before they had to free their slaves.

I asked him if he thought we lived in a meritocracy and he pretty much said that he realizes we don’t, but.  So the buts were like, he thinks black culture is what causes the problems in black communities, rather than racism or poverty.  I asked what he meant by culture.  He said drugs, and we agreed that drugs – especially being illegal – create a weird dynamic that’s dangerous.  He’s not saying yay war on drugs, he said they should probably be legalized to eliminate that dynamic.  You can’t accuse him of being a fundie, which I appreciate.  Then he said, also rap.  I said I think rap is a reaction to something.  The other person said, no, it used to be, but now they just make money by selling albums to white suburban kids.  I don’t see how that shows that rap is responsible for the failure of black people…and I still think rap is a reaction to circumstances, even if it’s not as much of an optimistic or invigorating reaction as it originally was.  To explain what I meant, I talked about the argument that a blog (Feministe? sorry I have terrible source amnesia) pointed out on Alas, A Blog, that black teens might get pregnant at such high rates because it’s actually a rational decision given their circumstances (lower opportunity costs, earlier peak of health, etc).  He pretty much blew that off.

When we talked about drugs, I said legalizing them would be nice because it would mean less imprisonment of black men, which is a huge part of the problem.  He replied “We put people in prison because they commit crimes, not because they’re black.”  At the time I just tried to explain my issues with prison, starting with the idea that nonviolent crimes shouldn’t be punished with prison, which he seemed to agree with.  But later I realized that’s basically a denial of racism in the criminal justice system, which is a pretty big denial.  I’m shocked he would say that, and I’m shocked by how the other person seemed so eager to jump in and prove, from time to time, that black people’s problems are their own fault.

I know these issues are complicated, and I certainly know there are always individuals who will “prove” any sociological trend wrong.  I know that a person’s philosophy of what government’s job is can differ without it making them a bad person.  My friend hinted, actually both of them did, at us Obama supporters being fanatics.  Maybe I shouldn’t have taken that personally, but I was taken aback.  I criticize the Democrats.  I don’t put Obama’s face all over everything I own.  I see complexity and I tell people when their way of disagreeing with me is a valid one.  What I don’t do is ignore the past and the inequality of opportunity that affects our country in order to better support a particular worldview.  I could do that, it would be very easy and very beneficial to me.  I wouldn’t be divided from my family, I would be fighting to keep my own money, I’d get to shrug off any guilt about benefiting from privilege.  So when I argue against everything that protects my privilege, I must have a pretty compelling reason.  It’s because I know that we do, at times, put people in prisons because they’re black, and that on several occasions, the US has incurred debts to black people that have never been repaid, and if you’re looking for a reason for the state of the ghetto, PERHAPS racism and poverty should be among your suspects.

Overall they’re cool people and it was by far the most rational debate I’ve had in a loooong time.  But that’s the thing, they’re so smart and so rational and it freaks me out a little bit that they seem to be denying the role of racism in these issues.  It’s sort of Twilight Zone-ish for me, especially because it went so against my expectations of my friend (which isn’t her fault of course, just a quirk of the situation).  And it just made me feel so much more alone, because she’s one of the few people who got me before I changed all my beliefs and sort of changed along with me, and gets me now, too.  Or at least I thought she did.  Between that and a family member giving me false hope (again, not her fault) by sounding really moderate when she asked for my views and then ending up really conservative, I just feel like I’ve got no one on my side…even as I walk around a campus literally covered in Obama’s name.

Well, I’ll be spending the next couple of hours with non-citizens, so maybe I can just get away from all of this for a little while.

Also, how disappointed am I about the gay marriage bans?  Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised, but I really didn’t think they’d get enough votes, considering it had to be more than a simple majority.  Really takes the oomph out of this win for me.  But at least the next four years will be different.

PS – If you want to see what racism looks like, look at the automatically generated link Violence in Black Culture or whatever it’s called.

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4 Comments »

  1. Just before you said something like it, I thought the situation of Black people would be so much better if you just legalized marijuana. Yeah, people can say, why don’t they just not do drugs but they don’t do drugs any more than white people. Though it does seem crazy that people do illegal drugs when there are such big punishments. I would never ever do marijuana in the States but then I’m able to come back to Canada and do it if I wanted knowing it “might as well be legal”.
    The gay marriage ban surprised me. I don’t know how accepting we are in Canada but I certainly think there are fewer people who think being gay is WRONG. And those are the people who are hardest to change. I used to think being gay was hard to understand but they should have rights like everyone and then I just had to meet gay people to become accepting. I just can’t imagine being told all my life that being gay is wrong. I can’t imagine how prejudiced that would make me. I thought progress was being made in the last 10-15 years with seeing gay people more positively.

    Comment by Lyndsay — November 5, 2008 @ 11:53 pm | Reply

  2. Hi judgesnineteen

    I totally know how you feel. I come from Singapore where we have a deeply stratified schooling system and all my peers were extraordinarily clever, intellectual people – but also generally racist, misogynist and homophobic. I felt kinship with them because of our similarities in background and I could never grasp why they didn’t feel the injustices of our society (e.g. mandatory death penalty for drug dealing, widespread abuse of domestic workers) the way I did. “They’re rational people!” I thought. Eventually I realised that the ability to discuss matters using the apparatus of logic and evidence and syntactically correct sentences says nothing about someone’s empathy, and realised I shouldn’t have been surprised. The heart has to want to move to the right place as well. I don’t know how that shift can be persuaded into being, and I rather suspect it can’t.

    This probably doesn’t help much, but just so you know, at least one of your readers feels you.

    Comment by Not a Whisper — November 6, 2008 @ 10:24 am | Reply

  3. Not a Whisper – thanks for commiserating with me! And for reading through stuff that’s all about the US, I hate to focus on just one country so much, but it’s what I know. Maybe my problem is that I always think if I just make my point clear enough, they’ll have to see it, when really it’s an issue of empathy.

    Lyndsay – I do think acceptance of gay people is coming fast – the difference in attitudes over my lifetime has been pretty impressive, unless the world didn’t change and it was just my peers and I maturing and seeing more. But it’s still so depressing. I tried a separation of church and state argument on a family member, comparing banning gay marriage with banning wearing crosses or something – the point being that you should have the right to do what you want, not to keep other people from doing something just because you don’t like it – and she wrote back explaining why she doesn’t like gay marriage.

    Comment by judgesnineteen — November 7, 2008 @ 10:04 pm | Reply

  4. “and she wrote back explaining why she doesn’t like gay marriage.”

    I don’t like smoking and it’s still legal. 😉 Does she actually think not liking something is an argument?

    The empathy point is good. It’s probably more helpful for the world for people to develop more empathy rather than more logic anyway.

    Comment by Lyndsay — November 8, 2008 @ 9:20 am | Reply


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