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“these people aren’t your friends”

November 5, 2009

I realized last night that i’m terribly sheltered.

We went for drinks and snacks with a buddy for his birthday last night. It was a bit strange in that there was no one else there that we knew, but that isn’t generally unsurmountable. And everyone was nice enough, but it ended up being awkward and we left fairly early.

On the drive home, we were trying to figure out why it had been so surprisingly bizarre. The main thing that stuck out in my mind was that i’m so sheltered. My friends, work and whole community – online and at home – are all fairly progressive (the main exception to this is people i know through Jamie’s work, who are unabashedly anti-progressive). Three or four times last night i heard people say these sort of stereotyped, racist – but minor and subtle – things that just made my jaw drop (inside my head). But they were all in the vein of “acceptable” bias that no one else seemed to notice, and that i can’t remember any of the details of.

The people i know simply don’t say things like that, so i was totally oblivious to how perfectly acceptable it is. It’s kind of appalling to me. The other think about it, though, is that it’s almost impossible to call someone out on. If someone is going about talking about “ragheads” it is perfectly simple to be clear that that is fucking unacceptable (i’ve always been pretty comfortable interacting with assholes). But when they’re propagating untrue, culturally supported stereotypes, you can’t say “that’s inappropriate” and leave it at that. Because people will genuinely not understand why (and thus write you off as crazy oversensitive). The only way to counter that is to have the opportunity for an in-depth discussion, which is hard to get.

Jamie pointed out that the people last night were all white, seemingly middle-class and straight (though, of course, we don’t know for certain), which means that they probably haven’t been put in a position to have to think critically about our culture.

We bandied back and forth about why it was so strange, though. Especially considering that in a lot of respects, we grew up in the same culture they did. Final Jamie said, “they were all…normal.”

Also, this feels strange to write, because it feels very othering – i know there is kind of a lot of “us” and “them” here (it feels like writing about “those people”). And i really don’t think it’s any better to talk shit about the dominant culture than about minority groups. But there are really two parts to this.

One has to do with people who i am not particularly adept at interacting with (or, at the least, which i don’t tend to enjoy). This is the bubbly personalities and discussions of bad christian pop from middle school that made the night fairly boring and a little awkward for me. And this is about us not being very comfortable around “normal” people. But this part is also perfectly fine (i just don’t think we’ll be hanging out with his new posse much).

The other part has to do with privilege and entitlement, and with being completely unaware of those things. This part is a significant part of the dominant culture, and it is not fine. And i don’t feel like i’m talking shit in this regard, because this is the part that is real, serious critique.

Lady Brett

"This Place Is A Prison" - The Postal Service
6 Comments leave one →
  1. November 5, 2009 10:35 am

    Ok, first of all I looooooooooove that Maleficent is on your page. No idea why.

    Second, I have to agree. Take my manager for instance, I think she’s a great person and she’s always going on and on about how she’s not judgmental or racist but ask her what she thinks they should do in Afghanistan.

    Go ahead. I dare you.

    Try not to fall down dead when she busts out with a “I’m sorry, but the should just bomb that entire country off the face of the earth.”


    Or when she said that when the immigrants protested and all called out of work and pulled their children out of school for a day to prove their economic presence how she said that schools were “awesome that day”.

    All prefaced with an “I’m sorry but”… and “I’m not racist or anything”…


    It’s sooooooo there… and I speak on all of them.

    You have to… let them call me crazy. I don’t care.

    Great post!

  2. November 5, 2009 1:18 pm

    “privilege and entitlement, and with being completely unaware of those things.”

    My gf’s sister married an arsehole like this. Family get togethers will be a lot more enjoyable when they divorce….

    I like to think that those people are not “normal” but I’m afraid you might be right. Sigh.

  3. November 6, 2009 11:14 am

    I like to think that there is a difference between “normal” and “the norm.” People who think that way aren’t normal, but they do seem to be the norm.

    Your experience mirrors many of mine lately, and it’s not only frustrating in the moment, but it’s also frustrating to not know how to remedy it. I do my best to be accepting of all types of people, but I really dislike having to spend any time with the people who don’t feel that way, who come from that privilege and entitlement frame of mind. Even though my friends are very accepting of me as a person, my life tends to be invisible to them because it’s different.

    That being said, can we all just go out for drinks? Now THAT would be a good time.

  4. November 8, 2009 11:30 am

    i think you’ve touched on a really major theme of my blog, and it feels reassuring to see that someone else has this experience, because i often feel like i’m shouting into a vacuum; other queers often invalidate my experience and say ‘no, people are tolerant and accepting, what’s your problem?’

    i think that this kind of blindness stems from an unwillingness to admit that we are still a despised minority among other despised minorities, and the people who would talk about other minorities that way in front of us will talk about us that way in front of others. i think what happened with the marriage vote in maine also speaks to that. not being physically attacked every minute is not the same as having equal rights, and having equal rights is not the same as being 100% accepted.

    i can’t tell you how many times i’ve called someone out as homophobic and had straight people tell me to my face that i’m wrong. well how else do you explain someone’s behavior dramatically changing toward me after i come out? and why would you invalidate my experience?

    i’m sorry that you had that experience, and sorry that that kind of attitude is still so pervasive. figuring out what i can do to help move society past this is one of my life’s missions i think, so if you have any ideas, i’d be ecstatic to hear them.

  5. November 18, 2009 2:29 pm

    Oh, tell me about it.

    I’ve had this experience a lot as of late, as we try to find new friends and community here. I honestly don’t remember the last time I heard the term Transexual to describe a trans person (because really, how do you know their identity?), none the less questions about whether someone has had “that surgery” or the “snip snip” or not. Add to that racial comments, the use of the word retarded, and oh so much more.

    On the other hand, I’m a bit reassured I’m not the only one feeling this way.

    And the next time I hear “I’m not against the gays, but…” I’m going to scream

  6. November 25, 2009 11:14 pm

    i also live in a bubble of progressive bliss. oh, how lovely it is!! but i’ve found myself similarly unimpressed by Normal People’s entitlement to their social superiority. so subtle. yet so disturbing! no, they’re not your friends–which is easy to forget. this recurring unpleasant surprise seems to be an occupational hazard of the femme spy…

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