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The Distress of the Privileged
January 18, 2013 1:18 PM   Subscribe

As the culture evolves, people who benefitted from the old ways invariably see themselves as victims of change. The world used to fit them like a glove, but it no longer does. Increasingly, they find themselves in unfamiliar situations that feel unfair or even unsafe. Their concerns used to take center stage, but now they must compete with the formerly invisible concerns of others. If you are one of the newly-visible others, this all sounds whiny compared to the problems you face every day. It’s tempting to blast through such privileged resistance with anger and insult. Tempting, but also, I think, a mistake. The privileged are still privileged enough to foment a counter-revolution, if their frustrated sense of entitlement hardens.
posted by Kitty Stardust (49 comments total) 105 users marked this as a favorite

 
I read this earlier in the year when a friend posted it on Facebook. It really is a great read, and a good bit of film criticism too.
posted by codacorolla at 1:27 PM on January 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is one of the most difficult concepts I've had to deal with, explaining to people on both ends of the divide.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 1:28 PM on January 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


"We can talk about the subjugation of women later, honey. Where’s my dinner?"

Thanks for posting this, Kitty Stardust.
posted by MonkeyToes at 1:31 PM on January 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


Thanks for posting this.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 1:32 PM on January 18, 2013


That was good stuff.

I'd like to share one of the comments by ophelia24 that struck a particular chord with me,

I like how this post takes on and explains privilege sympathetically; it really, articulately fits my model of “by far, most people have good intentions.”

I think, however, that there needs to be a distinction between what is “effective” and what is “just.” It’s easiest to make change when we do what you imply, by remaining firm but understanding, helping the privileged ease into the recognition of their privilege and their responsibility to change. However, I don’t think it’s just to expect people who aren’t privileged to continue to be pleasantly patient with those who dehumanize, delegitimize, and consistently harm them.

I think that’s the space where allies matter most. Allies can afford to be pleasantly patient with those who share their privilege because the privilege isn’t harming them (and, indeed, because they benefit from it they arguably have a responsibility to use it justly). As a trans woman, it does me all kinds of good to have cis allies successfully engage transphobia, because it helps me trust them more, it hurts me less, and because they’re likely to be more effective (although much of that is privilege in that their opinions will carry more weight than mine, too).

What doesn’t help, though, is the constant expectation that I and I alone have a responsibility to program, educate, and patiently reexplain, and when I start to let my own hurt out I’m immediately greeted with defensiveness and offense. It would certainly be more effective if I shouldered that responsibility cheerfully and with vigor, but I’m increasingly finding just destructive such an impulse can be over the long term.

posted by atrazine at 1:38 PM on January 18, 2013 [27 favorites]


He doesn’t want anybody to be unhappy. He just wants dinner

Indeed.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:40 PM on January 18, 2013


I am currently reading about the history of secessionist thought in the south (The Road to Disunion, vol 1, vol 2) and this essay has many echos. As a world of privilege crumbles there is a strong need to make the existing order not just convenient for me, but the best for all concerned or ordained by God or the only possible one. Maybe the more unjust the privileged world, or the more values shift, the more important it is to make the people who want change immoral. In 1780 slavery is an unfortunate fact which the nation cannot quite afford to rectify, but in the 1850s it is a force for good in the world which it would be immoral to change, worth dying for even.
posted by shothotbot at 1:46 PM on January 18, 2013 [7 favorites]


And do you suppose privileged, old white men will be his audience?
posted by notreally at 1:53 PM on January 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yes,yes,yes. I am a privileged old white man. But I stand by my point.
posted by notreally at 1:56 PM on January 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


notreally, he's not really writing to privileged, white males but to people like me who have a very strong negative reaction to instances when privilege does crop up without comment. It's really easy for me to hate someone for acting the privileged white male, to dismiss them as 'idiots' or 'ignorant' and just move on with my day, feeling justified by the act. The author here is writing in promotion of empathy, not polemics, and I think that's a wonderful point of view.
posted by dubusadus at 1:58 PM on January 18, 2013 [9 favorites]


After years and years of hearing my father rant about the unfairness of affirmative action and how blacks and women who were less qualified would get the job that a white dude should get, when I was in college I asked him, "What happens when the African American candidate and the White dude are just as equally qualified? Who gets the job then?"

