11 October 2016
I work with a guy I’ll call James. James is a Trump supporter, and will tell anyone who asks that yes, he is voting for Trump. Also, nobody who actually knows James would call him “deplorable.” James is a decent dude.
James is also a guy from Pennsylvania, who went to school at Villanova, lived and bought a house in New Jersey, and otherwise spent his whole life in the NY-metropolitan area. He has zero desire to travel abroad (he told me so, when we talked about how much time I spend overseas).
I figure that, beyond the explicit reason *why James supports trump (James says Trump will appoint conservative Supreme Court justices), is a deeper and implicit reason *how he can support Trump – James simply doesn’t feel what a lot of #NeverTrump voters viscerally feel. For example:
– James has never feared categorical discrimination for being Muslim.
– James has never suffered sexual discrimination for being female.
– James has never felt the pain of being cast as a perpetual foreigner as an ethnic Asian (James watches Fox News, maybe even #WattersWorld).
All these things, and likely more, James doesn’t feel because its not relevant to his personal experience. And because its not relevant to his personal experience, he can easily dismiss them as Political Correctness and something baked up by some Liberal Agenda.
By contrast, anyone who has ever been a minority in any regard – be it Muslim in a predominantly Christian community, Asian in a predominantly White society, female in a predominantly Male workplace, has had to do this at some point in their lives:
*Adapt to the dominant narrative.
It has always been incumbent upon minorities to “fit in” or even overcompensate: if you are gay, you act “macho”; if you are female and want to get promoted, you likewise find a way to be #OneOfTheBoys, if you are an ethnic Asian, you better score 800 on your SAT verbal (just kidding. Maybe 700 is good enough. But seriously, I love it when some white dude tells me “You speak English so good!”)
The “dominant narrative” in America is that of the generic experience of a white dude – James.
James has never had to step outside his own experiences to “fit in.” Everyone else who doesn’t share his experience has had to adapt to “fit in” his worldview.
James is not deplorable. James is a white dude who grew up in Pennsylvania and who has not since strayed far from home, and takes for granted that his life experience, what matters to him, is all that really matters – because he has lived the privilege of never having to step outside his own shoes to see things through the eyes of others, in order to “make it” as an American, to make it in the C-suite.
There are decent dudes who support Donald Trump because they don’t understand what it’s like to be on the receiving end of Trump’s racism, xenophobia, and misogyny. It’s not real to them, so it doesn’t really matter (compared to the things that do).
What these Trump supporters could stand to gain isn’t decency, it’s empathy – the awareness to look beyond our own limited experiences and feel for others unlike yourself.
This isn’t a criticism against any person or White Dudes in general. It *is my opinion on why there are decent people who continue to support Donald Trump in spite of all that he has said. It *is a critical opinion on how privileges (some of which I benefit from, others I do not) can blind us if we don’t consciously try and identify our blind spots. And it’s my observation on the different layers of social stratification and even hierarchies that exist in American society, and how it affects the way we perceive things, and choose to act or not act.
Incidentally, I work in a pretty White, pretty Male, workplace. Our big boss has explicitly pointed out the lack of diversity as a challenge, not for cosmetic purposes, but in fulfilling our mission.
It doesn’t surprise me at all, by contrast, that in the case of Colin Kaepernick, much of the support he receives is from his peers, to include White Dudes (professional coaches, e.g., Chip Kelly, Gregg Popovic, and players, Chris Long etc) who in all likelihood, have spent years of their lives working very closely with many, many, Black coaches/players – enough to at least begin to understand that people do have different experiences that deserve to be heard.
EPILOGUE 12 November 2016
By Greg Popovich:
“I’m just sick to my stomach. Not basically because the Republicans won or anything, but the disgusting tenor and tone and all of the comments that have been xenophobic, homophobic, racist, misogynistic.
“I live in that country where half of the people ignored all of that to elect someone. That’s the scariest part of the whole thing to me. It’s got nothing to do with the environment and Obamacare, and all of the other stuff….
“That’s what worries me. I get it, of course we want to be successful, we’re all going to say that. Everybody wants to be successful, it’s our country, we don’t want it to go down the drain. But any reasonable person would come to that conclusion, but it does not take away the fact that he used that fear mongering, and all of the comments, from day one, the race bating with trying to make Barack Obama, our first black president, illegitimate. It leaves me wondering where I’ve been living, and with whom I’m living.
