Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Political Correctness is another form of Intolerance

Today's post is going to have a message.

This is will be a social-cultural-political-philosophical tanget on the nature of Hypocrisy, Ignorance, Prejudice, and (in)Tolerance.

First, the basics. I am a 22 year-old white Jewish guy from Southern California. I graduated high school, transferred from junior college to a four-year university and am currently working towards two Bachelor's degrees in Creative Writing and Cultural Anthropology, respectively. I have three older brothers, a father, a mother (deceased), some aunts, uncles, cousins, two nieces, a nephew, a grand-niece, and other assorted relatives.

For all intensive purposes I am about as normal as a person gets... on the surface.

Most people assume my life has been easy, that I don't know anything about racism or prejudice. Most people say that I'm jaded, or naive, or both. Most people say a lot of things about me that aren't necessarily true, but usually I don't really let it get to me, because they're just words.

However, I recently encountered an interesting phenomenon of backwards prejudice that has piqued a desire to justify myself. This normally doesn't happen to me, because I don't mind what other people - read: strangers - think of me that much. (What's the point? Universal acceptance? I'd rather be honest.)

I frequent a blog run by a black woman named Siditty. < > At first I was quietly curious, reading the comments and then going about my way. Then, as time went on, I started to be drawn into the discussions, leaving my comments and reading the responses. Eventually, I began to get a lot of negative reception towards my opinions.

Now, that's fine. I don't expect people to agree with me, or even approve of me. But what was interesting was the reasoning behind the animosity. It wasn't because of my arguments, or that what I said was particularly ignorant or offensive. No, it was because they believed - without knowing much about me at all - that I couldn't possibly comprehend the situation or perspective they were coming from. Because of my age, my skin-color, my cultural background, because of a few general characteristics about me, they assumed that I could never "get" what they were talking about. Essentially, they thought I was incapable of understanding.

This strikes me as a logical fallacy too hilarious to even bother pointing out the ignorance of it. (However, for the sake of this blog I will. Keep reading.) But when I realized that these people didn't actually see the flaws in their reasoning, the hypocrisy they were committing, it wasn't just confusing, but downright depressing.

Okay, but let's say we agree with their assumption - read: prejudice - then if I can't understand where they're coming from, what makes them think they can understand where I am coming from, and summarily dismiss my opinions? And even more importantly, what makes them assume that their situation is somehow unique, somehow special? Everyone suffers. Everyone's got their problems. We're all human, and we all experience a lot of the same things, similar things, and we're all the same, or at least similar for it, because of it.

It felt weird to have to be explaining this to people who grew up hearing the words of Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela. It was strange that I had to explain to a traditionally dehumanized group how and why we all aren't so different from one another, how we're all human inside.

People who rage against the intolerance they see in the world participating in intolerance themselves, and not even seeing it is something almost beyond stupid. It's pretty much retarded. But what was even worse, was when I pointed this out to them, all they gave back was more hatred, more anger, more resentment, more negativity and animosity.

(A few agreed with me, or at least compromised to politely disagree, and to them I hold a special amount of gratitude, for being decent human beings in a shit-storm of assholes.)

Now, I'm not particularly pissed-off with how they treated me so much as their ignorance of it. See, if there's one thing that gets to me more than anything, it's hypocrisy. It is the one fucking thing I cannot fucking stand. Hypocrites rank higher than liars or suck-ups. They are the scum of conversation and the shit-stains on rhetoric. They are so infuriatingly ignorant I can almost hate them... almost.

Do I know what it's like to be discriminated against? Yes, I do. I've had to deal with antisemitism for as long as I've lived. Names, jokes, my temple was graffiti'd once. I've had to avoid Neo-Nazis, skinheads, and other "white-power" groups from time to time (especially in Huntington Beach). But I didn't let it turn me into a hypocrite. I didn't then turn around and start spewing forth the same hate that was directed towards me. In fact, most of the time it wasn't even hate, but ignorance. Most people are just plain folks - don't know any better - and once they get to know you, they realize you are a human being and not a stereotype.

