Category Archives: Privilege

Do you live in a bubble? Yeah, me too!

You’ve probably seen some version of the NPR bubble quiz.  It was published in March, 2016, but has been making the rounds on Facebook again.

It’s prefaced like this:

There exists a new upper class that’s completely disconnected from the average white American and American culture at large, argues Charles Murray, a libertarian political scientist and author.

Of course, if it’s based on Charles Murray’s work, it gets an automatic 5-star bullshit rating, but I took it for fun, and learned that I’m pretty bubblified:  my father was a lawyer; I’ve never owned a pickup truck; and I can’t identify military insignia.  I’m saved from total hermetically sealed oblivion by the fact that I have had friends who are evangelical Christians, have purchased Avon products,* and am pretty sure Tim would have gone fishing in the past five years if it weren’t so inaccessible.

Why is it, though, that we only think of educated middle-class liberals as living in a bubble?  And those in Murray’s white suburban Christian bubble as defining “American culture”?

Want to see if you are part of “American culture” as millions of people outside the exurbs of the south and midwest experience it?  Take the official ThoughtSnax Bubble Quiz!


Do you have any close friends or family members who rely on a wheelchair to get around (full time; not just at the airport)?**

Have you ever been unable to shop, dine out, or patronize an entertainment venue because of architectural barriers?

Have you ever been unable to enjoy a movie, play, concert, or sporting event because of communications barriers?

Do you consider people with significant disabilities who do ordinary things like work, shop, or dine out with friends to be “inspirational”?

Do you regularly interact professionally with professionals of other races or national origins?

Do you have any friends who are gay or lesbian?  Trans?  That you know of?

Do you know what “trans” means?

Have you ever been mis-gendered or dead-named?  Do you know what this means?

Have you ever read a book, article, or poem by any of the following?

  • Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • Dan Savage
  • Laura Hershey
  • Viet Thanh Nguyen
  • Stephen Kuusisto
  • N.K. Jemisin
  • Junot Diaz
  • Marjane Satrapi
  • Philip Pullman
  • Jhumpa Lahiri

Have you or anyone close to you ever feared for their life, health, or safety at the hands of the police?

Have you or anyone close to you ever feared for their life, health, or safety if pending Republican “health” “care” legislation were to pass?

Do you know any Jews?

Do you know any Jews as personal friends, not just colleagues or professionals?

Do you know who any of these people are?

  • Fred Korematsu
  • Maysoon Zayid
  • Stella Young
  • Audre Lorde
  • Justin Dart
  • Sarah McBride
  • Bill Lann Lee
  • I. King Jordan
  • Bree Newsome

Have you ever had anyone attempt to proselytize you or convert you to their religion?

Do you have an education that you’re proud of?

Have you ever experienced discrimination on the basis of your race, sexual orientation, gender/identity/expression, disability, or national origin?

Has anyone ever assumed you were:

  • the nanny?
  • the help?
  • the aide?
  • unable to speak for yourself?
  • not married to your actual spouse because you’re the same gender?
  • not married to your actual spouse because one of you has a disability?
  • a different religion, nationality, or gender because you don’t look like they assume people of your religion, nationality, or gender should look?

Have you ever been on the receiving end of a “bless your heart!”

Are you sick and tired of non-disabled, straight, cis, white, Christian conservatives acting all superior because you answered “yes” to many of these questions?

UPDATE (from my astute and perceptive sister-in-law, Terri Robertson):

Have you ever been subjected to harassment because of your gender?

Have you had your reproductive or sexual health choices questioned?

Do you dress based on fear?

Can you walk by yourself in a parking garage without fear? Can you walk anywhere by yourself without fear?

UPDATE II (from my astute and perceptive step-sister-in-law*** Annie McQuilken):

Have you ever had your parenting skills questioned in public because your kid didn’t look or behave “typically”?

******

*The quiz did not require me to have used these products.

**You knew that would be first, right?

*** My parents did not supply me with any sisters, but luckily we have an extensive blended family that provided a few.

Micro Aggressor Dramatic Overreaction Syndrome

Envard Munch’s “The Scream.” Description from the BBC: Beneath a boiling sky, aflame with yellow, orange and red, an androgynous figure stands upon a bridge. Wearing a sinuous blue coat, which appears to flow, surreally, into a torrent of aqua, indigo and ultramarine behind him, he holds up two elongated hands on either side of his hairless, skull-like head. His eyes wide with shock, he unleashes a bloodcurdling shriek. Despite distant vestiges of normality – two figures upon the bridge, a boat on the fjord – everything is suffused with a sense of primal, overwhelming horror.My first blog post* — presciently titled “In which I start my new blog by offending everyone” — discussed the fact that ostensibly right-thinking people, who have banished from their vocabulary epithets based on race, gender/identity, religion, national origin, and sexual orientation are still more than willing to toss around epithets based on disability.  And when you call these paradigms of liberal open-mindedness on this insulting inconsistency, you get a very consistent reaction:  that’s just one too many interest group’s feelings to keep track of.

