Privilege

Yesterday, my daughter and I were walking out of the store. Another father was walking with his daughter. I would guess his daughter was about 5. They were African American. The girl dropped a little heart-shaped mirror. I picked it up and called out to him, “Sir.” He turned around, and I told him that I thought his daughter had dropped something. He thanked me, and we both went on our way.

When he turned and looked at me, it made me think about how white me and black men must hear that differently, walking out of the store. I tried to keep my voice pleasant, but I’m sure it’s easily identifiable as a white person’s. When he heard a white man calling out to him, was his first assumption that he would be hassled? It also made me think about the fact that, if I did hassle him, as a white person, I have that privilege, that cushion where, if we got into a fight, he’d probably be seen as the aggressor, even if I was the one to provoke everything. I’m sure that he’s forgotten about me handing his daughter what she’d been carrying, but it was one of those odd interactions that stuck with me.

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Now What?

Now that I’ve finished reworking the stories that I said I would, this blog’s function is a bit unclear to me. I have some ideas percolating (not that anyone is reading this blog in the first place, so not that anyone actually cares), but, in the meantime, here’s a bit of blatant self promotion.  This is my new book, due out Friday:

https://www.amazon.com/Lifelong-Learning-Stories-Zeke-Jarvis/dp/1986255964/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1521380429&sr=8-1&keywords=zeke+jarvis

Feeling Not So Hot

Honestly, I don’t know which of them is my father. It’s a tough choice. The guy in the bedroom, alternating before sniffles and laughing or the one here, at the table, making me peel cuties. He’s also telling me about how sailors used to get scurvy. I could make a joke about what happens with too many guys alone on a ship,  but that’s not really funny, and it’s not really fair. I mean, he’s a dork, but he’s basically a nice guy.

I take another of the cuties. They’re at least relatively easy to peel. At least there’s that. And I like the way that they make my hands smell. But I’m about medium on the flavor. They’re not quite sweet enough to be like candy, and they’re not quite tangy enough to really be interesting. I guess they’re like Dave that way. Well, maybe that’s not fair.

William laughs now. That means that a cough or sneeze will come in a little bit. They’ve told me a few times that I should know that they both love me, even more than straight parents, because they had to try even harder for me. I know they don’t mean it to make me feel guilty. They mean it to show how much they love me. That’s not the only thing that comes through about it, though.

Dave is looking at me. He must have said something. I smile and tell him, “Sorry, I was just listening for a cough.”

Dave gives a small smile as well. If I’m showing affection, then I must be a good daughter. “He’ll be fine. It’s just a bad cold.”

“I know,” I say.

“The best thing,” he tells me, “is that we let him rest and recover, and we do so with minimal contact, so that we don’t get sick as well.”

minimal contact, he said. That’s the kind of thing that he says. I guess that opposites might really attract. William would say something like, “I’m really sorry that we can’t be next to him. I know it’s a drag, but, that way, when he gets better, we don’t have to be away from him”. That’s not necessarily better, it’s just a different kind of weird. Maybe if I only get the best parts of both of them, then I’ll turn out to be normal, like a well adjusted person. Which would be weird, I guess.

Dave repeats it. “Think we have enough cuties, Cutie?”

After half a second, I think that I shouldn’t want to be rude, but there’s no reason to pretend that I think it’s funny. An eye roll. It’s kind of a compromise. Maybe it’s what Dave expects. If it’s not, then he does a good job of not showing it. He just raises his eyebrows and pops a segment in his mouth. Me, I brush my hands and head away from the table.

Pocahontas

This week’s events had a strange layer of significance for me. When she was young, my daughter liked the Disney film Pocahontas. I never really liked it. It’s the worst kind of faux diversity. It excuses John Smith’s greed, arrogance, and lack of self awareness. It does so under the cover of pretending to value other cultures.

When I listened to 45’s “Pocahontas” joke, I gasped out loud, something I almost never do. It was disgusting, immoral, and unAmerican. As I watched the clip of the president of the code speakers talk, and as I saw the cuts to 45’s reaction, I saw his lack of awareness, his discomfort, I saw that he was wondering, “is talking about unity a slam on me?”

We live in a time when simple concepts like togetherness can seem like a declaration of war. It would be tempting, here, to say that we need to fight, but, given what the code talker said, it is more important to listen. It is more important to think carefully about our impact upon the world.

Seedling

So after the last, maudlin post, I can counterbalance things by putting up a more celebratory, uplifting post. This weekend, my daughter is in a production of the play Elf the Musical! The company putting it on is Seedling Theatre, a group of performers of “all ages and abilities”. My daughter has CP, a number of the performers have Down’s syndrome, some have autism, one has Treacher-Collins, etc. I’m very proud of my daughter, and I’m also happy to see disabled folks getting a greater opportunity for visibility and representation. As my daughter would say, “It’s a win-win”. Link to their Facebook page below:

https://www.facebook.com/ILVTseedling/

Convergence

So this is the last story that I’m going to revise from the collection. I’ll repost the “The Posted Limit” idea that explains why I’m not revising that one. But my reason for posting is also to reflect upon the nature of this project. The deeper that I get into things, the more that I feel like this project isn’t a success or a break through so much as it is overdue and not catching up.

I write this after reflecting upon the revelations about Louis CK. While the news story confirmed things, Roseanne Barr had talked about these accusations months ago if not a year ago. The point is that I see a lot of posts saying, “I can’t trust anyone now” or “is no one in Hollywood a decent person?” And those questions are logical. The point that I want to make is that it becomes clearer with each passing day that privilege is overwelmingly used for the worst purposes, for exploitation.

This also gets to this particular story. It’s very much rooted in my studies as a math major at UW-Madison. In other words, it’s firmly rooted in my very white guy experiences. It calls into question the necessity of this project. In some ways, it seems necessary as practice and reflection. In other ways, publicizing it seems not necessary. More like the results should become self evident, though, in fairness to me, I’m not sure that many blogs are genuinely productive as opposed to there mainly for the blogger, so maybe the medium is part of the issue.