The occurrence of the SAE Frat incident doesn’t surprise me–not in the context of Texas or a Fraternity. Much news has come out of Texas over the years that paints a very conservative and bigoted community. Growing up in a rural and conservative part of upstate New York, I saw things there, too. Somehow, I still thought that we were moving past bigotry. Naive at best, of course. I am white. Therefore I am privileged by the parameters of my ethnicity and how that has couched me. I don’t experience the same world minorities do, and I recognize that. Friends and family have changed my perspective over the many years. I have cousins who are black, and I worry about them and their safety in our neck of the woods, the future they’re going to have in world that denies them opportunities based on melanin. Friends in academia, colleagues–they have taught me of their worldview and it is enlightening.
The desire to want to fit in is strong. In high school, probably around sophomore year, that drive in me died. It was choked out by the values my parents instilled in me to value all human beings as my equals–not mention all lifeforms. I still struggle with respecting those who would bury minorities and women in the dust, because their sociopathic tendencies (lack of empathy and desire to cause hurt in others) are dangerous and I view myself as a stopping point with that kind of attitude. Why? …
“An op-ed in The Dallas Morning News looks at this as not just a matter of racism, but also as a matter of fitting in, of selfishness, and of fear. Author Rudolph Bush says that leading the racist chant—on a bus full of white men all dressed alike—probably stems from Rice’s need to fit in.”
That’s why. Because I’ve seen this first hand–too often. I have engaged with it as a child. I have kept silent, rather than speak up and face what I really believed would be the violent consequences in most situations. As a woman, it really is a different ball game, to speak up. Take for instance the posts I put up on my Facebook page. I have been the recipient of death threats for my opinions–opinions which are not life threatening to the people attacking me, silencing my protests. Cyber bullying–it happens in all age groups. Civility is a dying social norm.
Most recently, I posted about changing tables in men’s restrooms and how there is still a lack of them throughout many areas in the United States. They’re mandated for women’s restrooms only, or just a forgone conclusion that they should be in women’s restrooms. Sexism. And this is really sexism against Dads. My exposure of the issues was in support of equality for men in the parenting situation! Why was I being attacked by a man, who claims to be the father of four? Many of the people who commented attested to having them in their men’s rooms. Excellent! Good to hear. I’m a woman, who doesn’t spend time checking out the men’s room. Many of the comments were fromm men who use those facilities. They were respectful, but a little confused as to the need to complain about this–they’re there in most cases, they said. But more importantly, my post was viewed as whining by the men who viewed it, yet the women who saw it were supportive of helping out dads and glad to see the post.
I wager most did not read the paragraph that made up the article about Ashton Kutcher taking the initiative to get a provision passed in his state of California. This happens a lot on Facebook. Read the headline, comment your opinion on what you think it means, ignore the article and what it actually means. Thus, arguments occur. Mr. Kutcher is talking about California restrooms he’s used–actual, personal experience in his home state. Some changing tables in some men’s rooms is not changing tables in every men’s room, and woe unto the dad who enters the men’s room without. Good luck finding a place to safely, discreetly and cleanly change your baby. No brainer to want to make sure a provision like this is passed in his state. I totally support it. Dad’s shouldn’t be discriminated against because society thinks only women change diapers.
Obviously, I am wrong (no, not really). The internet is full of contrarians out and about to wage battle with opinion via dissent and ugliness. In this case, the contrarian was an elderly man, who decided to attack me with clipped rhetoric for posting the article of which I was in support of equality for men and women to have changing tables in their restrooms to care for their children’s needs, regardless of parental gender. “Flash. Most men’s rooms have these….” he wrote. I quoted his rude rhetoric back to him explaining most is not all, and that this is an issue that is sexist toward both genders. “Flash. Most men’s rooms are not all men’s rooms….” He lost his mind.
Yes, replying to him in his same words and ‘tone’ set him off further. I was told to get back in the kitchen. That dried up zinger is lofted at women daily to put them back in their place. But, rest assured, he’s not a sexist. A list of ‘strong women’ he interacts with and the numbers of female family members ensued. Stop everything!!! He raised daughters and has a wife–he encouraged his girls to go get jobs and his wife is a pharmacist. “Quit your belly-aching…” (translation: stop being a whiny child – another sexist zinger lofted at the ladies for speaking up.) Umm…That doesn’t make it okay to tell a woman you don’t know to “get back in the kitchen” or “quit her belly-aching” as though she’s a toddler having a tantrum. It’s pretty clear who the toddler is having the tantrum. “Wah! Changing tables in men’s rooms! Wah! We can’t mandate that!” It might also surprise you that this person is a conservative (not really), especially with the rash of unbelievable comments better suited for the 1600s lately. It will further surprise you that he doubled-down on his response and refused to apologize.
When you disagree with someone, if the first thing you do is to seek to shut them down, by putting them in their place with charged rhetoric–you are in fact a sexist, or racist, or bigot. Familial/Friend numbers/presence doesn’t absolve you of this. You don’t own their presence as your presence, a cancelling out augmentation–what is even the logic of this? Familial/Friend success is not yours to own as a badge that proves you’re not a sexist, or racist, or bigot.
If you decide that fitting in is more important than your moral compass–you are in fact a sexist, or racist, or bigot. If you decide that using offensive jokes toward people to put them down, shut them down, or criticize them–you are in fact a sexist, or racist, or bigot. What it means is that you’re willing to denote their gender or race in a way that seeks to disempower them, and that, in its place, your gender or race empowers you over them. That is racism and that is sexism. The long and short definition that seems to elude so many people regardless of status.
It is even more so true when you direct your vitriol toward a stranger, an entire group or a colleague. Perhaps you have some understanding with your friends and family that allows disrespectful words and actions to slide right by, like Sean Penn, but out here in the real world doing things like this make you a bigot and a sexist. It doesn’t matter how many wives you have, how many daughters you raise, how many black friends you have, how many black family members–you can still be a bigot, racist and a sexist–all at the same time even! You could even be married to an African of Judaic tradition and still be a bigot. It is the actions that you take with others that are being weighed, and playing favorites with a few people connected to you (Gah, I feel sorry for them, it must be so embarrassing–unless they really don’t know or accept being 2nd class to their dear old patriarch) doesn’t change it. The truth is, if you behave like this with strangers, then you most definitely are worse at home. But, that is the way of things evolve in contact with psychopaths (sociopaths).
Cyber bullying or bullying IRL–seriously–how old are you? How lacking in proper social skills? (check out this list and this video.)
The SAE frat member has ruined his life by making poor choices, but his actions will leave a lasting affect on those he abused publicly by enabling a horde of like minded individuals. You have freedom of speech, but you do not have freedom from the consequences of the speeches you choose to make. Hate speech, is not protected speech. It is time that people learn what is hate speech. This lack of empathy and the exceeding precedence of privilege is getting old, but it is also dangerous to our way of life. No one is free, no one is equal until everyone is free and equal.