I rarely respond to the contribution or contributions of one of our stable of writers here at TPWG, but felt compelled to do so this time.
In this post here, my new friend and colleague FreeThinker said something that rankled a bit for me. She said:
Hi, all! I’m FreeThinker, and I’m back with another post. It’s been a while, and I apologize for taking my time in putting together these posts. My only excuse is that I’m a busy girl. Anyway, I caught a headline on the DrudgeReport and I read the linked article and felt the need to comment on it. After all, I’m a black woman and the moron who did the stupid stunt I talk about below makes me ashamed to be a black woman.
It’s the last part that rankled. FreeThinker is young and a wonderful thinker and writer, but I think she is wrong to feel ashamed of who she is.
It has long irritated me when someone says or does something stupid, and others then seem to say that all other people demographically like that person are somehow guilty of the same thing, or of wanting to say or do the same thing.
That tendency — the desire to ascribe the evil, the stupidity, the decrepitude, the dishonor of one person to all others like that person — is nothing more than laziness. there is no one on Earth who is like anyone else on earth.
Find me two seemingly identical thisses or thats — two black men, two white women, two tall men, short men, rich women, poor children, successful men, failures, two whatevers — and I will find a thousand important differences between the two that render it completely impossible to predict the actions, responses, thoughts, feelings, beliefs of one of them, by looking at the other.
I’ll stop at a thousand such differences, because I’ll be tired at that point.
I’m a 50-something, quite large, white dude; FreeThinker is a younger, much smaller black lady. Our thinking and perspectives are certainly influenced by those most superficial of characteristics — they’re influenced by all inputs, and those are inputs — but not governed by them.
I’ve recently felt the temptation to be stung by having someone accuse me of something merely because of who I am in the most superficial sense.
In duking it out with various people in the Race Grievance Industry (here and here, for example), I found out just how stupid it can be to pretend that one can know anything about how someone thinks merely by knowing the color of his skin, or some other trivial input.
Lately there has been a spate of women fabricating false accusations of sexual assault against men on college campuses. It’ll pass, and leave behind lots and lots of needless wreckage. The Duke Lacrosse Team, Rolling Stone and Lena Dunham cases come quickly to mind. These scams came to nothing, but have led nevertheless to a general atmosphere of accusation and suspicion against innocent young men at colleges all across America.
I understand FreeThinker’s temptation to take on herself the guilt of those false accusers, because she is young and black and the latest false accuser is a racist young black woman at the University of Buffalo (here). However, I wish she would not.
The only reason FreeThinker is, I think, bothered by this on a personal level is that she worries that others will think she is the same as the racist false accuser. If others do think that, then that stupid conclusion is on their shoulders, and nobody else’s.
I know, I know, I know… it means that in interacting with such people, one has to overcome that person’s immaturity and lazy, shallow thinking, but that will always be true.
If someone ascribes to you the characteristics of someone else, solely because of, for example, how you both look, then your interlocutor is revealing her superficiality to you up-front. We should thank her for revealing it so early in the interaction!
I say that a bit tongue-in-cheek, but it’s true. To paraphrase another great apothegm: “The lazy, shallow, and superficial we will always have among us.” We still have to deal with them. It’s a noble mission to help them to become less lazy, less shallow, less superficial.
FreeThinker, however, is not at all lazy, shallow or superficial (my humble opinion: She’s brilliant!) and need feel no shame if someone else is. Just as we don’t get to claim any extra credit when someone else does something spectacular, nor do we get any discredit when someone else — anyone else — does something ridiculous, or racist, or evil, or idiotic.
There, I’ve said my piece. The rest of FreeThinker’s piece (reminder: here) is completely, utterly and totally wonderful. 🙂