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Sunday, November 01, 2015

You Being Offended Offends Me



We are in the era of the very easily offended…or maybe people are just pretending to be offended. If I had to venture a guess I would say that all of these ideas about how racist, bigoted, and insensitive we all are were invented at some university sociology department. I have defended political correctness for many years now because I felt that those screaming against it were just racists, or hillbillies, or misogynists, or bigots who were stuck in their ways and didn’t want anyone telling them to change. Political correctness came about because of real prejudices but this new wave of definitions of what is or isn’t offensive have little or no basis in actual offensive behavior.  

“Microaggressions” are a new and totally invented concept, so new that my MS Word spell-check doesn’t know what to make of this awful, made-up word. I first came across the word in the September 2015 edition of The Atlantic. The author opens the piece with this gem, “When I was studying at Oberlin College, a fellow student once compared me to her dog.” The author’s name is Simba and the fellow student told him/her that her dog’s name was Simba which hardly qualifies as comparing the human Simba to the canine Simba. Sorry, but in our culture your name sounds funny. Get fucking over it. What do you expect us to do? Go back and rename the protagonist of the Lion King just so you’ll be spared a clumsy attempt at conversation? Here in Spain most people can’t pronounce my name so I just go by Juan to make it easier on everyone which is a lot easier than being “offended” because the hard J is hard to pronounce.

In a completely ridiculous article in The Atlantic City lab a probably well-meaning but completely misguided writer accuses people of racism for the following atrocities: 

Being willing to pay $18 for a bowl of pasta, but not to spring for a $12 bowl of pho

Thinking French, Italian, and German food aren’t “ethnic,” but Mexican, Chinese, and Ethiopian are

Automatically blaming food poisoning on a Chinese or Mexican restaurant

Joking about Korean restaurants serving dog

Placing a fork in front of white diners at dim sum

None of the things in the article represent racism and thus make people even less aware or concerned with real racism. Complaining about expensive pho is only natural when you've been used to getting a bowl for $3. What if you ate in a Chinese or Mexican restaurant and then got food poisoning? It would be racist to think you may have got the bug there? Some Koreans do, in fact, eat dog. So what? And congratulations that you’ve mastered chop sticks but it's called anticipating a customer's needs in the restaurant business. If a waiter brings you extra napkins he isn't assuming that you're a slob, he's just saving himself a trip as you tear through a plate of chicken wings.

The third absurd invented concept is something I learned only this week. It’s called “Cultural Appropriation” and evidently it’s really, really bad. For those of you unenlightened slobs who need a definition here it is.
“Cultural appropriation is a sociological concept which views the adoption or use of elements of one culture by members of a different culture as a largely negative phenomenon.”

Even the definition is completely ridiculous and lacking in truth.  In fact, this definition is so utterly stupid that I really don’t even want to explain why, as it seems completely evident. What all of these invented offenses boil down to is like comparing something to Hitler or the Nazis. If you do this too often then people will lose sight of the antecedent and will say to themselves that perhaps old Hitler wasn’t really so bad after all if President Obama is worse. Making mountains out of molehills with trivial matters (like whether a white woman is allowed to “twerk”) trivializes real crimes against minorities and shifts focus away from real problems to perceived slights.

The new way to show you aren't a racist is to accuse others of racism as the legacy of Martin Luther King has been hijacked by the most petty thinkers in our society. The worst part of all this is that true liberal tenets are being forgotten or marginalized. As a liberal I couldn't give a shit about twerking, or the price of pho in Seattle, or what you wear for Halloween. What I care most about is our growing income disparity in America and global warming and how we can work on both of these terribly important issues at the same time (food for another essay).

The bad news is that we still have lots of old-fashioned racism in America but when a lot of people read crap like this they lump it all together as whining and victimhood and whatever else far-right morons call real racism today.Instead of focusing our attention on a story about something that really matters we're listening to a lecture on what you should wear for Halloween. 

