It would be a stretch for me to call myself a minority in any meaningful sense. I’m a straight, white, adult, cis-gender male living in the contemporary United States. I speak English as a first language, I’m a citizen, I have no notable handicaps either mental or physical. I’m past the age of majority but not past the point where my age becomes a liability. (Honestly, I put it that way because I have no idea what “young” or “middle-aged” mean anymore.)
Sometimes when I think about this issue I try desperately to think of ways that I’m a minority. I was raised Roman Catholic, which is technicality a minority sect of the overall Christian religion in the U.S. But that strikes me as more than a little like splitting hairs. It’s not like it’s 1848 and the Know-Nothings are beating me up for being a Papist.
Today I’m an agnostic-verging-on-atheist, which, again, is technically a minority in the U.S., and according to all studies, the most actually discriminated against one. But to be frank this last sentence I just wrote write here on my blog may be the first time I’ve ever admitted that publicly, and it’s not like I’m avoiding family Christmases and Easter celebrations because I’m such a raging anti-deist. I’m vaguely Christian in the way that 78% of Americans are vaguely Christian. If I don’t make a big fuss about it, for the most part my job and my reputation are safe.
The point of all this preamble is that I am playing the game of life on what John Scalzi so aptly calls in his metaphor “the lowest difficulty mode.” That being said, you may also notice something interesting in the last few paragraphs. I mentioned that sometimes I try desperately to come up with a reason why I may be in the minority – in other words, why I may be put upon.
Now think about that. In THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV Fyodor Karamazov said, “There are times when it is rather pleasant to feel wronged.” I’ve always found that to be a universal human impulse. And not only the desire to feel wronged, but to feel that when people have wronged you, it is not because of who you are as a person, but rather what you are.
Gay. Straight. Black. White. Tall. Short. Something. We each like to believe that as individuals we are unassailable, and therefore if anyone finds fault with our behavior it must be because of some other aspect of our identities, preferable one we can’t control.
I think this impulse explains things like belief in anti-Christian discrimination or misandry. Now, are there people who genuinely hate men and will discriminate against them in certain situations, given half a chance? Sure. That takes nothing away from the fact that our society is overwhelmingly weighted in favor of males. The same goes for a Christian. If you dig deep enough, are you going to be able to find an anti-Christian imam or rabbi or something in the U.S.? Sure. If you dig deep enough you’ll find people who genuinely believe in Slender Man and the Illuminati. It takes all kinds to make up a free society.
Which is where we get to the real root of what I want to talk about: situational majority-minority shifts. That’s a terrible term, and I’m sure there’s a correct one in sociology or anthropology, but for my purposes as a layman it’ll have to do. And what I mean is, there have been times where I’ve been thrust into (or, hell, volunteered for) a situation where I was the minority.
I’d venture to say that most of my jobs have been skewed at least 6:4 or 7:3 in a female: male ratio. Every boss I’ve had, except for a few in the army, has been a woman. Now, being a rational human being I’ve taken that information with exactly the grain of salt it requires. I worked at a phone bank, a profession traditionally dominated by women. I worked at a medical clinic, a profession traditionally dominated by women. The same goes for the library I worked at. Hell, the same could probably be said of the publishing industry I’m now trying to make a go of.
For that matter, I grew up in an unusually densely Jewish area. I didn’t realize, until I moved out of the town I grew up in, how overwhelmingly Christian most of this country is. I just remembered feeling left out because I didn’t get to have a bar mitzvah and shit like that.
So, basically, I’m face with two options when presented with tales of inequality in this, the land of the free and the home of the brave. The first option is when someone says, “I felt discriminated against because I was a woman” I can chime in and say, “Nuh uh, I worked in a place once where my boss was a woman and all my co-workers were women and I felt discriminated against there, so being a woman doesn’t make you discriminated against because it happens to men, too!”
The other option is I can think back to times when I was the minority because of an odd situation. I can reach down way deep inside and try to find that emotion I think the muggles call “empathy.” And then I can pull up my big boy pants and recall the logic and reality of society writ large. And with both of those things – my capacity to understand how someone else feels because I also felt put upon once and my intellectual ability to be aware of how my society discriminates against actual social minorities – I can say, “I can really empathize with that. Is there anything I can do to help?”
I think if you’re doing the former and not the latter, you’re a douchebag. Because if you know how bad something feels and you’re okay with it happening to somebody else because it also happened to you, you’re a douchebag. So there you go. In the words of a woman far wiser than me, “Be not a douchebag.”
"Manuscripts don't burn"
- Mikhail Bulgakov
Hi, I'm horror and science fiction author Steve Kozeniewski (pronounced: "causin' ooze key.") Welcome to my blog! You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon. You can e-mail me here, join my mailing list here, or request an e-autograph here. Free on this site you can listen to me recite one of my own short works, "The Thing Under the Bed."
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