May 21, 2012
Oh, I”m laughing. Laughing and laughing and laughing and laughing. You say that collective pride is a sign of ignorance, but collective shame is a sign of enlightenment. You affirm yourself through self-negation. You think it’s brave to be a pussy. You”ve raised your consciousness so high, you”ve left planet Earth entirely. You”re hilarious!
Just as I can”t see all this invisible racism, and just as I think that anyone who believes in institutional racism ought to be institutionalized, I”m absolutely blind to all this privilege I allegedly enjoy due to my skin and gender. I don”t see the privilege in being required to passively accept my nonexistent role in historical atrocities. I don”t see the upside of being constantly lampooned and demonized in media and education. And I definitely don”t see the privilege in being a white-male writer in a modern media milieu where it’s a career-killer if the first words out of your mouth aren”t, “I”m a white male, and I”m sorry.”
While working on this essay, I received an email from a white male who works in media asking if I”d seen Scalzi’s article and urging me to write about it. He”d personally experienced an extremely hostile reaction from his cohorts after criticizing Scalzi’s piece:
I tried to bring a little reason into the discussion (“Hey, I grew up in a shitheap and work three jobs so why am I more privileged [than] Michelle Obama?”) but out came the pitch forks….I’ve actually had to block a lot of people in my social media circles over this, and I’ve not been able to even sleep that much since reading all of the hateful bleating from his little sheep.
Shortly after I told him I was going to include the Scalzi article in my piece, he sent me this:
Oh, and I guess it’s too late now, but my wife is freaked out you’ll mention me in the piece. Guess she’s got a point. The progressive witch hunters are thick in my line of work and even the tiniest claim of the scarlet “R” word will ruin my life for good. I told her you didn’t seem like that kind of guy, but I also promised I’d ask. So is that okay?
I wrote him back a single line:
How much energy does it sap from you every day biting your lip and not speaking the truth?
He responded with palpable terror:
Oh. Crap. A lot….I’ve tried to speak about this—that privilege is a relative thing—and all it got me was a whole lot of misery….I was eaten alive on Facebook, and all I want is not to have my life ruined—I am scared now, frankly. I’m just starting to dig my way out of the financial and creative morass I’ve dug for myself….My wife is already furious with me about this. We are/were on the verge of some new stuff that could dig us out of a bad situation….You, as you’ve gathered, now have [me] by the balls. I never thought that this would happen. Are you going to break me?…I was stupid, I guess, and I’m sorry. I don’t know what I’m going to do if you choose to throw me to the wolves. I just didn’t think that you would. Are you?…I’m fucked.
And I wrote back:
You’re the one who has to live with yourself and what appears to be a dominating wife….I don’t plan on identifying you, because that’s not my style unless someone’s directly attacked me first….But you helped me write this article. These emails illustrate a lot of points I’ve tried to make.