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10 comments:

  1. Mostly, I think you are right. I may have a quibble or two -- not worth mentioning, however, Here's what I think. This is small bore politics. You are correct that it buries a larger, more important issue (real racism) within the minutiae of point of view (or ego centrism, rather). And, I think you have rightly captured the irritation within the statement "offensive offendedness." I think that recently this phenomenon has been magnified through an outgrowth of blogs, Facebook, Twitter, etc. But, many people -- especially Americans -- are engaged in this behavior daily, whether they use digital media to accentuate it or not. The opining, critiquing, nitpicking the most insignificant details about every last bit of behavior (activity, engagement), is simply being carried to the most absurd extremes as every last person attempts to add their own original take to the cacophony of nonsense. But from a content creation standpoint, it consists of mostly meaningless metadata -- not actual data, relevant content, original thought, summary information or conclusory ideas. It's sadly thoughtless and egocentric commentary about insignificant happenings shouted as if their meaningless becomes coherent so long as a critical mass of like-minded lunatics similarly think (barely) and feel (exceedingly) passionate.

    Political correctness (PC) is the most insipid "concept." I have refused to use the term let alone discuss any subject matter related to it emerged in the 1990s as a challenge to truly liberal (objective) discourse. Sadly, knee-jerk liberals engaged to some degree with it back then in an attempt to debunk it, which unfortunately strengthened its academic legitimacy in the intervening years. Now, liberals -- especially the so-called progressive ones -- are attempting wield this concept to attack every insipid "offense" to the point of weaponizing its use. Is there any more offense result (hyperbole) than an anti-intellectual bloviator like Maher wasting several minutes on Halloween costumes in order to fortify his army of elite, rich, white liberal ditto-heads into thinking this is actually scandalous?

    The fact it, I think everyday liberals (like many of my friends) are leading this PC resurgence. Their near monopolistic use of digital media to opine endlessly about needless nonsense has created a dilemma for each individual. In order to differentiate themselves, these know-nothing navel-gazers nitpick to the nth-degree about thinner slivers of nearly nothing, to the point that they frame every experience similarly -- ironically, in an attempt at uniqueness.

    I think psycho-social, egocentric anxiety represents effect more than cause. It's absolutely frightening, because as you say, in the process we are all missing the big picture and the substantive, productive discourse that must precede a process of finding solutions to catastrophic problems.

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  2. Maher is a lousy excuse for a liberal and a lazy intellectual which really stretches the definition of that word. Does he ever read books or does he get all of his info from Huffpost and other internet toilets?

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  3. He's so lazy that he's one degree removed from Huffpost and other internet toilets as his bevy of writers churn out his drivel while he prepares backstage for his performances by huffing a bone and having his bone huffed (preferably by a smoking hot, BLACK professional). Perhaps "Mawhore" is an appropriate term to describe guys like him.

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  4. You seem to become more and more conservative as time goes on. I've been "lurking" your blog for years now (since 2011) and you seem to swing more to the far right of things. You might as well stayed in the US with the recent turn of events in the EU now. I do know men generally become more conservative with age, and more so for older white men of a certain socioeconomic demographic....

    Interesting. You are fiscally social, but socially conservative.

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  5. My politics have changed little since my university days and I have always looked with contempt upon “liberals” who knew absolutely nothing of economics and cared even less and only concerned themselves with the fringe issue du jour, like what sort of Halloween costume they deem appropriate. I also refuse to be lectured about race from someone who probably shits themselves when they walk by a black man in the street.

    My liberal nature is more of the trade union variety molded from literally fighting in the streets for the rights they gained. These geeks I mention in this post had to invent their outrages while mine are all about economic equality and working towards a system that best provides for all. Do you think Native Americans really give a shit that some sorority girl dresses up as Pocahontas? Do you really think that the lives of black Americans would improve if we could somehow eliminate “micro-aggressions” or do you think they’d rather have a political system that had their best interests at heart?

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  6. Not sure why you assumed I was white who would "shits themselves when they walk by a black man in the street." In irony of the title and content of this blog post, and being black myself, I find that assumption "offensive". My father and 3 brothers are black men, as do the black men I know I live around are not bad or scary men.

