So those of you that know me know that I don’t give a fine flying about labeling people. I frankly do not care what color, gender, sexual orientation, social status, race, or even species you are.
My friends range from pickpockets to corporate presidents and they are not gay or straight or black or white or whatever, although others use all those labels to describe them.
They are people. They are themselves.
To me, David Cook is David Cook with all that entails and Page Davis is Page Davis and Vance Taylor is Vance Taylor and KT Pierce is KT Pierce. And the same goes for all my friends, face to face, Facebook, blog, Twitter, G+, telephonic, or pen pal.
As far as I am concerned there are only two sins, ignorance – which is correctable, and making people things.
But man that last one is a doozy.
Since the beginning of time humans have felt a need to label, name and categorize things. It’s a tendency that shows up in science (classifications) and religion (First Adam named…) and it’s a useful thing. It allows us to tell poisonous things from harmless things, dangerous things from exciting things, hell, even red things from blue things.
And that is totally cool.
So are descriptive adjectives. Fluffy, white, smooth, musky, gluey, puce.
They allow us to describe our cars or the people having heart attacks to EMTs.
The problem comes about when we start doing one of two things (God I hate English)
a) stop using labels as empirical adjectives and start freighting them with weird and solely subjective qualitative values. When we start making people into things and then assuming that since they are things and all things share the same attributes all of the “things” we have now created and categorized must now be the same.
Like all cancer patients are victims – “victims” being a word weighted down with all kinds of social freighting.
Or all dark skinned people are Black – “Black” again coming with all kinds of luggage.
Or all Spanish speakers are Mexican, especially if they look a bit different than “White” whatever the hell that is.
Or all child molesters are gay and vis versa.
Or that all cross-dressers are gay because they wear the other sex’s clothes.
Or all Christians are Right Wing (and vis versa again).
Or all Asians know Karate.
This does not work, people. It’s a logical fallacy.
To return to race -as it is the topic du jour – saying John is a felon, John is black, so all blacks are felons is the exact same as saying Socrates is dead, my dog is dead, therefor my dog is Socrates!
And what makes this even more confusing is that we are a lazy species so the ability to lump sum a group together is just easier.
Worse yet, we often buy into the stereotypes our selves. I’m a “skater” so I must wear certain clothes, use certain words, own a skateboard, behave in a certain way.
There is no reason why a rich white Harvard Law Professor cannot also wear skate pants and ride a wicked plank but if he – or she – does than people are going to react very strongly in either a positive or negative fashion to that.
And we all do it – even me. I grew up in a whole county with only maybe five blacks and a Muslim. I was taught they were different from me and needed to be watched. So in my early life such people scared me. I now know better…and I know better because everyone
I am now the only light skinned person in a predominantly Black neighborhood and I was passing out fund raising flyers when an affluent Black gentleman threatened to call the police on me and threatened to loose his dogs on me (Funny that last as I know the dogs well – his sister walks them and she and they are totally sweet) because I was apparently very out of place in his neighborhood.
I also present as gender neutral as certain aspects of my neurological nature* made me have too busy learning “normal” to bother with male or female and that upsets a lot of people. I am not a guy, but I’m not a girl either. I incorporated the best aspects of both into my persona as I was growing up. So I get weird looks in the largely male dojo and I get weird looks in the Ladies room after practice.
I don’t fit the mold.
Well, newsflash. Most people don’t fit the mold. That is because the mold is a societally agreed upon mutual and consensual hallucination that we are all, sadly, taught exists.
As a medical school student, I can tell you that it doesn’t. In fact, the majority of people do not even keep their internal organs in the same place. So while some things are true – Blacks living in Norway would do well to take extra vitamin D, Cherokees do well to avoid alcohol, and Southerners would do well to eat less starches due to their largely German, English, or Celtic genetics – the majority of stuff is largely a steaming Messerschmidt.
Penis size has little to do with skin tone, anger issues likewise, homosexuality spans races, religions, and genders, and autism, schizophrenia and so on are everywhere.
So we are all, all of us, different in some way.
And the sooner we understand that the better.
Which brings us to b) we anthropomorphize things. A stuffed animal is a stuffed animal. Siri is a telephone app. And your car does not have a soul. Nor do those things have, need, or deserve rights.
People who marry their laptops ( five so far in Japan), people who kill others over a rip in their clothing or an accidental alcohol stain, or people who mistake the right to defend their children with their right to defend their yards are seriously confused.
Combine the two – “there is a Black man walking on my street” – and very bad things happen.
Another real problem here harks back to that buy-in I mentioned.
If we all do this sort of thing and we all label things then it is inevitable that we will be separated out and become angry, territorial and afraid. We will do it to each other and we will do it to ourselves. (He is white, he lives in this part of town. I am white so I will live in this part of town.)
And we won’t even be able to talk about it because we will be afraid of being perceived as racist, or insensitive, or stupid. Or worse, we will say something based on a prejudice like “What a little shit that kid is!” when the kid in question is neurologically different and his single mom is so tired from working her two jobs that she is having a bit of trouble dealing with the kid that day.
I mean what does it say that I can’t safely comment on my other friend’s posts because they perceive a gap I do not? Or assume that I am ignorant, or hypocritical, or mouthing a “party line”?
When I can’t tell my Black friend that I understand his anger over the unjustly dead members of his race and that I grieve with him? Or can’t tell my gay friend that his kid is a bit of a jerk because he will drop the whole “I’m-gay-so-you-think-I’m-a-bad-dad” thing on me? Or tell a white Fundie friend that I am a Catholic? Or even tell a dog loving friend that I hate dogs? Even something as trivial as that?
How weird, scary, dangerous does that make our culture?
And how can we ever hope to solve our problems, mutual or disparate if we keep drawing lines and more lines and more lines?
Think about this, people.
FOOTNOTE: * I am autistic, but I am also late diagnosed and an autodidact so I refuse to attribute my personal oddities to every autist out there. We are all different.