It’s a Mad, Mad World

Monkey Boy in a hoodie ~2008

People are mad. Really mad. People are angry. Super angry. People are spewing venom at each other. It’s ugly.

People are mad at women, minorities and well, pretty much everyone.

For instance, author Jen Hatmaker wrote about her reaction to the shooting of Trayvon Martin. She’s a lily-white woman. She and her husband have three biological children and two children adopted from Ethiopia. She’s had a significant awakening to how the world reacts to her black son versus how it reacts to her white son.

I casually consumed my white privileges – these unearned assets that granted me the benefit of the doubt and free passes and guaranteed security and permanent insider status – assuming that anyone else, anyone, could enjoy these same advantages by making good choices and working hard.

But it is simply not true, because the same system that keeps me on top keeps you on bottom. If anyone is automatically granted insider status, by definition that means someone has outsider status. We see this when a black student or man or woman accomplishes something extraordinary, and they are called “a credit to their race.” If a white person pulled off the same thing, he would just be called awesome. You have to work harder for acknowledgment, and then singling it out as an exception to the rule diminishes and demeans your merit.

I didn’t know about the Black Male Code, because I didn’t have to. I had the luxury of knowing my sons would breeze through applications and security lines and entrance exams and interviews, receiving unmerited approval at the first glance.

The comments to her post are stomach-churning. The open hate for people who are non-white is stunning. I’m not stupid. I know that exists. But in my progressive little bubble, with my forward thinking friends, it’s easy to forget how deep and wide it can be.

But it’s not just limited to minorities. I came across a piece by writer David Wong, “5 Ways Modern Men Are Trained to Hate Women.” It’s funny, smart, strikingly feminist, and I kept thinking the whole time I read it that I was being punked. I can’t remember ever reading a piece like this written by a man before.

This current of white-hot rage has to come as a surprise to some of you, because we tend to think “sexism” is being dismissive toward women, or paying them lower salaries — we don’t think of it as frenzied “burn the witch!” hatred. Yet occasionally something like this Limbaugh thing will come along to prick that balloon, and out it pours. Like it’s always waiting there, a millimeter below the surface.

Anger like this comes from somewhere. It’s obviously been percolating quite some time.

You cannot talk about race without talking about privilege, and when people start talking about privilege, they get paralyzed by shame. ~Brene Brown

Brene Brown knows a lot about shame. She’s researched it for almost a decade. I’ve written about how great her work is before. I think she’s right on target here about race and gender. The shame of privilege in our country makes people violently angry.

Let me be perfectly clear: I like white men. A lot. I’m married to one. I’m raising one. I’m friends with a lot of white guys.

I don’t want my son to ever be ashamed of who he is. Or any white man, for that matter. But I do want him to mindful that the body he happened to be born into, in the country lives in, in the middle-class family he is growing up in, comes with a lot of perks. He is part of the single-most privileged class of people this world has ever known.

And it’s his job to first acknowledge that, be honest about it, and then work to make things better. Every day when he leaves for school I ask him a series of questions:

Me: Who are you?
Him: A big, strong boy!
Me: And how do big, strong boys act?
Him: Kind, polite and helpful!
Me: Now go be who you are!

And then I pat him on the bum to send him into the world.

Maybe that’s where we could all start. It’s hard to go wrong with kind, polite and helpful. (But I’m not patting the rest of you on the bum. That would just be weird.)

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2 Comments

Filed under The view from here

2 responses to “It’s a Mad, Mad World

  1. jen

    Seriously awesome post. It is easy to forget when you are surrounded by like-minded people that some people still harbor such virulence.

  2. Stephanie

    Great post!!!