But I guess those who cry the loudest against injustice are the ones most likely to commit it... maybe.

There was one person who posted antisemitic cartoons - that were actually really funny, to me - during a discussion about a video depicting some drunk Jews/Israeli's making racist comments directed towards Obama. And when I told him/her that MAYBE s/he shouldn't get mad about the racism in the video if s/he's going to do nearly the same thing her/himself, s/he said I was playing the victim... Now, if that's not ironic hypocrisy, I don't know what is. Also, s/he seemed to have this strange assumption that because some Jews were acting like this in the video, that it must represent ALL Jews, and that because of this we should stop supporting Israel, etc so on.

Even worse, was s/he wasn't the only one to have this opinion.

This makes me very afraid for the future. Not sure if we'll survive with so many vengeful, ignorant people in the world.

Anyways, after getting yelled at, insulted for my age, my heritage, and just generally insulted because they thought I was stupid, I thought about not commenting on the blog anymore, because I didn't really think they were ready to even entertain the thought of my ideas, let alone actually consider them without being hilariously/depressingly antagonistic. But after some support and encouragement from other contributors, I decided to continue on writing my comments, even if no one agrees with me, and even if the reaction gets worse. I'm not going to let a bunch of hypocrites or haters get me down, and maybe this way I can show them the power of my ideas through the actions I take and the words I write. Over time, who knows? Maybe they'll realize I have a point after all.

Or they won't. But it doesn't matter, because I just like the intellectual stimulation.

I only wish I could get a little intellectual hospitality too.

15 footnotes:

Anonymous said...

Yikes. That place is a shit-storm.

JacqueRoxx said...

Read this word-for-word:
Well, I haven't read the comments there in a loooong time, but I think I know where they're coming from. Yes, we're all people, but there's a huge difference between being a black female and being a Jewish male. My life experiences differ from yours. Not just because we're different races but that's a part of it. You'll never know what it's like to be black and I'll never know what it's like to be white/Jewish. I'm not saying that it's any harder to live as a black female than any other race, I'm just saying that there are some things that you and I may not ever truly understand about the other.

!!!BUT!!! if you have an opinion about something that I disagree with it's not right to dismiss you and act like being black is some exclusive club that you'll never get invited to join. Rather, I'm going to explain to you why I feel the way I do, hear you out, consider your points, and come to a conclusion.

And there is no such thing as "backwards" prejudice or "reverse" racism. Prejudice is prejudice and racism is racism, even if it's against a white person.

Haha! How do you know they grew up listening to the words of Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela? I can only speak for myself here, but I only know what's been taught to me in school

isityouorme? said...

yeah I read most of that shit-show. I love that blog but sometimes I wonder about the people over there. That being said, I agree with jacqueroxx. when people feel like they are not being heard or their positions are not being validated, they tend to react in the negative. I understood that what you were talking about was in the abstract but the others were trying to go beyond the superficial into something more concrete.

I don't think that you being white and Jewish means that you can never understand what it means that to be a black person like myself. What it means, IMO, is that you have work a little bit harder to understand things like racial politics, housing discrimination, gender inequality, etc. This comes with seeking out information, whether at a library or online. Being in college helps but sometimes if you really want to understand something, you must look for the information yourself. Most people don't realize that there was more to MLK than "I Have A Dream." But when you read his actual papers, you come to realize that he had a whole vision that extended beyond the lunch counters of America into all aspects of social justice for all people.

JacqueRoxx said...

I don't really feel like racial politics, housing discrimination, gender inequality, etc has to do with what it feels like to be black because, I cant lie, I know little to nothing about any of that. I guess I've been lucky because I honestly can only think of one time where I've been discriminated against and it hasn't affected me at all. What I had in mind, and I should have explained it, is more for example. Most women care a lot about beauty, but black women spend the most on beauty and hair products whether our hair is natural or chemically straightened. There are lots of reasons why. And he could research why, but he could never really understand the feelings behind it. Like if someone has never truly been in love they can't tell you what love feels like. Does this make sense? I hope it does.

