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Wednesday, September 9, 2015

STRAIGHT WHITE GUYS ARE NOT EASILY OFFENDED OR EMPATHETIC


Because they aren't offered insults nearly as often.

"What I generally find people saying when they say “I guess I’m not easily offended” is actually closer to “I don’t actually have that many people who offend me.”

In general, what these dudes are actually saying is “Ninety-time times out of a hundred, people acknowledge and support me, and I quietly assume that as my birthright. And that hundredth time someone doesn’t acknowledge me, well, that means I’m not easily offended!”


Yes, this seems obvious. But I hadn't put it together in exactly this simple, straight forward way. This article reminded me of something else that should have been obvious but I just hadn't thought of until I read it. Did you know that straight, white male children  are the only ones, as a a group, whose self-esteem goes up after watching television?


I suppose that this perk, not being offered insults nearly as often, is the reason why that straight white males, as a group, appear to have the hardest time empathizing with others not like them. Similarly, they also have a hard time acknowledging ancestors as having done terrible things to others as that is almost an insult to self.

They simply don't have much practice absorbing and dealing with insults or negative information about the self or about me-and-mine.

Compare:

I as a member of an oppressed group am very, very used to hearing negative messages about self and about me-and-mine. As a woman not only am I used to hearing negative messages, I am used to assessing whether they are true, somewhat true, somewhat false, or totally false. And I deal with routine insults from inside and outside my race if I watch any mainstream news at all.  As a black person I'm used to the same thing, mostly from outside the race.

A white person isn't used to making such assessments nearly as often. And if that person is white and male, maybe these assessments of insults are rarely every done. Having so very little practice as a white person and as a male too, the empathy gears might be a little rusty, yes?  Without something to draw on, empathy may not come as easily.

That something "to draw on," that something in your own life that you use as a base of comparison, that something that leads you to feel, 'yes I might feel the same way if I were in the same circumstance,' doesn't have to be race or gender based. It can be the death of a parent at an early age or an abusive parent at all ages. That something to draw on could be a million things. Being able to put yourself in someone else's shoes could come from a naturally angelic temperament from birth too.  (But frankly, I'd worry if I saw MYSELF this way)  But if you are straight, white, male, and have had a very, very uneventful life too, your empathy muscle just might be a tad weak.

It's easy to see how not being easily offended is a perk of straight, white, maleness, as is power and money. But as I look at the big picture, I think I'll keep what I've got.

I can't imagine thinking that "feeling different" is a puberty or maturity thing only.  I can't imagine never "feeling different" as an adult and therefore unable to be able to see and respect how people of another group are actually different from my group in ways that matter to them. I can't imagine trying to erase everyone else and their differences without even knowing I'm doing it.

I have Christian Privilege and probably some class privilege too. But the places where I am oppressed make me aware of the places where I am in an oppressor group even if I can't see or feel my oppressor group actions. And my awareness make me more able to listen and learn in the places where I am a little deaf, dumb, and blind. And that makes at least some of my oppression a blessing in disguise.

When I think of the straight white male group's lowered ability to empathize, somehow "the last shall be the first and the first shall be the last" starts to sound more like a natural spiritual law than a punishment.