First the racism, then the sexism

This morning, one of my friends posted a link to a story in which Hillary Rodham Clinton was criticized for not smiling. It’s a phenomenon with which women are familiar. (Ask around if you don’t believe this.)

For the full story: http://www.npr.org/2016/03/16/470627330/amid-big-wins-tuesday-clinton-told-to-smile-during-her-speech?

This (male) friend wrote in his Facebook post, “This is a level of sexism I only discovered existed this last year. Interesting to see it evidenced in H’s campaign. I’ve heard lots of arguments H’s unpopularity has nothing to do with her gender, but have personal experience to suggest otherwise. Gender may not be the reason you don’t like Hillary, but it is part of the reasons some people don’t like Hillary, and that should make you angry.”

I believe my friend has written an accurate assessment. In my response to him on his page, I wrote this:

We have been exposed to the ongoing existence of racism in our country — it’s been there for ages and, sadly, seems to be *INCREASING* rather than diminishing. Just ask our black- and brown-skinned friends. It’s been there all along, yet, for a long time, people were being polite about it. They have tired of being polite, which is what they call “being politically correct,” and they laud their insensitive leaders for “speaking their minds.”

Now comes the next wave: sexism. It, too, has been there for ages. Just ask our women friends.

I offer you my unsolicited analysis of what is going on underneath all of this:

There are many scared white heterosexual men of all economic classes who are now living in a world that they have historically perceived as being exclusively theirs. They are witness to the changing demographics in this country and it is scaring the crap out of them.

Though they place their hands over their hearts and parrot the words “under god” and “with liberty and justice for all,” they don’t mean a word of it. They are deeply disturbed at the prospect of women having dominion over their own bodies. They are deeply disturbed at LGBT people being afforded constitutional equality in being able to marry. They are deeply disturbed at the prospect of non-whites being able to cast their votes in elections. They are deeply disturbed that the middle and lower economic classes in this country dare to speak out against the banks and the corporations who are motivated only by stockholders — because it’s only the stockholders who are stakeholders in their eyes.

They are deeply disturbed about the very notion that anyone other than they will continue to hold the reins of wealth and power in this country.

They are deeply disturbed.

I recently read an announcement that I found to be encouraging. The committee that operates the LGBT Pride March in San Francisco every year named this year’s grand marshall for the event: the Black Lives Matters movement.

This gesture is more than symbolic. This is — finally — the recognition and a glimmering of understanding that all groups who have been systematically oppressed and mistreated over the years are each other’s allies in the struggle for being able to live our lives in a country that really does offer its citizenry liberty and justice FOR ALL — not just for some who happen to have deep pockets and the right genetics.

These heterosexual white guys have been accustomed to privilege for their entire lives, and were raised by those who, for generations, had grown up as the beneficiaries of that privilege. As the saying goes, When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.

I believe Dr. Martin Luther King understood this and expressed himself well:

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