Identity, Diversity and Oppression

The Dream

I share Martin Luther King’s dream of people being judged by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin. Sadly, I have seen that in recent years we seem to be moving further away from that dream.

The dream is of a colorblind world where are all given equal opportunity, with character and skill and ability forming the basis of determinations of accomplishment.

A dream of a world where job applications, promotions, scholarship and University admissions are based solely on ability and objective qualifications.

A dream where we all see and treat each other as individuals with the same consideration and respect.

Sure things like gender, ethnicity, etc are a part of what makes a person unique, but they are not what a person is. If we can’t get past those identity markers, we can not form real relationships with each other. In getting to know people and forming relationships, we come to see a person as a unique individual – we see their personality, character, strengths and weaknesses. Just as we would want to be known and treated well because of who we are, not what we are, we would treat others well.

The Privilege Pyramid based on Oppression Points

After I started writing this, I read an article by Matt Walsh where he describes “The Left’s Victimization Flow Chart.” White men are at the top, followed by white women, then non-whites, then various LGBTQ combinations. He explains leftist thinking as oppression can only go from the top down, with higher groups oppressing those lower down. It is impossible with this thinking for someone in a lower group to oppress someone in a group above.

One way to look at privilege and oppression is an inverse pyramid. The larger majority at the top have greater privilege and oppress the gradually smaller minorities toward the bottom. Those at the top – white males – are seen as the most privileged and the greatest oppressors. An inverse pyramid is top heavy – it looks oppressive.

What I see happening is that now that inverse privilege pyramid has been flipped. It now looks like a regular pyramid, with reversed privilege and oppression. “Priviledged” white men are now at the bottom, with non-white LGBTQ people at the peak.

This is because society now awards people “oppression points”. Those acquiring the most have greater actual privilege in the way of political power and social influence. These greatly oppressed are able to claim victimhood to get what they want – things ordinary and even formerly privileged people must rely on their own efforts to obtain, or may not ever be able to have or do.

These at the top of this new Oppression Pyramid (formerly the bottom of the flow chart) are automatically believed and do not need any facts or evidence to back them up. Their “oppressed” status gives them freedom to pretty much say what they want. They can spew hate speech. They can claim discrimination and accuse others. They can ruin people’s lives if they don’t get what they want. The thinking is that they can’t really “offend” anyone, because they are the most offended.

Conversely those who are considered “white privilege”, especially rich white males, find themselves now on the bottom – the most despised, least believed and less able to use what had been considered advantages to their own or to society’s benefit. Definitely judged by the color of their skin rather than the content of their character.

I don’t think this is what Dr. King had in mind – the oppressed turned into oppressors.

Irony of Diversity

I find it ironic, baffling and disturbing that this is all occurring at a time when diversity has never been so great. The US is especially a nation of immigrants. We have neighbors from all nationalities and ethnic groups. We have intermingled and produced people with all kinds of ethnic and racial combinations. We have easily accessible DNA testing providing evidence of our multi-racial and multi-ethnic combinations. There are fewer and fewer people who can claim to be pure anything. We are almost all mongrels.

Why then, are we putting people into pigeonholes of identity based on characteristics that have become blurred? How hard has it become to accurately identify someone on first glance – by race, religion, or even gender? Yet, assumptions and actions are taken based on such superficial instant judgments.

Why do some people have a need to identify as an oppressed group? Why do some judge people, and others want to be judged, by the hyphenated part before American or the alphabet letter they choose? Wouldn’t they rather be judged by their unique personality or character?

Why can’t we just see each other as individuals with multi-faceted identities? Why can’t we be a people who judge others based on their actions and the content of their character? It is the dream, after all.

Ominous Warning Signs

History provides some ominous warning signs. Looking back on the Holocaust, the Jews were initially targeted, not because of their oppressed position, but for their privilege. Rather, it was the perception of their privilege – having wealth and power and influence that they did not deserve. Resentment for their perceived privilege fueled and justified others oppressing them. Then having been stripped of all privilege they became totally oppressed.

The great communist regimes didn’t target those lowest on the socio-economic ladder, though peasants eventually suffered greatly. The largest regimes were largely racially homogeneous populations, so race was not really a factor. Communists and Socialists targeted the privileged – the elite, the wealthy, the educated.

