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In this past week, a lot of news was shotgunned to the American public. Almost too much to take in and process.
We learned that the Potato Head franchise will now have a trans gender option. Personally, I always thought you could make them that way, anyway. Maybe that’s just me.
The Muppets got official “some unacceptable content” disclaimers put on them. You know…because, the Muppets.
We also had congressional hearings, discussing the pros and cons of child genital mutilation as well as a sexual harassment suit against the governor of New York.
Hasn’t everyone gotten the memo that #meetoo is soooo 2018 yet?
Meanwhile, gas prices went up again, the stock market dropped five hundred points and we bombed Syria. All in all, quite an interesting time to be an American. Hey, as long as you wear your mask …
But one thing, from the week that was, piqued my interest.
We saw leaked memos, from the Coca Cola corporation, regarding the re-education of people regarding race. The subject in question was actually entitled: Be less white.
In my day, that would’ve been an SNL sketch featuring Eddie Murphy. But apparently, this was no joke. So, I took a peek.
When I read the criteria for “being less white,” I had a surprising response. I actually agreed with a lot of it.
The ten things to do, to “be less white,” might be straight from your mother or father’s mouth regarding your approach to life. I have probably said everyone of these things to my son, at some point.
They are as follows …
1. Be less oppressive – That’s not a bad idea for anybody. I don’t know who is still out there actively oppressing people, but whoever you are, you should do less of it. Personally, I would advise to stop doing it altogether. But the author of this curriculum just says to do less of it. Apparently, some oppression is ok. Just do less.
2. Be less arrogant – Good advice for all of us. Arrogance isn’t a healthy quality. I know this because of how humble I am. My humility is the thing I’m the most proud of. We should all strive to be as humble as me and get rid of the arrogance.
3. Be less certain – I’m not sure how this helps anything in life or helps any person of color, and I also don’t know what it is we should be less certain OF (seems like an editorial oversight), but, sure…leaving room for the possibility of being off-base on something is probably what is meant. And it’s probably not bad advice in general. I mean, I think it’s good advice. But I’m not totally sure.
4. Be less defensive – say this to your spouse and see how it works out. Still…something positive to strive for.
5. Be less ignorant – see above regarding the spouse. In fact, say them both in succession tonight at dinner, and check back after the weekend.
6. Be more humble – Yes. This is a spiritual journey we should all definitely take. Humility is something our entire culture could use a little more of. As I said before, I take great pride in my humility.
7. Listen – never, EVER bad advice. If your spouse would just listen, you wouldn’t have to tell them to be less defensive and ignorant.
8. Believe – this is a bit open-ended. But belief is a wonderful thing and can drive your life forward into miracles. In this case, I’m assuming she means believe your friends of color when they tell you something about their experience. We should all do that.
Aside from that, belief in general isn’t a bad thing…unless you are believing something not sanctioned by the state or the social media overlords. Then, apparently, belief is dangerous. So, believe…just believe the right things. Got it?
9. Break with apathy – it is definitely good to stand up for something…as long as it is sanctioned by the state and/or social media overlords.
10. Break with white solidarity – at first glance, I absolutely, whole-heartily and categorically agree with this sentiment. Solidarity with a race – just because of race – is racism in it’s purest form.
However, as a nearly lifelong white man, I’m not really sure how to put this into actual practice, as I haven’t been to any of the monthly white solidarity meetings in decades.
But I think I took the first step, in the 90’s, by categorically renouncing (see #10) Garth Brooks and boldly proclaiming (see #9) his mediocrity as an artist.
Although, I’m not one hundred percent certain about my stance (see #3), and I’m definitely willing to listen (see #7) to the opposing view. And who knows? I might believe them (see #8). God knows, I have a long way to go as an artist, myself (see #6 and #2), and I seek more knowledge on the subject (see #5).
For those who are fans, I can see their point (see #4). And I would never want them to feel like they couldn’t enjoy his music openly and without fear (see #1).
See? All great pieces of advice. And not all that difficult to put into practice.
Now, obviously, the above is an absurd take on those 10 edicts. In all seriousness, I do agree with much of it (the parts that are easier to define). I have seen white people fumble and stumble around conversations with black people for years, trying to find some weird way of shoe-horning that one story that proves their lack of racism, into a conversation, while simultaneously finding creative ways of discounting racism outright.
It’s dismissive and often embarrassing to watch. And so, I get where this curriculum is coming from. We can all do better. And we should. To me, the listening part is the key. And you can apply that to any interaction with any person of any race or any gender.
Although, the irony in all of this surely can’t be lost on Robin DiAngelo (the author of the book and the one telling everyone to be less white), as she glares accusingly over her glasses at all of us. Can it?
The irony is that there is literally nothing whiter than a white person calling everyone into a board room, to tell them how to act…then seeking payment for it.
But the real trouble with all this advice, when directed at a certain race of people, is that it assumes an awful lot about a lot of individuals. And that automatically makes people recoil into a stance of ALL TEN of those things you’re asking them not to do.
It simply defies human nature to ask someone not to defend themselves when being called something as horrific as a racist. Especially if you’re calling them that without knowing anything about them – just assuming something based on their skin.
That is the textbook definition of a word I learned in school, while studying the life of George Washington Carver. The word is called “prejudiced,” and it stems from the term “to pre judge.” We used to have a widely held belief that prejudging something was a bad thing to do. Not so much anymore.
There’s an awful lot of certainty out there, right now, about people we’ve never met. And that leads to ignorance, disbelief, arrogance, solidarity, apathy, and ultimately, oppression.
The vicious cycle continues, because we are in this weird game of Simon Says, were we are being placed in a constant state of reaction. There’s no time to reflect and think through and discuss. There’s no room for nuance or subtlety or context.
And while we’re trying to even out the playing field, we find ourselves just ripping up more and more sod and more and more dirt, until pretty soon all we have is a mangled up field, where no playing actually gets done.
Simon Says is a game where you must listen intently and watch closely. And if you lose focus for one second, you lose the game.
In this current game we’re in, all our reactions must be correct and perfectly in line with what the people barking out the edicts say they must be. Simply not accepting the premise doesn’t seem to be an option anymore.
Well, when I was a kid, I found out the best place to be during an intense game of Simon Says: losing and being free from the orders.
Once you don’t answer to Simon anymore, you can move your arms however you want, whenever you want.
After this week, I think we’re all a little tired of Simon Says.
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