Monday, April 27, 2015

Let's Talk About Privilege

There's been a lot of discussion recently about privilege and structural isms and so on.  And it's really a tough thing if you've never quite seen where in some cases you get certain advantages (or even experience less barriers) to open up and try to examine that.  And also part of it, is that embedded approaches seem so huge to fix, that it's very, very tempting to ignore them and hope they go away. 
Not picking on anyone I'm just going to share some examples that I've seen and talk a little about them.  These examples are paraphrased and the identity of each I don't think is important, but I will state that there are people of multiple races represented here, and while these examples focus on socio-economics, I could easily have plucked some that looked at gender bias, or rape culture, or any other myriad of things.
"These people are in Seattle, so there is no excuse for bad behavior while protesting."  (The bad behavior was not illegal behavior, it was simply a protesting statement that some people find offensive.)
So..first, assuming that people who don't live within spitting distance of the latest situation of a police-related killing, kind of works on the assumption that you think this problem (if, admittedly you agree that this is a problem) is based on specific police officers, the bad apple theory. So if it is just specific police officers who aren't fully trained, or have bad days, or overreact, then, sure, no one anywhere else ever has to worry that they or someone they love will be a target of this.  Except, there are examples nationwide. And look, I am pro-police officers, not just because I am related to some, but I am also aware that there is clearly a systemic problem. I suspect that there aren't simple answers, it won't just be training, it won't just be more safeguards, it won't just be legal adjustments, but that doesn't mean I don't understand why people who don't live in spitting distance of this year's police involved killings are worried that people they love might end up the next statistic.
"Why do protesters interfere with traffic.  People here hate that.  Traffic is bad enough."
Now, I hate anyone interfering with my commute too.  (Okay, sure, as a telecommuter, that's hard to do these days.) But, let's face it, traffic interruptions make news.  Just like athletes wearing t-shirts or making gestures, so these things are not solving any immediate issues, but they certainly work as far as keeping people aware that the protest continues.  During the Occupy protests, it was often easy to forget they were still there.  Every day.  So, if these protestors are making use of traffic interruptions, I'm not surprised.  People commonly come down to DC and refuse to move in front of the White House in the hopes that their eventual arrest will make news.  Sometimes it does.  It's a tactic. 
"Well, that's not enough of a number to really draw any conclusions." (This was in response to the statistic that people of color are about four times more likely to die while being arrested or detained by police.)
I applaud questioning the source of statistics.  However, if you look at the self-reported numbers - here is one article -  it looks bad.  And given that this is the self-reported data, and there are probably many more that aren't reported, well, I suppose it's theoretically possible that any missing numbers are all white people and would skew the statistics.  But here's the thing, the data we have is imperfect at best, but nothing about that data suggests to me that we should wait on a larger sample size.  And, forgive me for making assumptions, but I think the only reason you might think we need more time is if you are again, pretty sure that you don't have to worry about anyone you love.  And if you don't, lucky for you.  But I would hope that would then spur you to say we need better data, not, nothing to worry about here.
"Area unemployment is so low, obviously anyone out of work doesn't want to work."
I'm not saying that there aren't people who aren't motivated to work.  But low unemployment means the job market is good, but doesn't speak to the jobs that are available.  There might be very few open jobs available to people without a certain education level, without an address, or in the DC area, possibly without security clearance.  Also, I may be able to get a job flipping burgers tomorrow, but that job would likely not support my current rent, so even people who have jobs, may be struggling to find sufficient employment to live.  Areas with hot job markets also seem to have high rental and property rates. Again, if you don't want to worry about unemployed folks, you don't have to.  But don't decide that the numbers let you off the hook.