This post is only one of a number of posts regarding the white middle class in the U.S.A. The reality of social justice can only happen if we white people understand the where, how, when and why our privilege came about. I have recently had it shoved in my face (by someone I went to school with, and therefore they had the same information taught to them) that many of our white population’s understanding of history is literally “alternative fact” based.
Unless we white people understand our history and our European ethnic history, in particular, we white people — in general — will never understand how both institutional privilege and personal privilege have developed into what we have today.
Too many of us white people only EVER look at our personal and individual current conditions, ignoring that very important history. The “minorities” who live side by side with us cannot ever ignore white history.
I will try to post this at the top of every post I write in this series. I will attempt to keep each post to a summary, as re-teaching history to the US’s white population is a monumental task. I can only hope that my summaries will encourage my fellow white people to look deeper into our culture’s history and learn a thing or two.
To understand privilege, we need to go all the way back to ancient history to what is often arrogantly called “Western Civilization.” More often than not, “Western Civilization” is primarily the history of Europe and its colonies. “Eastern Civilization,” on the other hand, isn’t defined by a specific people or type of people. It is defined as essentially anything that is not European nor Europe’s particular colonies (in schools in the U.S.A. we attempt to separate ourselves out from being a “European colony” but…as adults we should face facts…our founding WAS as sets of a number of different European countries’ colonies.
OK, so back to what has been considered the history of “Western Civilization.” This “starts” with the Roman and Greek cultures, because our European ancestors glorified those cultures over any other culture that was alive, thriving and more technologically advanced. In fact, the Assyrian Empire, the Egyptian Empire (being ruled from Nubia at the time — yes, Nubia…the same country that our people of color refer to), Ancient China and Ancient India were ALL quite active and each had more advanced technology than what the Greeks had. One of the reasons Europe glorified the Greeks is simply the person of Alexander the Great. His tactics are still studied in many “Western civilizations.” The claim is that India and China made no impact on European culture, therefore they were just never “important enough.”
OK, so I took some serious liberties paraphrasing from Ben’s original quote. However, it doesn’t make my title any less true.
As with many of my posts, this one is probably going to piss off people on both sides of the political spectrum. Again, just because it pisses you off, doesn’t mean that what I am saying is false.
I have a rather eclectic group of individuals among my Facebook friends. The ONLY groups I refuse to accept a friend request from are those either on the Alt-Right or on the (not media named, but essentially means the same kind of people but on the opposite end of the spectrum) Alt-Left.
I’ll be just as blunt with my reasons for refusing them as I am with any other subject. It’s very simple — they are zealots / extremists / fanatics — and I will have absolutely NONE of those who are on the fringe if EITHERthe Left ORthe Right.
Just as an aside: I FIRMLY disagree with Thesaurus.com’s inclusion of the word ‘activist’ in their synonyms for each of the red, underlined words in the above paragraph!
Sadly, I believe that because the definition of activist includes the word vigorous, that somehow means that vigorous is exactly the same as ardor or fervor for a zealot; exactly the same as farthest from the middle or farthest removed from the ordinary or average for an extremist; or exactly the same as an extreme and uncritical enthusiasm or zeal for a fanatic. I believe that if you have absolutely ANY analytical ability you can see that the above is nowhere NEAR exactly the same.
The United States, as a nation, is fairly young. Most of our acknowledged founders came from Europe, primarily from England/Scotland/Ireland (because the 18th century included turbulent wars and rebellions between these countries), France and Spain with a few others from assorted other Western European countries. I emphasize acknowledged founders, because they were not the only ones fighting for freedom, nor were these founders involved in creating our country. The unacknowledged founders included many women and so-called “minorities.” I’m not just talking about the wives of the founders nor any minority that filled the roles of slave or indentured servant. Just because your history classes never covered those roles nor acknowledged their existence doesn’t mean they were not involved.
Yet, there is something to remember here. As a nation, we are only 240 years old (if you take the Declaration of Independence the start of our nation as opposed to when our Constitution was signed in 1789, which makes our nation only 227 years old). The foundations of Western Europe were laid at the devolution of the Roman Empire (approximately 500 C.E.), making the nations of Western Europe approximately 1,516 years old.
If we choose 40 years old in a human being to be their reaching middle age and equate the age of Western Europe as with it, that means that our nation is essentially a 6-year-old (for those who like math, the ratio here is 1,516/40:240/x). If we take the founding of our nation based upon Columbus’ “discovery” of America (for those who like math, the ratio here is 1,516/40:227/x) it still only makes us just 13-years-old. Personally, I think we are closer to the development of the 6-year-old given what I see in our cultural development.
I don’t remember where I originally heard this Latin phrase. But it is very descriptive of how I feel as an American right now. No, I’m not planning on dumping on the people who voted for Trump. Some of them did so not because they are racist, sexist, homophobic or any other label you want to give them. So, why did they?
And no, not all of them are “rural hicks” as many urbanites seem to want to paint them.
Some of them actually have traditionally voted Democratic.
We have to talk about the elephant in the room that isn’t President Trump (and, yes, I cringe when I say that. But I was taught to give respect to the office of President regardless of who sat in the Oval Office) who is over in the other corner stomping on our Constitution.
The Democratic Party shot itself in the foot. And they are still not taking responsibility for what they did. Party insiders decided that Clinton was “THE Candidate” even though there were real concerns about her ethics and her choices. No, it wasn’t a “Republican smear campaign” as they tried to reframe those concerns. Those of us who have actually watched her rise to power who didn’t trust her had very good reasons for doing so.
But the party leaders wanted to follow up after the “first African-American President” (That seems like it should be a trademarked phrase, as often as I have heard it spoken about) with the “first female President.” And instead of actually looking around for a woman who didn’t have Clinton’s additional baggage, they chose instead to force her onto their constituency. THAT is as much a reason for why we have Trump as our president as all of the other reasons people are talking about.
