Privilege and “Me”
So, let’s say that you live in a country where the founders were your race, your gender (and sexual orientation), and your religion (there is question as to how “Christian” many of the US founding fathers were, but they generally tried to fake it if they weren’t). Or let’s say that perhaps you are the same race and religion. Or let’s say perhaps you are just the same religion and gender or perhaps just the same race and gender, or maybe you are just the same race.
So let’s also say that you are living in a country with the fundamental belief that “anyone” can get ahead in life by hard work and perseverance, but in back of your mind you have been lead to believe that you can get ahead faster with maybe a tad bit less work because you have something in common with your country’s founders.
But what if you wake up one day and realize that your life dreams of wealth and prosperity haven’t been realized and that they probably never will. Is this your fault? Did you not work hard enough? Maybe you’ve spent your entire life slogging away on a factory line. Maybe that factory closed 10 years ago and you were forced to take 2 minimum wage jobs to take care of your family. Maybe you had dreams of going to college to become a doctor or a lawyer, but you were forced to stay close to home to take care of your family. Maybe you joined the military at 18 with the hopes that the GI bill would help build your future, but you ended up getting shipped off to war and you came back broken (mentally or physically) with no job prospects and small mouths to feed.
Where is the prosperity that was promised to you? And even if you do happen to have an average job making average pay ($30K/year), why does it seem like that paycheck dwindles away well before the next one arrives.
Maybe you suddenly you realize that this is not the life that was promised to you. Who’s fault is this? Certainly not yours. You’re a God-fearing citizen (because you were born and raised in an area of the country where Christianity thrives, because not much else does). You go to church every Sunday. You read your Bible. You are prepared for eternal salvation when the end of your life comes, but until that point, why has your God forsaken you? Why has He bestowed His glory on those who don’t heed His word? (Maybe, you missed the bit in the Bible about not loving this world and not expecting any sort of material favors in this life.)
And then let’s say that you don’t really know much about economics or foreign policy or the environment. Maybe you’ve only been to Chicago or New York City once and there were too many people and it was dirty and the buildings blocked the sun. Maybe you’ve never been out to the west coast and you really have no desire to do so, except maybe you’d like to see Hollywood and meet some stars and see how the other half lives, if only for a moment. Maybe you’ve never really met anyone from the Middle East and quite frankly you don’t want to since that’s where terrorists live and Islam is a religion of hate as far as you’re concerned. Maybe the only Asian family you know is the one that owns the Chinese restaurant down the street. They don’t bother anyone much, but why does their business seem to thrive when you are teetering on poverty? Maybe you remember the time a few years back when a bunch of Mexicans (even though they probably aren’t actually Mexicans) started hanging out on the corner looking for day labor jobs. Maybe John, the general contractor stopped calling you up to help on jobs because he could get 4 day laborers for the same price. Maybe your only interaction with LGBT people is Bob and Nancy’s boy Steve who left town 15 years ago to head for a bigger city. Maybe Bob and Nancy don’t like talking about Steve. Maybe they pretend he never existed.
Maybe all you ever see on the news is black folks rioting and looting (aren’t they all on welfare, living off the government? why do you have to work for barely over minimum wage why they can sit at home watching tv and buying new sneakers?) or gay people flaunting their sexuality and screaming about equal rights. And maybe all you ever seen on TV is objectified women wearing next to nothing, selling makeup and clothes or dancing in music videos or being “real” housewives of some city you’ve never been to.
And then one day, this guy you’ve seen on TV time and time again declares that he is running for president. At first you are skeptical. He’s rich. He’s certainly not a Christian and he’s kind of a blowhard. But then he starts talking to you and your problems. He wants to give the country BACK to you. He wants to bring jobs BACK to your part of the country. He wants to get rid of all the illegal immigrants taking YOUR jobs. He wants to protect the country from all those evil Muslims (even though they’ve never actually attacked nor threatened any part of the country you’ve ever been to). And on top of all that, he picks a running mate who is a good, God-fearing Christian fellow who has been fighting the good fight against all the anti-Christian evils in this world.
Now, I know this is a caricature of the average Trump voter, but I think that people fail to realize that not everyone believes what they do and a good swath of the country is not taught true tolerance or equality and their only exposure to that line of thinking is in the form of people preaching it at them or protesting against them, neither of which will ever sway anyone’s way of thinking.
Belief systems aren’t changed easily, especially in homogeneous places where other belief systems are already in place. Now you may believe (as I do) that organized religion is a true evil of society, but the only way that any belief system spreads is through brute force (i.e, war) and proselytizing. And the only way proselytizing works is through 1) fear or 2) promises of prosperity, safety and salvation, i.e., what can this belief system do for ME? And I guess that’s the catch. If you’re already in the majority, tolerance for minorities is a hard sell, as the benefits aren’t necessarily beneficial to you (at least that’s the perception). And even if you claim to believe in equality, if a candidate is promising other benefits that will benefit YOU then the fact that they are also spouting rhetoric that will remove freedoms and rights from others, then you are still more prone to follow that which will benefit YOU, even if the promises benefitting you are at the expense of those others. You will find a way to marginalize the damage done to others, claiming they are whiners or even liars or that they are being misled by false promises. And this occurs on both sides of any issue (the marginalization of the other side). I think the left also failed to see the damage that certain of Hillary’s policies could create (if you are extreme left and you are screaming that ALL of her policies were solid and golden then you are proving my point) or if you are less extreme and do believe there were areas where her policies were lacking, then you were willing to take that risk in lieu of the other things that you feel are more important. Hillary failed to appeal to the working-class white majority. We all live in bubbles where we find it hard to see what it’s like in other peoples’ shoes.
I grew up in the suburbs of a large city. I’ve never not lived in the suburbs of a large city. Large cities tend to be fairly diverse. I believe in diversity because I live and breathe in a diverse environment today where by and large most of the people I interact with also believe that diversity is what makes our country great. This is absolutely a bubble. It’s hard for me to comprehend that people don’t believe the things I do. It’s hard for me to understand how someone could vote for someone who spouts, what I believe to be, hateful rhetoric against minority groups. I was not all that offended when Hillary marginalized Trump voters by calling them “deplorables.” But I should have been.
I also grew up in a religious right Christian family. I was raised on the belief system that bred a lot of the anti-diverse sentiments. I was intolerant to a lot of things that were considered “non-christian” (ironically, or perhaps not ironically I am an atheist now). I am Asian, but I was adopted by a white family. I spent a good chunk of my childhood not realizing I was Asian. I went to grade school with 1 black person. Yes: 1. Diversity didn’t really come to the suburbs of large cities (at least not my large city) until I was an adult. My first gay friend (who also happens to be my best friend today) didn’t come “out” until college. And it wasn’t until I was exposed to and immersed in a truly diverse culture that I understood how important it was to preserve and fight for the rights of others.
Had I not been exposed to other races and cultures and belief systems, I’m not sure how tolerant I would be, honestly. I’d like to think I’d be tolerant regardless, but if I’m to be truly honest with myself, there’s actually a good chance I would not have been.
I do think the left sentiment that people who voted for Trump did not care about LGBT or other minority rights is at least in part true, though I think in most cases, a truer statement would be that they cared more about themselves. It’s a sad truth of humanity in general that we tend to care more about ourselves than others. We are survivalists at heart. What I find even sadder is that I believe that Trump supporters have been duped. Under his reign the rich will continue to get richer and everyone else will continue to get poorer. His policies will not bring more jobs here they will make everything less affordable for everyone. And on top of all that, he actually believes in stricter gun control than what we have today.