Zek J Evets said...

@jacque: you're right, racism is racism and prejudice is still prejudice. what i meant is that it was unexpected to be getting prejudice from people who should know what it feels like, or at least have a more informed opinion about why it's bad.

well, they made a big thing about my age, so i felt fairly safe to guesstimate that they're older than i am, which means they would've been around during the time period and events that those two men were involved in. they certainly would've heard about it, learned about it first-hand.

maybe that's just a bad assumption, but even so, it's not like "i have a dream" or mandela's imprisonment are unknown events in the world.

@isityouorme: yes, i did notice that what they wanted was validation for their pain, redressment, and understanding. but i attempted to outline a way of dealing with all such acts of hatred, discrimination and prejudice, not just one. i used the topic to talk about how we deal with these things, and how it has a big effect on us and them.

they assumed i didn't care for their position, but what it ended up being was that they didn't care for mine.

i said don't take it seriously because i wouldn't. i said help them to understand because i would. and i know my way isn't the only way, or the best way, but is a negative reaction going to help change things? or only make them worse...

iunno. just makes me wonder.

emily said...

i can't believe i just read, like, almost ALL 103 of the comments on that jew-video post. this was the wrong day to give up smoking.

i'm not even going to get into what i thought of that whole argument, especially since i don't know what it's like to be either a black woman OR a jewish man [but god help you if you make a peep about catholics].

i just have one request steve..
can you please please PLEASE stop saying "ya'll" when it's supposed to be "y'all"??'all

Zek J Evets said...

@emily: you gave up smoking? wow, congratulations.

and also that you read all the comments. that's also impressive... in a way.

catholics? hmm, well i always did wonder why catholics are so repressively mournful about their religion. (the all-male membership with fancy costumes and bling, the pseudo-pederastic relationships between old priests and young choir boys, the obsessive depictions of jesus with all his wounds, the sad church songs. oh! and you can't forget the child molestation.)

also, i've been writing "ya'll" since 1999. it's completely acceptable gamer-slang.

don't hate, ya'll.

isityouorme? said...

@ jacqueroxx

I see what you are saying. I was thinking more along the lines of all minorities. I'm not sure that I totally agree with you about being able to understand another person's life experience but I get where you are coming from.

@ zekjevets

negativity only breeds more of the same. like you said there are other ways of dealing with issues but some people can only see things one way. the only thing that I can think of that will help is dialogue. then hopefully things will be different.

emily said...

"y'all" is a contraction of the words "you" and "all". therefore, the apostrophe belongs in the space where letters have been removed, i.e. after the y and before the complete word "all".

it is not YA'LL. it is not.

Zek J Evets said...

@emily: my contraction is as legitimate as anyone else's. language is not consistent, but always changing.

if it PERSONALLY bothers you, then fix your internet settings to blot out that word.

but i refuse your censorship!


Jasper said...

Lest ye forget, you are in teh Saboteur's Academia. All sorts of bastardized or alternative spellings and usages of language are accepted here. Granted Oxford would cite " Y'all " as the correct form of the contraction, we are in a more casual environment (ie. blog, internets).

The Ya'll bugs me too, but (bear with me) the Urban Dictionary includes a few entries showing that it is indeed an acceptable alternative. Considering Y'all is from the Southern continental United States anyhow, they are allowed to spell any of their backwards wordings anyway they please. The same should go with anybody else wishing to use their slang.

So: y'all, ya'll, yall, yawl.

Zek J Evets said...

you are exactly right, jasper

thanks =)

emily said...

i think that's pretty sad, steve.
but for sure, it's your blog, and your bad grammar.

Zek J Evets said...

@emily: ouch =(

well, a this point i'll just be glad you still deign to read it! haha.

wait wait, you're pointing out the few things that are wrong because it's more efficient than praising the large amount of things that are right. right?

Siditty said...
This comment has been removed by the author.