"Well, the guy who fits in better," he said.

"What if all the other guys in the office are white dudes too? Does that mean that the equally qualified black dude shouldn't get the job?" I asked back.

"The white guy would just fit in better. It'd be easier for everyone and they all would be happier without having to deal with the race stuff," my dad responded, getting a little huffy.

"Well, what would the black guy have to do to ever get a job in the white office, Daddy?"

"You know, if he was really well-qualified and was way better at the job, it would be wrong to hire a white guy who's less qualified," my dad stubbornly replied.

"Why does the black guy have to be better than the white dude to get the same job, Dad? How is that okay?"

My dad just sputtered and flailed. Then my mom stepped in asked him if he remembered how hard she had to work at her jobs in an all male field just to be taken seriously. "You remember how I didn't get promoted because I wasn't "one of the boys"? You remember how mad you were that I was the best draftsman in the office and kept getting passed up?" she asked him.

"Yeah," he said, the reality starting to sink in.

"Well, sweetheart, at least I got in the office."

He's still not fond of affirmative action and the changing social landscape, but he bitches about it a lot less, and even voted for Obama.
posted by teleri025 at 1:59 PM on January 18, 2013 [141 favorites]


Got it dubusadus. Thanks
posted by notreally at 2:03 PM on January 18, 2013


This is a great article. And Pleasantville is a woefully underrated movie.

(Someday, someday, someone will write my Yuletide fic request in which Pleasantville and the Sin City movie exist in the same universe, on opposite ends of the black-and-white spectrum.)
posted by nicebookrack at 2:08 PM on January 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm a privileged white male (although I grew up very poor) and I actually liked this article a lot. In fact, I made a similar point earlier. I don't think anybody should have the expectation of empathy from other people unless they are willing to offer some empathy in return, regardless of what their situation is. That certainly doesn't mean rolling over and taking abuse, but it does mean having a willingness to listen to and engage with the other side for as long as they're making a good-faith effort to engage with you. The second you stop empathizing with them - the point as which you "write them off" as being bad people - you have effectively changed the frame of the interaction from negotiation to direct conflict... at which point, it doesn't matter who's right or wrong, only who has the bigger stick.

I don't pretend to know how conservative Christians think (I'm not a very big fan of organized religion) but on a personal level, I know that when I do something that somebody else doesn't like, I can usually be swayed by appealing to my sense of fairness. Even if I think that the other person's proposal is not entirely fair to me, I usually don't mind going along with it if I think they're a nice person. But if the other person instead treats me with hostility and dehumanizes me by telling me that I'm a horrible person for not agreeing with whatever their grievance is, then effectively they have "thrown down the gauntlet" - at that point, they have shifted from being somebody I can empathize with to somebody who might be a potential threat to my welfare. Rather than focusing on compromise (since why bother attempting to compromise with somebody who thinks I'm horrible?), my analytical mind instead starts searching for ways to take them down if they get in my way, and it's difficult to mentally "shift gears" back into non-aggressive interaction. From a purely pragmatic perspective, it's just such an unhealthy and frustrating direction for the interaction to travel in, and that's why I'm a big fan of the "two-way empathy" principle espoused in this article.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 2:09 PM on January 18, 2013 [8 favorites]


This article annoys me. Empathy is just step one, not the end goal and time for drinks and self-back-patting. The goal should that all grievances get addressed, not just the higher priority ones with useless sympathies offered for the less important ones. Inherent in this article is the lazy thinking that the world is a zero-sum game in which in order for someone to gain, someone else has to lose. Well duh, of course it looks that way, - conflicts always do, else they wouldn't have become conflicts - but when I look at the people who make big strides in making the world a better place, who successfully prevent or resolve or make progress with seemingly intractable conflicts, they don't go in there with the mindset of helping sort out who gets to win and who has to lose (but with sympathies), they go in with the assumption that it may well be possible to make the world a better place - that there may be a way for more underlying grievances to be addressed, not just the symptoms swapped and traded and the worst of the suffering alleviated.
Yes, look to those in greatest need first. Yes, have empathy for grievances less dire than those. But this is the beginning for the best of us. Not the end.
posted by anonymisc at 2:36 PM on January 18, 2013 [5 favorites]