The presumed oppressed became the oppressors – or were used by those with some power seeking greater power to remove and destroy those previously having social and political power. The results were disastrous. The elite were destroyed, the poor remained poor and oppressed now by the government. But the newly elite party leaders enjoyed the spoils.

Our Choice

The challenge and choice for us in America is to find a way to recognize and accept differences without value judgments and accusations. We need to return to the principles upon which our government and country were founded. We all have the same God-given rights. Justice requires that we be judged by our actions, not our identity. Can we give up the competition for victimhood? Can we replace identity politics with justice and liberty for all?

I Don’t Want to be an Adult, Either

What does it really mean to be an adult?

I read an article by a Millennial who at age 36 still didn’t feel like an adult. The main idea I got from this was that somehow – partly because of circumstances beyond their control – the trappings of “adulthood” have eluded many Millennials. The indicators of adulthood that this person was looking at were basically “things” – career, house, family – which to them define “adulthood”. Not having found all of those at an age when earlier generations had, they don’t feel like adults. They feel that “the economic and emotional benefits promised by adulthood are overrated.”

Me as an Adult

I considered myself an adult at 22 years old. I had graduated from College and got a real job. But looking at those “things” Millennials consider requirements for adulthood, I would not have qualified. I was not married. I lived in an apartment with two roommates and was certainly not successfully established in my career yet.

Adulthood is about being independent, responsible, self-reliant and making a contribution to society.

My determination of adulthood is not based on those “things”, as if they could be checked off a list and then you had arrived. To me adulthood is about being independent, responsible, self-reliant and making a contribution to society – things that have more to do with character than age or income level. These are qualities that reflect a shifting from a “what I want” and “what can everyone do for me” focus to more of an “I can take care of myself” and “what can I do to better care for others” perspective. Maybe this is what Millennials are really missing?

Its not about you

External economic circumstances may have contributed to Millennials feeling that things are working against them, but their focus still seems to be on self – the career that hasn’t worked out the way they wanted, not having the nice home and all the things their parents worked for years for. There is an attitude that somehow by reaching a particular age all of these things should have just been given to them as “promised”. Even the lack of a spouse and children seems to be focused on their lack of something, rather than the natural adult desire to turn outward to nurture and teach and guide the next generation.

Benefits or Opportunities?

No one “promised” me or my generation “benefits” of adulthood. The 22 year old adult me had to learn to solve her own problems. Mom and Dad were not far away, but I didn’t run to them to fix everything. I worked hard to support myself financially and had to learn to prioritize and budget to be able to acquire material things. I learned to serve others and find joy in that, rather than just pursuing adventures and entertainment and activities that I found to be fun.

Sadly, I have read some obituaries lately of 36-years-olds who died way too young. Some of them told about exciting adventures, many friends and good times, as if that was all that should fill 36 years of life. I can’t help but contrast this with obits of people my age which mention children and grandchildren and enjoying time spent with them. They mention professional accomplishments, but also public service and volunteer work.

Am I there yet? Do I want to be?

As an aging baby boomer, I guess I could also conclude that I have not arrived at adulthood because I failed to get all of those “benefits” that supposedly come with adulthood. I didn’t have a long prestigious career, a huge beautiful house and all kinds of luxuries. I haven’t traveled the world and associated with important people. I am not successful as some might define it.

But even with my definition of adulthood I find myself these days having thoughts like “I don’t want to be an adult anymore”. I get weary of the responsibility of taking care of all of the messy details of maintaining a home and a life, and dealing with difficult people. I want someone else to make the hard decisions. It would be really nice not to have to worry about anything and just be entertained. I would like to be taken care of for a change.

But then, I pull up my big girl pants and get to work doing something that will help someone else. Because I am an adult.

Honesty

Honesty

Some thoughts about honesty in a world of deception, relative truth, and rationalization.

Honesty & Truth

Honesty is an admirable virtue. It is an aspect of good character, an indicator of a good person. There are generally two aspects of honesty – honesty in speech and action. These are reflected in two of the Ten Commandments: Thou shalt not steal and Thou shalt not give false witness. But honesty goes beyond these outward manifestations.

