And they come with no warning,
nature loves her little surprises.
Continual crisis!

Thursday, August 9, 2007

We Are Not Chickens

Little fluff-ball chickens are hardwired for some things, like we all are. If they see the shadow of a raptor (bird-of-prey) they will run for cover. They most likely have never seen a raptor up close, or seen what raptors can do to little fluff-ball chickens, but their lower brain is hardwired with the body shape of raptors. When they see it that lower brain sends the signal, "Danger!" to the higher brain. The higher brain then pulls all the stops and levers to make that little fluff-ball run for it's little life.

That lower brain function exists in all of us; it's a survival instinct. The initial response of that chicken to run for cover is prejudice. That they do it all the time, instill the behavior in the chicken culture, pick on chickens that won't run for cover; this is racism.

It's Blog Against Racism Week.

I wrote a long entry about how all these functions work in our society, and I realized it was mostly bull. Well, not exactly bull but that most of what I wrote just doesn't matter. Here it is in a distilled flavor.

Racism is a political term as are most "-isms." There are people on all sides of the issue that have a vested interest in keeping racism (or the discussion of racism) alive and functioning. Racism is easy and can be addressed by laws and movements. Prejudice is hard to change, and requires individuals to make that change.

Prejudice is to racism as a broken leg is to pain. One causes the other, and if you just "fix" the pain, you've still got a broken leg to deal with. Prejudice is to racism, but it also "is" to all forms of discrimination. And it's that discrimination that needs to be stamped out. Racism is just one form of discrimination.

I am (mostly) a member of the supposedly Privileged Class (I've got my "Cracker, but okay" card somewhere around here). Bite me. My mother was divorced in the early 70s and we went from middle class to working class poor. I've been discriminated against because of that. That may seem strange in this day and age, but back then I was asked by a local reporter at the time about my "anger" at being in a "broken" family. There was a whole host of issues that were supposed to follow me, drug use, criminal activity, angry, batterer, gay. That's prejudice. I had to fit somebody else's worldview. I've struggled back out of the working poor into the lower Middle Class. I am also overweight, and I've been discriminated against for that. For a "Privileged" life, this has sure been crap. I've been working to keep my head above the economic tide since I was twelve. My first "real paycheck" job took 5 years to land (when I was 17). And yes, at twelve, I was out there hustling work and applying.

Having said that. I have had opportunities that most people haven't. I have a college education (state school, paid for through grants, scholarships, debt and working jobs all the way through, including working 3 jobs and going full-time the last two years). I've been to Europe (thanks to my Uncle). When I was 25, Bette and I (we weren't married then) bought our first used car (thanks to a former brother-in-law of Bette's). When I was 37, we bought a house (again, thanks to my Uncle). We were then able to buy new cars. Three years ago I was able to take the first real vacation (that is, travel and see something) in nearly two decades. I can now go to events (like conventions) without half my brain screaming about the money. I am finally up to two weeks paid vacation. Have I had it better than some? Most certainly. But never has it ever been easy.

Historically for the Privileged Class (whites), we have subcategorized ourselves and discriminated against Germans, Irish, Italians, Jews, Lutherans, the Anglos discriminated against the Saxons and both hated the Normans. So much for the homogeneously together white-man. If we look like we're together, it's only because we all have somebody else we can point to and collectively say, "Not one of us" (right now, that argument is against the illegal aliens, or Brown/Hispanic/Latino/Mexican, which is wrong-headed because there are many peoples that are illegal aliens, many of them Asian). If you think that sounds strange I'll point to the various discussions of hair and skin-tone in the African-American community. Or the discrimination in India between those that live in the North and those that live in the South of that sub-continent. Once the external fixation is eliminated, we would go back to internal strife.

So if you think that this is only a Racism issue, you're dead wrong. It's a prejudice and discrimination issue. We'll probably never be able to solve the lower brain screaming, "Not one of us," to our higher brain (it would probably require surgery). But we can disable those prejudicial reactions (IMHO, this should be the focus of the correction). At the very least we can modify how those reactions are externally projected and end discrimination.

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