Friday, January 25, 2013

Follow up Fridays

Hi all. So, if you're new around these parts, follow-up fridays is where I respond to some of the comments and questions that I have gotten on recent posts. It's a way to keep the conversation going, and sometimes leads to totally new conversations.

Let's start with a comment I got from chunk hatzumomo on this post, How to stop being racist (for reals this time.)

Chunk said:

In point #3, we are asked not to judge ourselves better than people who make more overtly racist comments. Are we not free to judge on the content of character? I obviously look like an A-hole trying to argue that I should be judged better than Johnny, but by lumping us all together in the same category of racist humans, you are removing the carrot that motivates one to stop posting racist comments. I think it would be better to say we can never achieve the elimination of racist ideas, but we can certainly do "better" than to post racist comments.

This comment raises a really good point; a concern that I think a lot of other people besides Chunk share. The popular narrative is that overt racists are bad, and everybody else is good. I think I can understand some of the unwillingness behind starting to lump yourself in with the already established bad people.

I agree with Chunk's last sentence that we should try to do "better" than to post racist comments. The difference is that I think that it should not be about being better than other people, it should be about being better than ourselves. Does that make sense?

Like, I don't see a lot of value in trying to get some feeling of moral superiority because you don't do things that other people do. We all do the things that seem to be the best for us to do at the time.

Another problem with comparing ourselves to others, is that if you look at someone who is doing worse than you, there is little motivation for you to improve yourself. It's like, Well I don't use slurs on twitter, so my not being racist journey is done.

To me, it makes a lot more sense to look at yourself, and ask if your behavior is in line with your own values. Is the no slurs on twitter standard the standard you want to hold yourself to? Or do you want to go further than that? I'm not saying there is a right or wrong answer, you're the only one that knows.

But Chunk, even if you can't buy into the argument that you are not better than Johnny--there is still something really important for you to think about.

The way that white privilege works, even if you think you are better than that troglodyte johnny--you both get the same privileges from our society, because you are both white.

Now, you might think you are entitled to those privileges for some reason (because you're nice and smart and work hard or something,) but you can't possibly think that he deserves them, can you? That sounds like a pretty good reason to dismantle white privilege to me.

Ok, moving on to my most recent post, Why school funding will always be unequal.

First, let me say that I really appreciated you all sharing your personal experiences and opinions on that post--I enjoy reading what you have to say, and I know that it is easy to just read a blog post and keep it thanks for not doing that.

Paula said:

music, art, etc., are still an advantage even if everyone has access to them. That earlier statement that it was no longer an advantage if everyone had it bothered me. Learning is an advantage to the person because it enriches their life, not just if it allows them to be one up on others.

I have to say after reading this, I have to agree. I didn't mean to imply that having a well-rounded life doesn't have inherent advantages, but I can see how what I wrote made it seem that way. Reading a great book or looking at a beautiful piece of art can change someone's life in a positive way, regardless of how many other people have done the same thing.

I was thinking more about it in the way that anonymous started to describe:

Music classes and computer labs can have advantages even if every school has one. The better teachers tend to teach at the better schools. The instruments can be better if they cost more. The computers can be upgraded and have specialized software, etc.

On some level I disagree with the first sentence, because I agree with the sentences that follow.

Let's just talk about the computers. If there is a federal law that says, Every school must have x computers per y numbers of students. Every computer must be in working order, and must have Microsoft Word and Excel.

So now the poor schools get computer labs. I am pretty convinced that in a few years time, we would start to see something like virtual reality labs in the fancy schools.

Because it's not really about yeah we have a computer lab and hey it's no problem if other schools have them too if they can scrape the money together.

It's about being better. It's about being the best.

And if you can be the best now with just a computer lab, then great. But if all of a sudden you have a bunch of other schools in the running that were never competition before, it becomes What do we have to do to stay on top? That's our society, that's capitalism. I'm not saying it's right or wrong, I'm just calling it like I see it.

Harvard is a big deal because it is very hard to get in. 1+s (or 1-s, thank you Chunk,) are a big deal because every choir doesn't get them. If you put the word private in front of a word (like park, school, garden, bus, etc.) 9 times out of 10 it is going to be nicer and/or higher quality than the same thing that has the word public in front of it. The exclusivity itself brings something.

Trying to legislate our way to equality is not going to work. Some people don't want things to be equal, because equal means more competition. And if you're not confident you can beat all that new competition, it's better to just keep them out of the game from the jump. Or if that doesn't work, to constantly raise the bar or change the rules so that you're the one that is most likely to make it to the end.

Virtual reality lab experience will become the thing that gives someone an edge in college admissions. Foreign language classes in all high schools? Well, now the people that have been studying them since elementary school are the ones that will get the job. Are you picking up what I'm laying down?

I know some people might say that I am cynical. But I tend to see myself as being honest, and looking around the corner at what is coming ahead. If we really want things to be better (whatever that may mean,) we need to get real about what is going on, and try to find solutions that don't just give us the same problems presented in different packaging.

But enough about what I think--what do you think? Leave me a comment.


  1. Chunk Hatzumomo7:34 PM

    woot woot. I am famous. Two mentions on follow up friday.

    Thanks for the follow-up. I think you are onto something with this idea of everyone being a racist. We are all racists who want the best advantages for our children.

  2. Anonymous9:23 PM

    You wrote: "The popular narrative is that overt racists are bad, and everybody else is good."

    I disagree. The popular narrative is that overt racists are bad, and that at least you aren't as bad as them.

  3. Anonymous9:30 PM

    You wrote: "Another problem with comparing ourselves to others, is that if you look at someone who is doing worse than you, there is little motivation for you to improve yourself."

    What about if you look at someone who is doing better than you and learning how to do better yourself? There is something to be said for comparing yourself to others positively.

    If we only compare ourselves to our values, how do we really grow? What if our values were instilled in us by a stunted person?