The Privileged Optimist

I’m not watching the news right now. Nor am I listening to talk radio, reading the newspaper or checking news sites on the interwebs. I don’t even want to look at social media. It’s too much for me. I can’t stand to see another riot following the death of another person of color at the hands of the police and then hear people on both sides of the argument scream and call each other  names.

Lucky for me, I’m privileged so if I just turn off the television. I won’t be bothered by the problems that plague others. I’m white, middle class, educated, and I live in a country with truly limitless opportunities. Well, at least for me there are limitless opportunities (unless, of course, I want to make the same amount of money for the same job as a man, but whatevs).

I wish that my willful ignorance could make me feel better, but I have this voice inside me that screams: “DO SOMETHING! FIX IT! FIX IT! FIX IT!” But I don’t know how to make the world stop imploding. What I do know is this: If a black man puts stuffed animals in the back window of his car he is less likely to be pulled over. It’s like having to choose between being victimized and emasculated (no offense to my buddies Mr. Frog, Sharknado, Giraffe and Big Giraffe). Oh wait, I guess it’s victimization either way. Damn, it’s like Sophie’s Choice.

I understand that just because I haven’t personally experienced something doesn’t mean it isn’t real. I’m always shocked at how many people refuse to see there is still racism, police brutality and injustice in our own country. Then I remember how difficult it is to imagine something you haven’t experienced for yourself. It’s especially hard if you don’t want to believe it. We all want to believe we live in the best country on earth where opportunities are endless if you just work hard enough. But reality isn’t that simple. Sometimes the cards are stacked against you from birth.

Not every cop is racist and brutal but there is a fringe group of those who are and there are cops who are basically reasonable but could be nudged in that direction under certain circumstances. Likewise, protesters are by and large peaceful, but many times the violent fringe comes in and chaos ensues. These fringe groups are the ones that destroy reason and compromise and make it easy to ignore the reasonable folks.

Fuck extremists and the horse they came in on. I’m tired of them getting all the attention. Let’s stop falling for their tactics. It makes it too easy for us to  dismiss others with opinions that differ from our own. It makes it easy to say, “Racism isn’t real… I don’t see the cops being violent, only the black community” or “Maybe there is some injustice, but you have it so easy compared to other countries, you shouldn’t complain!” I hear the latter argument a lot. It surprises me that people will so willingly accept injustice here because it’s worse somewhere else.

But there is always someone less privileged than someone else. “Oh, someone is starving to death in a locked basement? Pffft, I know someone starving to death in a locked basement AND they are missing their legs.” It’s a screwy kind of anti-logic that Bugs Bunny might use on Elmer Fudd to confuse him. I’m guessing there is a name for that kind of fallacious  argument (Straw Man, perhaps?).

I wish I could get everyone to just talk about their lives, their hopes, their plans, their families, etc. We should all strive to listen to those with different life experiences. Maybe then we could start seeing each other as reasonable human beings with differing experiences and opinions. Or maybe we would dig in our heels even more and refuse to budge. I don’t think so though. Despite my willful ignorance right now, I do hold out some hope for the human race as capable of being rational under calm circumstances.


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