The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Blind Spots and Privilege

Some may disagree, but I think that the major communication problem that has kept the discussion about Race going is that those who recieve privilege have an excruciatingly difficult time seeing it.   Often, people believe that if they were members of a disadvantaged group, they would actually have done BETTER in life (I can hardly think of a greater insult.)  There are so many gradients of advantage that almost everyone has experienced the positive and negative results, and most of us are in more than one category at the same time: White, male, Christian, American, lean-bodied, heterosexual, wealthy, educated, tall--these are just some of the "advantage" categories, and there are many others, and in different cultures you can plug in different values.  Of course, there are specific social situations where being gay, working-class, non-Christian, female, black or Asian, etc. can also have advantages.  In general, most of these are more restricted.  One of the exceptions, is the Male-Female dichotomy, which I think really doesn't work as strongly to the detriment of women as many women think.  It can't be argued that in countries like  Afghanistan women suffer  terribly--but note that this created the highest infant mortality rate in the world, a condition that would have crippled their society within a couple of generations.  When it comes to men and women, I tend to think that women's dreams are disposible, and men's lives are disposible--that each side pays massively to create a society in which the maximum number of children have a chance to survive into the next generation...but that is a subject for another time.
What IS a subject is, if I am correct, it is horrendously difficult for the people who have recieved privilege to see it.  They usually just can't.  Until the thing about black men and sex is pointed out, white folks cannot see it.  It has amazed me, but it's true.  And I think Americans don't tend to see or believe the way their advantages have caused misery to others.  It is just hard.  It triggers guilt, and even more, I think it triggers a sense of: "Hey--I worked damned hard for everything I've gotten.  Now you're telling me I got it because I was Group X?  Thats Bull@#$#!" 
This is so common, so almost universal, that we drop the facts and observations that are obvious to others into some emotional black hole until we are ready to deal with it.  But this also happens about weight issues, relationship dysfunction issues, alcoholic issues--the dysfunctional family is a dishonest family.  This happens on a personal level, a family level, a social level, a national level. WE NEED OUR MYTHS.  Most human beings have an incredibly difficult time accepting a truth that is hurtful.  Unless we can see a solution, we don't want to know the truth ("if there's no cure for the cancer, I don't even want to know the diagnosis.")
I believe that we need exactly the opposite approach. To be able to see the positive and negative aspects of our behaviors clearly, to clearly define the problem is to be half-way to the answer.  Without claiming I am "right" about the topics we've been covering, I wanted to thank those who participated in the discussions, because hopefully they've provided us with glowing examples of just how hard communication is here.  Every single communication was polite, humane, intelligent, speaking of issues that both sides were knowlegeable of, and look how hard it is to come to a consensus?  Can we not be incredibly proud of ourselves as a country that we've managed to hammer out agreement on so many hairy and painful topics?  I know I surely am.
Most importantly, where are YOUR blind spots?  Where do YOU hide the things that are painful.  You know what?  Unless you have some kind of B.S. detector operating in your life, I guarantee that you have honking big ones.   Even with the best B.S. detectors I know of, manure will creep into your living room.  Yet and still, I implore you  to adapt the Triangle approach of Body, Mind, and Spirit. Goals you are committed to.  And where you have flaws, consider your B.S. detector to be triggered.  Something is wrong.  Your reality map is warped.  You have hidden or negative belief patterns.  GET TO WORK.  Our time on this planet is so limited.  Fear is the divider.  Love is the uniter.  Trust your hearts, people--each and every one of us deserve the best.  Especially from ourselves.


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