My taiji teacher and I were talking about our food allergies today. She’s allergic to dairy (and maybe casein and/or whey). I am lactose intolerant (and perhaps have issues with casein and/or whey), and I have gluten sensitivities. It morphed into a discussion about why are some people assholes about food sensitivities to the point of not believing the person who says they have them. This led to a discussion about how people can be such jerks to vegetarians/vegans, and I pointed out that to be fair, there are some vegetarians/vegans who are assholes. She agreed, but pointed out that the vast majority are not. She gave the example of bikers. Yeah, there are some asshole bikers, but they would be assholes if they were drivers or pedestrians. In other words, they were just assholes in general.
It’s something I’ve been thinking about lately, and it’s actually what I wanted to write my post about today even before the discussion. I have an issue with someone who’s a minority saying, “I’m ________, therefore I am the expert on this issue. If you disagree with me, then you’re ______ist.” This might be true. It might also be that you’re an asshole and/or wrong. I have made a truism: You can be a minority AND an asshole; the two are not mutually exclusive. It’s hard for me to be coherent about this because I have many conflicting thoughts. One, it’s good to include a diversity of opinions. In the past, the automatic default of straight white bio-male meant that a lot of people were being overlooked. One example relevant to me: most medical studies in the past were done on white men. When I had trouble sleeping, my psychiatrist at the time suggested I try sleeping pills and gave me the lowest dose. I took a pill and didn’t wake up for nearly twenty-four hours. I cut it in half at her suggestion, but I still slept for far longer than I wished. I cut it into a fourth, but it still knocked me the fuck out. I gave up and stopped using them. Many years later, I learned that Asian people need a smaller dose than white people, and, of course, women in general need less than men. Had I know that at the time, I would have been lot less frustrated.
Two, experiences as a minority vary widely. Growing up Asian American in a Minnesota suburb in the eighties is very different than growing up Asian American in LA ten years ago. My experience is valid, and I’ve run into many Asian Americans around my age who grew up in similar environments and had similar experiences. However, it would be a dick move on my part to insist that my Asian American experience is the ONLY Asian American experience, and anyone who said anything different was invalidating my experience AND a racist to boot.
Three, pointing out problematic behavior/thoughts/words is the beginning of a conversation, not the end. There are some things that are definitely, say, racist. Let’s take the obvious extreme–being a Nazi/white supremacist. Oh, wait. That’s apparently not so obvious these days, but that’s beside the point. Most rational people would agree that thinking you’re a better person just because you’re white and explicitly stating this is racist, so let’s move on. The problem is, there’s a lot of gray area when it comes to social issues, and not everybody agrees where the line is drawn. There’s a lot of talk about microagressions these days, but one person’s microaggression is another person’s hilarious joke.