Rather than focusing on compromise (since why bother attempting to compromise with somebody who thinks I'm horrible?), my analytical mind instead starts searching for ways to take them down if they get in my way, and it's difficult to mentally "shift gears" back into non-aggressive interaction. From a purely pragmatic perspective, it's just such an unhealthy and frustrating direction for the interaction to travel in, and that's why I'm a big fan of the "two-way empathy" principle espoused in this article.

But the lightbulb has to really want to change.

Either the desired outcome is the most important thing or it isn't - either ending white supremacy is more important than my feelings about it or it's not. I'm the one who is always making that choice for me. Either I can act like ending white supremacy (for example) is more important than my feelings or I can act like my feelings are the most important. If ending white supremacy is most important, than even if someone is being a jackass or their language is merely strong (and either one can happen) I need to keep my eye on the ball - what can I personally do in this situation to work toward the end of white supremacy? Every time. Even if the discourse is unpleasant or merely uncomfortable; even if I'm being blamed for everything when only some things are my fault.

Keeping my eye on the ball is something that I control. I think it's a difficult form of control, because it means learning to put my immediate responses last. It means distrusting my immediate responses.

The thing is, I can't control what other people say. I can only control what I do about it - and even if people are trotting out the "ugly no-lips white people can't dance and they are awful cooks" routine (which is mostly about in-jokes and solidarity building, actually, not about Making Me Feel Bad), do I want to look at myself and say "I am the type of person who gets so het up by a little bit of social justice rhetoric from people I basically like and agree with that I will go over to the other side in a fit of pique?" I don't want to be that person. I want to let those feelings of shame, frustration, anger, anxiety just wash right over me and wash away.

Now, it certainly is nice when people are friendly and forgiving, I would be lying if I said it wasn't.

The thing is, the lightbulb has to want to change. If you want to change and you're ready to change, a little bit of tumblr rhetoric isn't going to stand in your way. If you don't want to change, even the slightest bit of tumblr rhetoric will serve as an excuse.

Most of the time, I feel like I both do and do not want to change, but I try to build up the side of me that does and diminish the side that does not.
posted by Frowner at 2:42 PM on January 18, 2013 [16 favorites]


(In reponse to myself, I do think baby steps are valuable, and this article is baby steps and valuable. I think I'm reacting to a feeling I get from it that this kind of approach is the desired end-goal, that once you reach it, our work here is done.)
posted by anonymisc at 2:46 PM on January 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


The article isn't about ending white supremacy, but it would work better if it was.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 2:48 PM on January 18, 2013


The article isn't about ending white supremacy, but it would work better if it was.

I should have been clearer - whiteness, white supremacy, my own complicity therewith...those are things I struggle to deal with well and generously, and therefore the points where I identify the most as a privileged person in 'distress'.
posted by Frowner at 2:49 PM on January 18, 2013


The thing is, the lightbulb has to want to change.

Sometimes. But other times, the world has to change enough around the person and do so in a way that they begin to see that the outdated view is no longer helpful. It's hard to do without completely breaking the person and for a lot of people it just doesn't happen. But with people like my dad, it was the repeated cognitive dissonance of believing one thing (everybody who works hard is good) and another thing (black people get ahead at the expense of white people) while having reality show you a completely different thing (some black people who work really hard are good and never get ahead of white people who don't work as hard.)

For him to get that lesson, there had to be gentleness. And, for his daughter to embrace the ideas of social justice and civil rights, he had to provide a foundation that taught me that everybody was equal, regardless of the number of times I heard that black people weren't the same as us. I chose, because I developed this empathy to see his world of privilege and the bigger world of not-privilege, to listen to only one part of his message. The part about everybody should be equal. If I had not developed such empathy, I might have decided to listen to the other part of his message more and turned out quite differently.

