I knew we were in agreement on the major points (eradicating all form of tyranny and racism, including as many people in the fight against racism, and Ms. Matti’s right to be as subjective or objective in her writing as she chooses). Of that, I had no doubt.
That you challenge perceptions makes me happy. Challenging perceptions is a good thing. I, too, challenge people’s perception. I have done so my entire life. As a 48-inch tall, Black, Christian, gay male, I live to challenge people’s perceptions of who Black men are, who gay men are, what Christians believe, and what Little People (and people with disabilities) are capable of accomplishing.
The subjectivity in personal experience
(You did suggest that if Matti wanted to reach a broader audience she should write the piece as x. But that’s a moot point.)
A thought-piece or subjective article can not, nor should it, be neutral. To do so removes the personal point of view and changes the article into a piece of journalism or clinical research. (Pity that we rarely see unbiased/neutral reporting these days.) To that end, writing about direct experience must be subjective and, in my opinion, brimming with a unique perspective. How else do we learn how others experience the world if they don’t tell us themselves? Now this could be a blind spot for me as opinion and subjective interpretation of real-life events are my niche.
The finer points of privilege
Let’s take another look at privilege. You say that discussion on privilege are a pet peeve of yours and is used as an underhanded way of slandering people and being right without affecting any real change. When you say discussions of privilege are slanderous, you imply that accusations of privilege are unfounded and false. That’s crazy talk … I mean, that’s nonsense. Everyone knows that privileges for certain criteria exist all over the world in a hundred million different ways from benign to institutional. Attractiveness, social status, athletic prowess, cooking skill, intelligence, ethnicity, money, age, and race all carry privileges in various settings.
And you offer two responses to discussions (I’m adding accusations) on/of privilege: reaction and ignoring. There’s really three options that apply to all discussions —
- Reacting in arrogance. This response manifests itself as “you don’t know what you’re talking about; let me tell you what you mean; you’re over-reacting.” This reaction manifests itself most commonly as –splaining, condescension, and co-opting the other’s argument onto or for one’s self. (The terms “privilege” and “-splaining” are merely labels — shorthand, if you will — for much larger concepts; much like table, sick, and God.)
- Ignoring the situation. This response is all about denying any validity of a point of view that is different from one’s own and manifests itself as silence or inactivity. But there’s a third type of response that’s available which will foster change if exercised …
- Reacting in humility. This response attempts to sets known preconceptions aside in an attempt to see the situation through the eyes of another and manifests itself as empathy, sympathy, active listening, etc.
If a teacher witnesses one student punch another student in the face and then coddles the assailant because he/she favors the assailant (all things being equal); how is it sophistry for the assailed upon student to declare a wrongdoing and favoritism? Both the assailant and the teacher are in the wrong.
To say that discussions of privilege are “half-truth at best” is to only look at one side of the story. And sounds like someone’s looking at the untrue half, not the truth half.
There’s no deception at play here. No sophistry. (By the way, I love that word “sophistry.”) Why is that when confronted with the truth of their actions and there’s no escape clause, people hit the panic button and cry “foul; that’s underhanded; no-win situation; slander; sophistry”?
You know why? Because it’s human nature. We all do it. But that does not make it right.
No one can make anyone feel guilty. Feelings of guilt are self-imposed. But if a kid’s caught with their hand in the cookie jar and they have crumbs on their face, guilt ceases to be a matter of feelings and becomes a matter of facts.
Francis Luong, thank you for your compliments and engaging me in this conversation. You, too, are thought-provoking, and you know what? Even though we agree on the larger points and split the hairs of finer points, know that I do grant you, your thoughts, and writing the open acceptance that I grant everyone else. I value and appreciate your taking the time to express them. And hope that you do the same. Believe me, if I didn’t find value in your writing, I would have moved on to the next article and not taken the time to reply.
(And between you and me — you and I, us, whatever — I hope our discussion has served as an example of how two people with different life experiences can thoughtfully and respectfully engage and challenge one another in a discussion about race without debasing one another.)
Thanks for your time! Let’s do this again sometime!