Uh Oh: Did we just open Pandora’s Box?

I am still in a funk.

I suspect you are too.

I lost the will to write.  Even today, I am still struggling to say anything meaningful, anything to motivate and inspire.  It is just damn hard.

A few people said that we need to stand up and say no.  We need to stand up to the bully we just elected.

I am not really sure what that means.

There’s a movement now to wear safety pins.  It’s supposed to symbolize that, if you are a potentially marginalized or threatened group, that you are “safe”, and that the pin wearer is a friend and protector.

Again, I am not sure what that means.

I am one of those potentially threatened people.

A friend and I were sharing our experiences on Facebook.  He is also potentially threatened, and he shared a specific case of cyber-bullying he had experienced that day – captured below.  Names have been erased to protect both the innocent and the guilty.

Cyber-bullying on Facebook

As we were both lamenting about our fears that the election would give rise to further cases like this, we both got called out on our irrationality by another “friend.”  The first is me, the second is the “friend.”What white privilege looks like

Apparently, the fact that we are successful minorities is proof positive that racism does not exist.  That I have succeeded despite racism is prima facie evidence that I have nothing to fear in the future, let alone complain about.  That all of the advances in civil liberties, women’s rights, minority rights, the LGBTQ movement – all of that in the aggregate – happened not because we climbed on the backs of people like Susan B. Anthony, Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, John Lewis, and countless other activists to reject such primitive thinking, but rather because of some natural evolution in American social thought.


I am where I am today, and so is every other person who is not a white male, because of the sacrifices these martyrs made to fight against the oppression from the historic American social order.  I have experienced my share of overt racism growing up.  And today, I am keenly aware of and sensitive to that insidious, underlying, implicit racial bias when a shopkeeper follows me around, or when a cop asks me, “Are you from around here,” or when the waitress ALWAYS takes my order last in a group setting with white friends.

Does that impact my ability to live a decent life and provide for my family?  Don’t be silly; of course it doesn’t.

Does it suck?  What do you think?

My friends wonder why I dress impeccably, just to go to the grocery store.  Again, why do you think?

So when I worry about the Pandora’s Box that has just been opened, it’s because I fear that all that work that we have put in since the 1950s is about to be undone, and that the implicit second-class citizenship that I continue to maintain will be thrust forward into the accepted mainstream consciousness.

And that, my friends, truly sucks.

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1 Response

  1. Elizabeth says:

    Wish I’d discovered you sooner. In any case, first off, that’s no “friend” as you know. [Was it the NYT? that recently published the piece re: 50% of the people we think are our friends, simply aren’t, and don’t think of *us* as “friends;” and likewise 50% of the people *they* think of as friends, aren’t either. So much for a “social network.”]
    For my money you did the right thing by leaving the comment up. It’s pretty textbook Clueless White Privilege garnished with Amorphous-&-Looking-For-Targets White Hot Hate. In fact, the second “friend”‘s expressed worldview is such a cliche it looks lifted verbatim from any bad cable TV spec-script this year, cobbled together no doubt from *his* friends’ ubiquitous laments. His curdled resentment, as expressed here, isn’t even original; it’s recycled. And that’s kind of insulting– in his exchange w/you he couldn’t muster up a personal thought or feeling…
    Which leads to my most pressing concern: he didn’t engage with you. He lectured *at* you (the most human of reflexes, sadly) and half-heartedly parroted some hallowed tropes…. but he did not engage. In fact true engagement is so rare that I’d venture to say it’s the root of the problem. We don’t engage with those we have consigned to a heap called “Other.” In fact dismissing 99% of the people one might encounter as “other” is the default mode of homo sapiens as far as I can tell. Most people don’t want to engage– it’s too much work, intellectually and emotionally. And this is marvelously convenient because if we don’t engage with them we can’t know them, and if we don’t know them, we can dump them all in a box, or boxcar, and feel powerfully liberated.
    Hm. Does my cynicism make me look fat? 🙁 It is well-earned. But enough about me.
    I believe that the human psyche itself is a Pandora’s Box (my cynicism, again.)

    And I agree that this campaign– heck, this era in history– represents the re-opening of the box. A child of the 60s, I foolishly (secure in my white privilege, I gather) believed that the box had been 80% emptied of its toxic contents before being nailed shut by historic legislation plus a smattering of raised-consciousnesses.
    Obviously I was wrong. The bigotry, xenophobia et al actually fomented and expanded down there in the dark.
    It will take a new consciousness to fight this new iteration of evil. The old consciousness worked for the previous battle; it has to evolve to fit the new presentation of an old familiar horror. This time we cannot depend upon legislation to protect us; as human beings we have to personally embody the values we claim to espouse. This is a huge test, for us collectively as a nation and as individuals. I’m frightened and encouraged in equal measure.

    The safety pin itself is a heartening start; what I am hoping is that the integrity and decency it symbolizes will take root in the American heart and psyche, as symbols often do, and take on a life of its own.

    The only way for me personally to uncurl from the fetal position is to choose to cling to that hope; the hope that I am living in an extraordinary era in which this nation will get a chance to show that the lessons from its cruel past have not been forgotten. I tell myself that this was an epic battle long brewing and that it was inevitable….. kind of the way that WWII was the inevitable result of the cataclysm of WWI.

    Or it could just be time for me to try medication. :-/

    Burn this.

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