This is such a consistent reaction it needs a name:  Micro Aggressor Dramatic Overreaction Syndrome.

Yesterday, I had this email exchange with a well-respected older, white, male, lefty plaintiff’s lawyer — let’s call him “Joe” because, I promise you, that’s not his name — starting with a post to a listserv about what one person might have known about another:**

Joe (to listserv):  I know that love is blind, but I don’t think it’s blind, deaf and dumb.  (Apologies for use of non-PC references to visual, auditory and speech disabilities.)

Me (in a private email to Joe):  C’mon Joe: “ I know that love is blind, but I don’t think it’s blind, deaf and dumb.  (Apologies for use of non-PC references to visual, auditory and speech disabilities.)”   You know we love you, but that’s really not OK.  I always try to do the protected-class switcheroo:   would you have said something demeaning about a person of color, LGBTQI person, etc, and then excused it as “non-PC”?  Thanks.

This, of course, would have been a good time for Joe to say “oops, I fucked up” or “sorry, I didn’t think about it that way.”  Instead, he doubled down and displayed a classic case of Micro Aggressor Dramatic Overreaction Syndrome:

I was trying to inject a note of levity, although that note might have been flat.

Of course, I did not mean that love is literally blind.  Obviously, the term “blind” is a metaphor.  So is the word “blind” in the saying, “There are none so blind as those who will not see.”  That refers to people who will not see, in a volitional sense, not to those who cannot see, who have a severe vision disability.

My use of “deaf” and “dumb” was also metaphorical, although in this case it might have been volitional as well.  [Did the witness choose not to know?]**

Maybe I’ll just swear off metaphors.  They can be treacherous.

“Oh poor me!  Instead of thinking about people with disabilities as human beings instead of metaphors for failure, I’ll just swear off metaphors!”  Micro Aggressor Dramatic Overreaction Syndrome.  And of course, it’s the metaphoricalness (metaphorocity?) that’s the problem:  he invokes disability as a negative quality of someone who apparently refuses to recognize a bad fact about someone else.

I responded:

You don’t have to swear off metaphors; only those based on negative associations with protected classes.  I’m guessing you wouldn’t metaphorically call someone an “Indian giver,” or use the term “Jew him down,” or “n****r in the woodpile.”  All of these are metaphors that we have long ago left behind – with good reason.  Disability metaphors are some of the last to go, but I think it’s time to leave them behind too.

Thanks for thinking this through.

No response, which I suppose is as it should be:  we’d each said our piece.  I said this two years ago and I’ll say it again:

I’m done. I’m done being polite.***  I’m done shutting up about good liberals who seem to get every sort of civil rights and civil liberties except the equality of rights, respect, and dignity of our brothers and sisters with disabilities.  I’m done with disability rights as a “when we get around to it” right.  I’m done with people who are willing to use respectful terminology except — *big sigh* — avoiding using the word “retard” is just one step too far toward thought control.  And I’m done with “civil rights” law firms in inaccessible offices and “civil rights” lawyers who don’t hire interpreters.  I’m done.

Still done.  Even more done.

***************

*Not actually THE first blog post — which was, of course, “Hello, World!” — but next after that one.

**Eliding any information that might actually relate to the case in question.

***Yes, I know, there is clear and convincing evidence that I was done with politeness, as a general matter, a long time ago.

Trump critique: OK vs. Not OK

Not OK:

  • His mental health.
  • His body shape.
  • His need for a mobility device to get to the G7 photo.  Josh Marshall, looking at you:  “Look on the bright side. Could have been a mobility scooter.”  Seriously?

OK:

  • His policies, cronies, ignorance, and greed will kill us all.

#googlemapsprivilege

All of my anger today is for cops who murder Black people and evil fucks who murder cops. In the wake of this, as every, police shooting, we remember the others.  Michael Brown. Tamir Rice.  Eric Garner. Sandra Bland.  #blacklivesmatter

But some of the stories and posts I’m seeing brought to mind a different hashtag:

#googlemapsprivilege

The ability to take a simple drive and get to your destination at about the time Google Maps says you will, that is, without being randomly stopped, suspected, delayed, and generally fucked with simply because you are (1) Black and (2) in a car.

Last night, a professional woman who sits on the board of our non-profit recounted this story in a Facebook comment:

I was pulled over right outside Denver Botanic Gardens by a cop who said I “looked like I was trying too hard to get away from him” after leaving the drive-thru at Wendy’s. I had on a really menacing business suit.