I blame the Muppets and Sesame Street. They taught me to try and think about the other guy's point of view.
posted by teleri025 at 2:56 PM on January 18, 2013 [14 favorites]


This is a great comment, teleri025. It kind of illustrates a reason I think/fear Obama is so vigorously hated among a certain portion of the populace.

As a non white, non privileged youngster, I realized quite quickly that demanding a seat at the table would only get me so far, as fair as it might be. I realized also that being as good as a privileged white guy also wasn't enough all too often. To really get ahead, I had to be not as good, but better. Measurably better. This is an unfair, and ugly reality to face, and in some way or another, I still face. But it has been the best door opener and ultimately, best for the overall good, despite the friction it's sometimes caused.

The interesting thing is the resentment that comes up when there's a realization among this small segment of folks that opportunities are not coming around because there are better candidates who are not who you think they should be. "Damn if that dark skinned woman ain't kickin' our asses!" or some such sentiment that reduces down to (sometimes bitter, angry) resentment.

This is where I think it applies to Obama. Despite the stupidity about Obama being the affirmative action president and so on, there's a deep and fearful realization among these folks that Obama truly is the best person for the job. HE wasn't given his position as a handout. He wasn't even just "good enough". He was truly the best, head and shoulders above the competitors. And this throws all kinds of world views topsy-turvy.

For a whole lot of folks, a whole lifetime's worth of "wisdom" was pulverized and swept away with the election. No surprise it generated some deep anger. And confusion. And fear.
posted by 2N2222 at 3:00 PM on January 18, 2013 [24 favorites]


And do you suppose privileged, old white men will be his audience?

The audience might include people who have some privileges, but not all/most of the major ones. I'm gay, agnostic, and a Chinese Canadian immigrant; I'm also male, able-bodied, and university educated. My income level oscillates widely between poverty and middle class, and stability seems nowhere in sight. I really appreciate the attempt to bridge both sides of the divide, since my existence is divided between them.
posted by fatehunter at 3:01 PM on January 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's a good article. If I have any quibble, it's with the notion that George and his ilk "just uncritically accepted the role society assigned him." The fact is, George and all the people he represents had to learn their roles. George's was a much better role than some other folks got to play, but it still had to be learned. George has to behave in a certain buttoned-down way at work, and he has a specific set of responsibilities at home. He can unwind with a beer, but not with a joint. If he has a clear path to an office job and a gray flannel suit, he mustn't put on overalls and become a mechanic. Maybe some of the rules don't make a lot of sense to him. He may even hate some of the rules. But he knows that if he follows them, he'll get some very nice rewards.

That's one of the reasons why the changes can be so infuriating. You learn the rules, you play by the rules, and you expect the reward. Then along comes someone to tell you that, oh no, we're doing away with the old system. Your skin color isn't going to get preferential treatment. Not everyone around you is going to share your religious beliefs. Your loyalty to the company isn't going to save you from a layoff. You won't get all of that pension that was promised you.

Yes, George has to start getting his own dinner once in a while. The whole family will be better off. Maybe he secretly yearns to cook, even though the rules said he wasn't supposed to. But it's not hard to see why he would be confused and angry when the game changes after all these years.
posted by Longtime Listener at 3:03 PM on January 18, 2013 [13 favorites]


This commentary reminds me of an episode from season 13 of South Park, Pee (apologies for those outside the US). As ridiculous the premise of the A story is, the B story is Cartman's fear about minorities and for one brief moment he's forced to be empathetic about the plight of being a minority. He ultimate learns nothing from the experience given that his shtick is being the racist git voice of the piece to be laughed at but the commentary from Parker and Stone is there.

