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.”
I was rewatching Halle Berry’s Catwoman tonite, and it got me thinking. I know that Wonder Woman is supposed to be this great re-visioning of what it means to be a strong, independent woman. I know many people looked at Catwoman as a complete and utter failure because of any number of excuses.
But what struck me is that what the movie does is reveals that women can only be free when they choose to define themselves, when they choose their identity and are true to it. It’s not about being “good” or being “bad,” but being who they are at their core.
For some women, being like Sharon Stone (Laurel Hadere) or Alex Borstein (Patience’s friend Sally) is who they want to be. They want to fit in with the world and build power and freedom within the limitations of what our society thinks is appropriate behavior for a woman.
They think if they can somehow attain that power (through their relative “attractiveness” or how closely to the supposed feminine ideal they can be) then they will be accorded the freedom to be themselves. The problem is, by the time that they attain that height, they have become something completely at odds with who they really are. Sadly, if they choose to try to reflect that inner truth, all of that so-called “power” or “freedom” disappears like a burst soap bubble.
The “living marble” that Laurel has become is a wonderful metaphor for this false self. We choose to try to conform as a way to keep from being hurt. We become who our family wants, who our husband or partner wants, who their children or friend group wants us to be — or who WE think they want us to be.
Sorry it has been so long, ladies and gentlemen. But my health takes first priority to everything else. Self-care has not been my forte, but I’m working hard to make it so.
It’s not the obvious rapists or misogynists that scare me. Why? Because I know how to fight that kind of obvious violence and hatred.
It’s the charmers, the manipulators — the true women-haters who turn a woman’s strength against herself. And this kind of person isn’t just some men. It’s often exactly how society has programmed both men and women. Yes, women can be this kind of perpetrator, and men can be victims too.
Many of us — myself included — give pieces of ourselves away because that’s what someone who is in love does. In the beginning, it’s only little pieces. It’s not that someone else is violently ripping apart our souls, it’s that we offer them up to be devoured.
There is a lot of discussion of resiliency among people in therapy. Why? Probably because they’ve heard their therapist say something about it, and to quote Inigo Montoya (Princess Bride)“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
There are people who use this word to describe people in other classes. For some, the actions and choices of the rich define what they think resilience is. On the other hand, there are quite a few professionals (not necessarily all involved in psychology) using the word as a goal for the poor, because if they can “just be resilient” then life will be all unicorns, rainbows and butterflies.
Guess what, people? It ain’t that way in the real world.
There are resilient and not-so-resilient people in all economic classes. Neither your economic status nor your relative financial success/failure defines your ability to be resilient.
To quote the American Psychological Association (APA) Psychology Help Center’s brochure on “The Road To Resilience” resilience is defined as:
“Resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress — such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems or workplace and financial stressors. It means ‘bouncing back’ from difficult experiences.”
I’ve started and stopped this post repeatedly over the last few weeks. I can only describe this particular difficulty with posting as the writing equivalent to avoiding someone’s eyes. As I stated in March 1’s post, this relates directly to the same reasons I was physically incapable of controlling my eye contact with my therapist when we pinpointed a particularly painful memory.
The basics of the memory are described in that post. However, since my therapy session, a few other experiences kept poking at that same set of emotions, choices and actions. This repetition is what caused the epiphany. And, like many such revelations, it hit like a Mack truck.
It’s been so hard to face that epiphany that I have had anxiety attacks just about looking closer at it or dealing with the understanding. I’ve been having to focus on things that deal entirely with mathematics, even though my ability to do so has been seriously retarded by my cognitive issues. Dealing with pure equations — even though it takes me at least 10x as long (in fact, almost 70% of the last two weeks has been spent creating a completely math-based set of data collection for my physical and mental health). Before my breakdown, the data collection set up for simple data entry would have taken at most 8 hours).
Yes, another therapy post. You can pass on by if you want.
We were discussing relationships, and she asked me a somewhat off the wall question, at least from my perspective. I can’t exactly remember the question, but it was essentially one where she wanted to know if there was any specific memory that seemed to be associated with what I was feeling.
It took me straight to Homecoming of my senior year in high school. Now, you have to understand a few things about my high school. It was a boarding school, and I was what could be called a “scholarship student.” I worked as a dishwasher at least both my junior and senior years, and my parents got loans either from family or from the church body that owned and ran the school (yes, it was a religious boarding school owned and run by a very conservative, evangelical Lutheran synod). We were not allowed dances, but that doesn’t mean we didn’t have those “special days.” It just meant that it was more about speeches and awards than about having some — hopefully — semi-clean fun. We had a joke about it (that I told my therapist) that we weren’t allowed to have sex because “it would lead to dancing.” Also, since it was the 80s, and most of the huge anti-hazing laws had yet to be created, there was a form of hazing for incoming freshmen. Anything (short of illegal or against the rules) that an upperclassman (juniors and seniors) told them to do, they were supposed to do.
I was, for a good portion of my high school years, the almost asexual, advice-giving friend. My senior year, I decided to take a risk. I asked an older freshman that I had been hanging out with to go to Homecoming with me. I wasn’t expecting some huge romantic relationship, just having an escort for my last Homecoming of my high school career.
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.
There are many people in this world — of all genders — who belittle the work it takes to do basic self-care. Things like doing the groceries, a necessary process, can be a challenge. When I left the house today to stop by my doctor’s office to have labs done, I felt extremely well. In fact, I felt better and more energized than I have for a very long time.
But, it was also grocery day. I went straight to it from the office.
I point out women in the title of this post, because more often than not — at least in the heterosexual portion of the world — groceries are one of the many chores that most often are completed by the female in the relationship, as are things like cleaning, dusting or even washing dishes.
I know that my ex belittled the assorted chores that we (his polyamorous “wives”) were expected to complete. He excused his unwillingness to do his part because he worked retail, and “blue collar” jobs are harder than any other job. We eventually got him to do dishes, but even then (as well as the garbage and changing the cat litter) it was never actually a regular thing. We had to “nag” him to get him to do the chores he agreed to do. Even the “traditionally male jobs” at home (i.e. lawn care and snow shoveling) were rarely done without nagging (which is what reminding him that our city had regulations for how long snow was allowed to accumulate on the sidewalk was considered).
It didn’t matter what kind of job we women had. The time I spent as a driver for a handicapped company was considered just “sitting on my butt” for hours a day.
Too many of us essentially have two jobs, one working for an employer and one working for our significant others.
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).
The real difference between divination and prophecy is that prophecy claims to be a communication directly from the prophet’s form of the Divine and is purported to give a more globalized view. Divination, on the other hand, is a way to assess trends in one’s personal life (either the diviner’s life or the person they are doing it for).
However, both come through the mind of the person giving the pronouncement. Many prophets claim that since the source of the prophecy is the Divine that there is no interpretation. A good example of this is Book of Revelation in the Bible. Except, even though this is considered to be the “inspired word of God” (essentially directly from God through the pen of the writer — with no interpretation) there have been centuries worth of assorted interpretation of it in different ways.
But, it doesn’t really matter what claims that are made. It doesn’t even really matter what the prophet or diviner thinks about it.
The reality of the situation is that no matter the source, communicating that information still has to come through the mind of the person making the proclamation. This means that the information received is given a subjective twist.
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