Ed Garnes — who I don’t know but whose post was shared enough times that I got to read it — recounts this incident:

Black Death is a sport. This is a fact with history on it’s side. When the police are involved my “fancy” education, two parent household upbringing, and clean criminal record will not save me. This year alone I have been followed by police over 10 times. I have paid over 400 dollars in tickets that were not warranted. This past weekend I was followed for 5 miles by an officer in Douglasville. Luckily, I was able to find a “safe area” with people as the officer pulled up beside my car and stared me down. I called a friend who then escorted me back to the highway so I could return to the south side. A few months ago, someone called the police on me for merely retrieving items from my vehicle at the univ of Tennessee, a campus where I work and attend school. My 4.0 gpa meant nothing. In Knoxville the past 3 weeks, someone has spit in my food at a local eatery and spit on my car leaving tangible evidence of hate. This is my reality as a Black man dodging death like some super hero who never knows if this minute is my last. If I die today, y’all better fight for me. Fuck a hashtag.

Same with this astonishing list from John Fleming:

Have you ever:

1) Been accused of being a drug dealer in a neighborhood b/c you’re driving a nice car and get racial profiled?

2) Been stopped and detained in a parking garage in downtown Austin by EIGHT state troopers and be accused of being an alleged rapist (who they then said was a white red head male after they finally let me go) from Georgetown, TX?

3)Had a gun drawn on you b/c you went to reach for your WALLET for a traffic stop?

4) Lived your entire life wondering how from when I was a little boy until this very post how your cousin, who was a State Marshall in Texas, (whom you looked up to and admired) was found dead in his East Texas home and his death was never solved?

5) Been WALKING from your office after a day’s work to the parking garage and get stopped by a UTPD Police officer and asked for your ID without cause at the Blanton Parking Garage b/c someone reported that an African American male was seen strung out on drugs selling drugs in the garage? I was held and detained for approximately 30 mins while they ran my license with UTPD, APD, State and Nation.

6) Been pulled over traveling south on I-35 in Oklahoma just a few miles before crossing back into Texas and have a Oklahoma State Trooper pull you over for TRAVELING 60 in a 70mph area for speeding, get asked to step out of your car while your sister and her 3 daughters are in the car and be escorted back to the front seat of the Troopers K-9 Ford Expedition with a barking vigilant German Shepard in the back seat as you are interrogated and then released for a warning when he learns that your cousin is STATE SENATOR FOR THE STATE OF OKLAHOMA?

All of the above are true and they HAPPENED TO ME!

It’s a privilege to stay alive and it’s another privilege to get to your fucking destination without having to pull over and have a discussion about the way you drove out of the Wendy’s drive thru, or what sort of car you’re driving, or the fact that no, except for skin color, you do not look like the robber/rapist/drug dealer they are looking for, or your broken tail-light, or your expired plates.  I’ve been driving on expired plates since February, it was recently pointed out to me BY A FRIEND, NOT BY A COP.

I have been pulled over approximately five times in my life.  All but one of them were for my admitted habit of driving 10-25 mph over the speed limit.  In other words: righteous stops, for which I got tickets and points.   The other was for making a right turn without signaling.  Suburban Minnesota.  Late at night.  Officer shined the flashlight in my eyes.  I kept my hands on the wheel.  I got a warning not to do that again and was sent on my way.

I think this is some of what Justice Sotomayor was talking about when she use the term “civil death.”

We must not pretend that the countless people who are routinely targeted by police are “isolated.” They are the canaries in the coal mine whose deaths, civil and literal, warn us that no one can breathe in this atmosphere. See L. Guinier & G. Torres, The Miner’s Canary 274–283 (2002). They are the ones who recognize that unlawful police stops corrode all our civil liberties and threaten all our lives. Until their voices matter too, our justice system will continue to be anything but.

Utah v. Strieff, No. 14-1373, 2016 WL 3369419, at *16 (U.S. June 20, 2016) (Sotomayor, J., dissenting).

#whiteprivilegeisreal.  So is #googlemapsprivilege.

White/class/athlete privilege at its most vile.

Brock Turner raped an unconscious woman.  He got a six-month sentence.  That’s enough white privilege right there:  how many people of color are serving 5- and 10-year sentences for non-violent crimes?  Actually, how many working class people?   How many stoners of all colors?

That wasn’t enough, though.  With the lowest sense of self-awareness outside the Trump campaign, Turner’s father argued in a letter to the Court that

incarceration [was] not the appropriate punishment for Brock [because it would be] a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of life.

Seriously?  Let’s count up the other crimes that can be committed in under 20 minutes that will still get you a significant sentence.  Stealing a car?  Burgling a house?  Hell, you can kill someone in less then 20 minutes — a gunshot takes under one second.   Who will stand up at the next murder trial to argue that life in prison is a steep price to pay for 0.20 of a second out of 20 plus years of life?

The letter goes on to parody itself by complaining that Brock no longer enjoys eating “big ribeye steak[s]” . . . or “his favorite snack.”  Seriously?  We have represented a class of inmates in solitary confinement.  They are no longer enjoying ribeyes with their dads.  Shall we calculate how long their crimes took and let them out?

I have no words.  OK, maybe a few.