I wanted to follow up yesterday’s post. It missed some of the more important experiences and lessons of spending so many years as a minority, or at least not in the majority.
Since starting college at Columbia and mostly living in Manhattan, I’ve spent a lot of time with well-educated liberals. I’ve found them full of preconceptions about me, generally based on my skin color and sex.
People who know me well know that I’m open about the chip on my shoulder for being stereotyped for accidents of my birth, ironically by people who profess to oppose the racism and sexism they practice. I’m not saying I suffered on the scale of people who have faced more than I have, but then again, I’ve faced more than many with different skin color or sex.
Anyway, spending so many years as a marginalized minority targeted for violence without recourse to justice didn’t feel to me as it sounds. It felt normal. I just grew up learning that being a white male meant being a target, because I was one. Actually, the word I grew up feeling described my situation was “real.” It felt like I learned what the world was really like. I saw shows like Leave It to Beaver and Eight Is Enough. They felt fake. They didn’t show what the world was really like. In the real world, people got mugged and randomly punched in the face.
Surrounded by people of different skin colors, living on a block with about fifty houses, forty-seven of them housing black families, gave me experiences that I felt inhibited racism from forming. I forget if I shared the most important relevant stories here, but I’ll share them other times too.
I also lived plenty of years in the majority as a man and having white skin. I don’t think many blacks know what it’s like to live with high status in a dominance hierarchy. I don’t think many whites know what it’s like to live with low status in a dominance hierarchy. People like to lecture me on what they think I don’t know about racism, sexism, the conditions others live under, or the privilege I must be ignorant of having.
I value these experiences, even though people’s preconceptions based on my skin color and sex lead them to misunderstand me and treat me like someone I’m not (at least I think that’s the source of their misunderstandings; they certainly don’t ask me my background).
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