Too many white people, including those who consider Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to be a role model, forget that not only was he a Civil Rights leader or a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate but also a Baptist minister. They seem to only think about the one speech — “I Have a Dream.” Coming from a very religious family background, I cannot forget he was a minister. And as such, I have been trying to read through his sermons.
Sermons are essentially lectures with a Biblical basis (usually a particular verse or set of verses). Watching my father prepare his sermons and listening to them in church, I can also tell you from personal experience that they also teach you about the character and integrity of the minister.
Particularly important to our current situation is this sermon from November, 1957.
There is a culture of hate and demonization that is splitting this country apart. Sadly, I am seeing many parallels between our current situation and both the causes of the Civil War (1861-1865) as well as the Civil Rights movement (that most of us seem to date as only being inclusive of 1950-1970, but truly is still part of the whole issue that the Civil War brought to light and honesty – and still continues today, because it has never ended).
One of the biggest question many people have been asking themselves since the election is “how did this happen?” I’ve heard many different theories, most of them regurgitating the same old political lines. Well, they might have some truth to them. Is the Democratic Party guilty of elitist progressivism? Definitely. Did they railroad Hillary Clinton candidacy, regardless of any other option? Probably. Has the Democratic Party focused more on urban areas and academia to the detriment of rural Americans? Again, definitely.
The issue is that both urban and rural areas have some similarities, but those similarities are part of the problem. Population density has been the basis of most of the programs, initiatives and policies by our government (including those that have been bi-partisan). It should be obvious that rural areas, by definition, have lower population densities than urban areas. Unfortunately, our leadership (including many Republicans) has ignored the shrinking ability of these communities to support the needs of their people.
However, there is a portion of our nation’s citizenry that many people do not understand. Moreover, I have yet to have seen any discussion of them. These are our fellow citizens who are evangelicals. In fact, when people talk about them, it is usually quite derogatory or mocking. We also tend to give them short shrift because the urban poor are obvious to anyone who spends time in the poorer sections of our cities. The rural poor? The nicest stereotype is Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel (from the Simpsons, seen to the right) or maybe the Beverly Hillbillies.
I made no bones about having an issue with Secretary Clinton over this last year. I sat and watched while our assorted political machines ground exceedingly fine. Unlike the original variations of the previous idiom, this is not saying that they — like justice or the Divine — eventually return to the right action, but that they attempted to force their choices upon the public.
It’s sad that the portion of the public that is Republican were able to overwhelm their party’s puppet-makers, while the Democratic party was able to force their choices down their followers’ throats.
And now, those same supposed “leaders” are desperately trying to point fingers and avoid the repercussions of their actions.
I remember having discussions in the 80s about whether or not we would see an African-American President or a woman President during our lifetimes. I can remember very firmly stating that before any woman was elected as President, that an African-American male would happen far earlier than a woman. This prediction, obviously, came true.
The thing is, the Democratic party has become complacent. They have, with the struggles of America not only during the Obama years, but also in the Bush Jr. years, felt that the Republicans have spent so much time destroying themselves that they could just push through whatever Presidential candidate they wanted and the country would fall in line with their plans.
They forgot that any government leads only upon the consent of the governed.
I’m seeing a lot of people playing the labeling game. You know what I mean. Everyone has those particular stereotypes into which they like to put the people they meet. This happens most often when people meet other people that are so different from themselves that they struggle to understand them. And too many people don’t care enough to understand someone beyond the first impression they get.
It’s simple, people. There is no actual monolithic group of “urban elites” nor is there any monolithic group of “white rural Americans.”
From someone who has spent the greater portion of her life in a city (mostly in the seamy underbelly), we’ve made many great strides toward realizing that there is an entire spectrum of personalities, labels and other ways to separate people from each other. Even within groups there is a wide range of differences. And, often because of how closely packed urban areas are, we are forced to learn to live along side people who are radically different than ourselves.
And, from now having been living in a rural area for almost 3 years, I am being forced to understand that rural America is no different in that respect. There is just as much diversity in the rural areas as there are in urban areas.
I’ve made no bones that I think of myself more as a centrist than anything else when it comes to political thought. Yes, I stray more toward the liberal end of the spectrum particularly when it comes to matters of social justice.
Now, why would I emphasize the word spectrum in the last paragraph? Because we seem to have forgotten that no issue in this world is a simple binary set. Yes, there are oppositional states, but the human brain is never quite so limited to the simplistic idea that something is either/or.
What does that have to do with this election? Quite a bit, actually.
We have two different sets of people acting in two different kinds of anti-social behavior. But both kinds of anti-social behavior are based in one simple emotion: Fear.
I had Facebook discussion with a cousin that was a tangent from the actual original post but was very enlightening nonetheless.
Now, one of the things that is clear is that my cousin is a conservative. And while I prefer to stick to a centrist point of view (with, yes, I admit, liberal leanings — particularly in the case of socialjustice), I do try to understand what makes people tick. I particularly want to understand when those people are closer to the ends of the spectrum (on both ends) than myself.
In this case, we were having a discussion about the differences perceived when two or more people are discussing words like “racism,” “sexism” or other assorted -isms. The complaint was that people were re-defining those words to “suit themselves.”
This led not only to a discussion of the denotation versus connotation of a word, but how the connotation of a word can change depending upon the context of the person or persons involved as well as the conversation in which it is being used.
When people use the word “context,” it is most often used as relating to words or the surrounding paragraphs of a word or phrase. What people forget is that “context” has more use than just in relation to words.
Look at a thesaurus and you will find some of the synonyms of “context” include: situation, environment, “frame of reference,” condition and setting.
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