“The fact that people can just gloss that over, start talking about the transition team, and we’re all going to be kumbaya now and try to make the country good without talking about any of those things. And now we see that he’s already backing off of immigration and Obamacare and other things, so was it a big fake, which makes you feel it’s even more disgusting and cynical that somebody would use that to get the base that fired up. To get elected. And what gets lost in the process are African Americans, and Hispanics, and women, and the gay population, not to mention the eighth grade developmental stage exhibited by him when he made fun of the handicapped person. I mean, come on. That’s what a seventh grade, eighth grade bully does. And he was elected president of the United States….
“One could go on and on, we didn’t make this stuff up. He’s angry at the media because they reported what he said and how he acted. That’s ironic to me. It makes no sense. So that’s my real fear, and that’s what gives me so much pause and makes me feel so badly that the country is willing to be that intolerant and not understand the empathy that’s necessary to understand other group’s situations. I’m a rich white guy, and I’m sick to my stomach thinking about it. I can’t imagine being a Muslim right now, or a woman, or an African American, a Hispanic, a handicapped person. How disenfranchised they might feel.”
fn1: Being gay has given me a deeper understanding of what it means to be in the #minority and provided a window into the challenges that people in other minority groups deal with every day. It’s made me more #empathetic, which has led to a richer life. It’s been tough and uncomfortable at times, but it has given me the confidence to be myself, to follow my own path, and to rise above adversity and bigotry. It’s also given me the #skin of a rhinoceros.. ” – Tim Cook
fn2: “I play in a league that’s 70 percent black and my peers, guys I come to work with, guys I respect who are very socially aware and are intellectual guys, if they identify something that they think is worth putting their reputations on the line, creating controversy, I’m going to listen to those guys.
“And I respect the anthem. I would never kneel for it. We all come from different walks of life and think differently about the anthem and the flag and what that means. But I think you can respect and find a lot of truth in what these guys are talking about, and not kneel. Those aren’t mutually exclusive ideas.
“Listen, it’s been complicated…. I’m just going to listen to my peers because I respect those guys, and I can’t put myself in their shoes.”
fn3: “What’s really interesting is the people that jump right away to say, one is attacking the police, or the people that jump on the other side. It’s a question where understanding and empathy has to trump, no pun intended, has to trump any quick reactions of an ideological or demagogical nature. It’s a topic that can’t just be swung at, people have to be very accurate and direct in what they say and do.”
Do you support that athletes that are taking stands?
“I absolutely understand why they’re doing what they’re doing, and I respect their courage for what they’ve done. The question is whether it will do any good or not because it seems that change really seems to happen through political pressure, no matter how you look at it. Whether it’s Dr. [Martin Luther] King getting large groups together and boycotting buses, or what’s happened in Carolina with the NBA and other organizations pulling events to make it known what’s going on. But I think the important thing that Kaepernick and others have done is to keep it in the conversation. When’s the last time you heard the name Michael Brown? With our 24/7 news, things seem to drift. We’re all trying to just exist and survive.
“It’s easier for white people because we haven’t lived that experience. It’s difficult for many white people to understand the day-to-day feeling that many black people have to deal with. It’s not just a rogue policeman, or a policeman exerting too much force or power, when we know that most of the police are just trying to do their job, which is very difficult. I’d be scared to death if I was a policeman and I stopped a car. You just don’t know what’s going to happen. And part of that in our country is exacerbated by the preponderance of guns that other countries don’t have to deal with. It gets very complicated.
“At this point, when somebody like Kaepernick brings attention to this, and others who have, it makes people have to face the issue because it’s too easy to let it go because it’s not their daily experience. If it’s not your daily experience, you don’t understand it. I didn’t talk to my kids about how to act in front of a policeman when you get stopped. I didn’t have to do that. All of my black friends have done that. There’s something that’s wrong about that, and we all know that. What’s the solution? Nobody has figured it out. But for sure, the conversation has to stay fresh, it has to stay continuous, it has to be persistent, and we all have a responsibility to make sure that happens in our communities.”
If your players protest, do you plan on talking to them about it?
“My players are engaged citizens who are fully capable of understanding what their values are, and what they think is appropriate and inappropriate, and what they feel strongly about. Whatever actions may or may not be taken are their decisions, and I’m not going to tell anyone ahead of time that if they don’t do A, B and C, they’re going to be gone or traded. I think that’s ignorant.”