Tuesday, April 17, 2018

If it were a snake...

There used to be a radio station (I think maybe it was B98.5) that had this fun game where you'd call in and go to your junk drawer.  They'd ask for several random items, and if you had them in your drawer, you'd win.  I mean, you'd often lose your pride, but you'd win some prize.  I wondered for a while how they verified that the items were actually in the drawer, and then I realized it really didn't matter all that much.  The fun was in the phone exchange.

Image result for junk drawer
1000 points if you can find Waldo.
1000 more points if you ever found Waldo in a book.
Lose 1000 points if you're too young to know Waldo, whippersnapper.
I was never really amazed at what people would claim was in their junk drawer.  I was more amazed that they could find it.  I'll open up our junk drawer at home and start looking for something I know beyond doubt is in there, and I won't be able to find it.  You know who can find it?  Lisa.  It's like she has xray vision or something.  She always says, "John, you have to move things around."  But I did move things around!  "Well I don't know what to tell you.  If you had moved things around you would have seen the spare helicopter blade.  It was right there."

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My eye doctor has yet to pinpoint the issue.
I'm not the only one this happens to.  Admit it; it's happened to you.  1000 points to the person with the best "it was right in front of my face" story in the comments, either on the blog or on FB.  In fact, it happens so often that there's a cliche for it.  "If it were a snake, it would have bit me."  It's like we're blind to something entirely.  And then, when someone points it out to us, we can't figure out how we missed it in the first place.  Usually we feel pretty dumb about the whole thing too.  At least I do.

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I'm afraid of snakes.
We can really struggle to explain the obvious things we don't see.  Back in about my first week of driving, I had a car accident.  There was a traffic light out.  Not flashing, just...out.  Ordinarily such a signal should be treated as a 4-way stop, but I forgot all about that, proceeded through the intersection, and caught the right rear bumper of a little silver Nissan.

The cop asked us what happened, made a few notes, and sent the other driver on her way.  Then he handed me my ticket and said, "Why didn't you stop?"  "Well, officer, the light was out."  "Yes, but didn't you see the stop sign?!"  I hadn't seen it at all until he said that.  But then I saw it.  And it was oversized.  Like twice the normal size of a stop sign.  I'm not even making this up.  "No, honestly I didn't see it."  "Well, hopefully you'll pay closer attention next time.  Make sure you show up for your court date."  I still couldn't tell you why I didn't see it.  Sure, I was looking at the light that wasn't working.  But criminy, that was a big stop sign.

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Well why didn't you say so?!
Sometimes maybe we just don't want to see something.  I mean, that's not the case with the stop sign.  Believe me I would rather have seen it.  But what if not seeing that thing would help you out?  This has to be the case for nearly the entire population of children, who somehow don't see that their parents basically make their lives on planet earth possible when they are complaining about having to take the dog out.

Image result for walk the dog
Seriously, I mashed your peas.  Get out there.
Regardless of why we miss something, there often comes a point when we see it.  Once we've seen it, we can't unsee it.  Whatever it is, it...well, it is.  And we have to figure out how to deal with it.  There's a great scene in Legend of Bagger Vance where Junuh sees his ball move and has to call a penalty on himself.  This moment is how we see growth in Junuh's character.  Everyone, including his oponents, pleads with Junuh not to call a stroke on himself.  He easily could ignore that slight motion and improve his chances of winning, and the Junuh from earlier in the movie would have done just that.

He called the penalty on himself.  He saw the original position of the ball.  He saw its new position.  He couldn't unsee either one.  And he dealt with it.

Well, I've seen something.  I'm not sure how I missed it before.  And I'm not sure what opened my eyes to it either.  Maybe it was Charlottesville.  Maybe it was the 2016 election and the hate that bubbled up during it (and since).  I'm not even sure exactly when I saw it.  But I can't unsee it now.  It's everywhere.

It's racism.  And sexism.  And discrimination on a wide variety of traits.  I see plainly how my gender and my color and my sexual orientation have given me an advantage, mostly because I see now so clearly how the very same factors disadvantage others.

Sure, nobody who has privilege wants to admit it.  We'd rather believe we earned everything we have through our own blood and sweat and tears.  Privilege doesn't mean you never worked for what you have.  Privilege means someone else who works just as hard as you should have access to the same things you do.  And admitting we are privileged...will ultimately mean losing some of what we have.  It has to.  It's not about feeling bad or guilty.  It's about seeing the uneven field.  And it's about taking some action to even it.

Last time I wrote about this, I wasn't sure what to do about it.  Honestly I'm still not.  But I can't unsee it.  So there are a few things I'm going to do.

1. Don't contribute to the uneven field.  When I make decisions, I will consciously consider the ways in which discrimination may play a role in the decision and avoid it.

2. Let other people know when they are contributing to the uneven field.  When I see someone discriminating unfairly, I will not be silent.  Not to be mean or because I'm better than they are...because they most likely are like I was--they just don't see it.

3. Don't tell or laugh at "politically incorrect jokes."  Let's be real.  "Politically incorrect" is a politically correct way of saying "offensive" or "racist."  These jokes aren't funny.  What makes me a sad is that I realize now they never were.

4. Raise children who are sensitive to discrimination.  I will make sure they learn history.  I will open their eyes to the hate when they are old enough to understand.  I will teach them the value of life and love and the cost of hate.  I will help them see their privilege, and encourage them to seek to level the field in their own way.  I will lead them by example.

5. Don't count the cost.  For those of us with privilege, leveling the field will feel like we are losing something.  It may feel unfair.  I will remember that it is not unfair...as it has been for those without privilege.

There may be more.  There has to be.  But this is a start.

How did I miss this before?  How did I not see it?  If it were a snake...well, if it were a snake it probably would have left me alone unless it felt threatened by me, in which case it would have acted out of self-defense.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome. Thoughtful. Spot on. Love it. You write really well!