Thursday, October 25, 2018

Empathy Toddlers With Emotional Object Permanence Problems

Ah, today I had to school my white coworkers on why Megyn Kelly is trash and blackface is ALWAYS wrong. 

"But, c'mon, it's just Halloween."

"It's like we can't even have a discussion about it."

"Is it really THAT big of a deal really?"


1 ) Kelly is an intelligent journalist who knows what she's doing and does so to a massive platform, complete with graphics and segment producers, so, yes, I don't think it's too much to ask that she not talk out of her ass and say ignorant, offensive things on her television show that is aired to millions of impressionable viewers daily. Or, if she is truly not capable of that (which, history shows us may be the case ::cough, cough:: white Santa ::cough, cough::), then she should be prepared for the consequences, which can and should include having that massive, daily-million-viewer platform taken away. We live in a country that protects our right to say whatever crazy shit we want, but television shows are not protected rights, not even by the first amendment.

2 ) And my coworker couldn't understand that point until I compared it to Rosanne Barr. If you know and enjoy having the ears and eyeballs of millions of viewers, maybe understand that you can't get pissed when we see you being shitty. You got into a business where you wanted to be seen. You did shitty things on platforms where you wanted it to be seen. You got seen. Deal with it. In fact, enjoy.

3 ) If you want to have an intelligent, interesting, impactful discussion about race and costumes and PC-culture, then maybe...maybe think about having at least ONE person of color on your damned segment about the impact of treating race or culture as a costume. It's shitty practice to not have a diverse panel on your show about any topic, but to have a segment about race with an all-white panel, shame on you. That's irresponsible and basic as hell. And it's shitty television to boot!

4 ) And my coworker couldn't get that point until I compared it to the panel of all male lawmakers deciding women's health. YOU DON'T GET TO DECIDE WHAT'S HARMFUL TO OTHER PEOPLE. If it doesn't directly affect you, then realize, yeah, your opinion is worth less. Not worthless. But, yes, worth less. Because IT DOESN'T AFFECT YOU. You don't understand the issue as well as the people who are affected by it. Just because it isn't a big deal to you, does not mean it's not a big deal. That's object permanence in empathy form; stop being an emotional toddler.

5 ) If it's really not a big deal to you, maybe stop fighting for it so hard. Is blackface really the hill you want to die on? Or could you, I don't know, just NOT do it? Is it really that hard? Is blackface a necessary part of your Halloween experience? Or are you just preparing me for the eventual reveal of your past blackface costume from five years ago? Cause that's what it looks like.

Oh yes and, of course, “But it was okay when I was young.”

1 ) No, it was not. It was socially acceptable when you were young, but it was never okay.

2 ) Know what was also okay then? Discriminating against people of color, women, and the LGBTQ+ community. Wanna tell me those things are okay now? Know what’s still seen as okay now? Paying women less than men for the same amount of work. Firing people for being trans. Creating and enforcing racist laws that protect bigots. Wanna take a crack at telling me that those are all okay? Maybe you need a new moral measuring stick cause the one you’re using is broken as hell.

Look, I would like to point out that my coworkers are not bad people. I like my coworkers. They aren't hateful people. They just have very small social circles, and experiences and beliefs that reflect that. We have a lot of small town/ small suburb dwellers here. Strictly speaking, as a country, we have anti-housing discrimination laws, but still have a lot of racist housing/zoning practices, which means I am literally the only person of color they have regular contact with. And, believe me, that took some getting used to for a lot of them. If they could have seen themselves from the outside when I started working here or, worse, when my assistant, who was black, was working here. They’d be horrified. 

I hope.

To be fair, when things are properly presented and framed just so (usually by taking personal bias out of the equation--hence why I had to compare an all-white panel to an all-male panel in order for the issue to be relatable to her), people are pretty good at seeing things clearly. I'm pretty sure, if I ever pointed out to my coworkers the way they judge promptness and productivity levels between their white coworkers and their coworkers of color, especially in context of centuries of stereotypes about the laziness and incompetence of people of color, they would be horrified. In the same way they're horrified just after they ask me to translate something in Spanish simply because of my last name (I don't speak Spanish, by the way) or if I have soy sauce (not all Asian people carry around packets of it all the time in our purses) or if I know their Asian friend-of-a-friend (no, we don't all know each other). Usually, it takes an awkward beat, but they get there. I honestly do think they understand the problematic nature of these comments and are horrified at their unintentional participation in them. I just also think that that sense of horror only lasts so long before they have to be reminded of that bias again. And again. And, probably, again.

They just need someone to do that for them.

Which is why I will be their "friend of color" who they have awkward conversations about issues they are not familiar with and, hopefully, walk away with a little wider view of the world.

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