    Back to the post, I think whats best for "minorities" is to listen to their side of the story, their lives, and what impacts them, not just assume what is best for them selfishly, based upon your own personal biases. If you don't think that micro aggression is a big deal to minority groups, then why do minorities keep talking about it?

    It effects our daily lives, I would love to not worry about it, but if I go into a job interview, and they see my name on the resume, education, internship and prior work experience, and certifications on paper, and like what they see, but then when I walk into the room for the interview, they decided that "I just might not be a good fit for their company all" and treat me as if I don't belong, and shoo me out of the room, I do feel micro aggression is at my disadvantage and impairs my standards of living (or at least me trying to improve it). It does become a problem. Feelings and emotions can be subjective, but how can all of the praises from my resume and cover letter via email and over the phone, turn into a negative reaction the moment they physically see me?

    Maybe if you take time to understand why it bothers us, you wouldn't think micro aggression is a simple, ignorable issues.

    My issue is the mindset and mentality of why someone would need to feel aggressiveness in the first place? Why? What is the point and purpose? Is it subconscious and you can't control it? Is it based out of entitlement or a feeling of supremacy? Feeling more "important" and "better than"? Why be micro aggressive when you might as well be out forward with it? What is there to hide? To me its a cowardly. A lot of people who have micro aggressive behavior are usually the ones who would hate to be called s racist, or sexist, etc., so they change the facade of overt hatred and anger into another form of bigotry in hopes it will make them look "nonthreatening" and they wont get called out on their BS when exposed for their actions/behaviors.

    We can work out many issues simultaneously, without forgetting to help change or fix another form of supremacy. If someone would address all forms of racism, sexism, or any type of oppression (both subtle or overt) than I would find that to have the true interests of all people at heart. How can you truly help people if you refuse to listen to them when they are in need of the help? Just because it may offend you about someone speaking about their personal negative experiences, doesn't mean that they should be silenced.

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    Replies
    1. I didn't assume anything about you. How could I? I was speaking in general terms. Most of the people I'm talking about in this piece aren't even minorities. Did you even read what I wrote? If you go for a job interview and they don't hire you because you are black that isn't a fucking "micro-aggression." That is racism, plain and simple so let's talk about that and not these bullshit things like if Taylor Swift twerks it's somehow taking something away from the black community. This gives real liberals a bad name and makes us look like fatuous idiots.

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  7. The problem with cultural appropriation is that it can often be used as a mockery. If a black person were positive that he or she wasn't being made fun of or that common stereotypes associated with black females (sexual deviance, etc) weren't being pushed to the forefront than I think no one would have a problem with cultural expansion. When a white guy raps a song wearing gold chains and pretends to be "ghetto and uneducated" and still somehow gets more fame than actual black rappers, that's a problem in terms of respect and financial security. It's interesting because nowadays most people recognize that black face was an issue during the Jim Crow era. Granted, compared to the civil rights movement, it was a minor issue but we recognize that blackface was just another form of that same disrespect that allowed the Jim Crow Laws to take effect in the first place. Cultural appropriation and mass incarceration are the modern equivalent of that disrespect. You can't just fix the political structure and hope that people's minds will change along with it. You have to point at the more subtle forms of racism and sexism so that hopefully we don't have to keep going back to the same issue. So in a sense, I agree that the problem is not cultural appropriation. Just as blackface disappeared and cultural appropriation took its place, so would another form of disrespect take the place of cultural appropriation if we only rally behind that one thing. The hope is that by pointing out these smaller side issues but still recognizing the big picture we start to chip away at the pervading mentality that those of the minority do not deserve the same dignity and show the world that everyone deserves respect.

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  8. “Cultural appropriation and mass incarceration are the modern equivalent of that disrespect.”

    You have illustrated my point with this sentence in which you put cultural appropriation—a bullshit and invented problem—alongside mass incarceration which is a real problem that desperately needs to be addressed by our nation. A group of people discussing whether or not Taylor Swift is committing some sort of race crime for twerking only dilutes the real issues.

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