To be truly honest, there must be a clear standard of truth with which to be true. There are a plethora of laws dealing with all of the potential instances of dishonesty.

One could insist that it is the intent at the core of honesty or dishonesty that matters. If the intent is to mislead or deceive, that is clearly dishonest, while those who are misinformed may speak untruths without awareness. Deception is the presentation of opinion, belief, or perception as truth.

When we do not act in accordance with real truth – absolute truth – we are deceiving ourselves. We deceive ourselves first because we want to believe we are okay doing what we want to do. We then seek agreement from others to validate our own false perception and actions.

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Preparation

Preparation

Preparation is an important step in any endeavor which we might want to pursue. Depending on the nature of that endeavor, our preparation may be more or less in one or more of these areas:

Physical

We might need to prepare ourselves physically through exercise, training, improving health, or learning specific skills. Some projects require obtaining or gathering needed materials and supplies. When thinking of emergency preparation, this is generally the focus, though preparation in other areas is needed as well. Preparation includes planning and organizing. Practice is important in preparation. Having needed emergency supplies will not be helpful it we don’t know how to use them. Training by doing something repeatedly over time makes it easier, faster and can in some cases become automatic.

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Questions about Consent

When addressing “consent”, it is important to make a distinction between consenting to an action or behavior and giving consent to a person. It seems that whichever perspective is used depends less upon the actual intent of the person choosing, and more on the political agenda of those using the argument. (An obvious, to me, example is the bakers and florists who refused consent to creative acts which they found morally objectionable, yet these situations have been manipulated into discriminatory refusals to individuals because of who they are. This may seem to not apply to what I am about to discuss, but that is my point.)

The Dance

A seemingly innocent situation of a simple 6th grade Valentines Dance resulted in local media attention and outrage. Of the many issues involved with potential for outrage, one in particular emerged and became THE ISSUE, due to it being associated with the currently in vogue outrage – #MeToo.

In an effort to promote inclusion, the students were told not to refuse to dance with anyone. Both boys and girls would have certain dances for which they would do the asking. One girl’s mother protested, saying her daughter should have the right to say no to any boy. This turned into an example of the need to empower girls to say no to boys to prevent future abusive #MeToo situations.

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5 P’s of Improvement

Improvement

At the beginning of a new year, many of us reflect and set goals or make resolutions. We think about making changes which hopefully will be an improvement or progress toward something better. Real progress involves processes, is based on sound, true principles, stays true to purposes and truly improves.

Progress

C. S. Lewis said, “We all want progress, but if you’re on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.” (Mere Christianity)

In our world and our lives, things are constantly changing. But change does not always mean progress. If change does not improve us or something, it is not progress at all. Progress implies forward and upward movement toward something better, higher, more noble. Thinking that anything new is positive or progressive implies that everything from the past has been somehow inferior. Anything new is better than the old. The reality is that much change in the name of progress can actually take us in the wrong direction. Too often changes proposed as progress are more of an attempt by a person or a group to change things to suit themselves, merely because they are in a position of power to do so. Pride can play a part in assuming that “my way is the better way”.

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Respect

The lack of respect I see in the world today disturbs me. I think ultimately the respect or disrespect we show tells more about our own character than about the object of our respect or disrespect. We need to be respectful for our own sake.

Respect

Respect is related to civility, courtesy and politeness, but I think it goes deeper than these. Definitions include feelings of esteem or honor as well as courteous behavior. We rightly respect those we hold in very high regard based on their personal character or achievements. There is a sense of duty or obligation to show deference towards those in high positions. Civility requires this, regardless of our personal feelings toward such persons. Respect also includes showing consideration for others and their rights.

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Character

Character reflects how we actually are – deep down and real. It can not be faked. It is reflected in how we behave when we are alone, or when we think no one is watching or listening.

Character

This month I have chosen to discuss “character”. There are several definitions of the word, but I want to focus on that which refers to specific traits, qualities or attributes reflected in a person’s personality and behavior – the character of an individual. This could be looked at in terms of patterns of behavior, or a collection of various moral and mental qualities. Sometime the term is used to refer to more excellent qualities of character, but character can also be negative or lacking.

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