It's oversimplified for sure but quite clever in both how Cartman looks ridiculous in his fear of minorities and showing people through a medium that wouldn't normally be inhabited by progressive that, yes, it's still privileged as hell to be white.
posted by Talez at 3:29 PM on January 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


An excellent article. What it reminded me of was a very sad moment in the PBS Abolitionists series I've been watching. William Lloyd Garrison was genuinely devoted to abolition at the risk of his life, and he was the one who got Frederick Douglass started on the path to fame. But eventually Douglass became the more famous of the two, and when he wanted to start his own newspaper (which Garrison saw as competition for his own Liberator) Garrison objected. When Douglass started it anyway, Garrison was furious and didn't speak to him for years. They were both good, brave men on the side of the angels... but Garrison was white and didn't experience the horrors of slavery on his own person, however deeply he felt them, and subconsciously he must have felt he was more qualified to lead the fight and run the paper. It's very, very hard to let go of privilege.
posted by languagehat at 3:30 PM on January 18, 2013 [13 favorites]


The audience might include people who have some privileges, but not all/most of the major ones. I'm gay, agnostic, and a Chinese Canadian immigrant; I'm also male, able-bodied, and university educated.

I think this is worth remembering just in general too. Most people have some of the privileges (anyone using the word "privilege" in this context is likely quite privileged), few have most of them, and I suspect many at first glance appear to have more than they actually do (for several reasons beyond just closets). I'm guessing that people having fewer of the privilege boxes checked than is often assumed is one of the reasons that framing things in these terms can go bad.
I certainly know a lot of people that I think are more privileged than me, who think that I'm more privileged than them. Who is right depends on the situation. It's definitely multidimensional.
posted by anonymisc at 3:31 PM on January 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


Keep in mind that it's human nature to fight against unfairness if it's against you and not see the big deal if it's for you. You can find that behavior in monkeys, for cryin' out loud. To be outraged at unfairness is natural. To open your eyes to the fact that the system is unfair in your favor and that this is wrong requires higher cognition. Not a shock that people fail at it. People fail at thinking a lot.

Oversharing time: articles and discussions about privilege go through three stages when I, a white heterosexual male, encounter them. My immediate reaction is simple. "FUCK YOU SIDEWAYS, YOU SMUG FUCK!" I am not proud of this reaction, but it's there. The complaints are interpreted as an attempt at dominating me. Yes, really. You can criticize me for feeling this way, but the monkey brain does what the monkey brain does, and if that's a problem for you, please direct your complaints to evolution.

The second reaction follows quickly behind: the rational mind, which has been trained by decades of experience and education, says "wait, these complaints are usually valid, calm down and keep thinking."

These two urges fight like hell until the second reaction wins out, being transformed into the third reaction, "Oh, yeah, the original complaint has a lot of validity, or at least shouldn't be dismissed out of hand."

You know that feeling you get when a privileged twit says something stupid and you choke down bile and instead either try to point out the truth or accept them as good but misguided? That momentary rush of "AAAAGH GODDAMMIT STOP SAYING STUPID SHIT!", followed by the mental strain of figuring out what to do with that reaction? Yeah, it's like that. Not fun.

See, and anyone reading this who thinks "pffft, yeah, cry me a river, straight white guy," has just failed the test I described above. You let your monkey brain run the show over your higher cognitive functions. Because the cognitive shit is hard and tiring, and you either can't or don't want to. And I'm different from you in this regard why? My situation is different than yours, but the wiring in my head is the same.

Of course, at the same time, I understand that these complaints are weak beer on the larger scale. But that doesn't mean the issue doesn't get my monkey brain all het up and ready to punch people in the face. Seriously, I get enraged at first, even while knowing I'm stupid for growing enraged and knowing that in the end my rational brain will almost certainly agree with the original article/whatever.

In conclusion: fuck you, brain.
posted by Harvey Jerkwater at 3:56 PM on January 18, 2013 [11 favorites]


See, and anyone reading this who thinks "pffft, yeah, cry me a river, straight white guy," has just failed the test I described above. You let your monkey brain run the show

Nah, that's just your privileged straight white guy doing his "I'm no different/worse than anyone else" routine.
posted by fleacircus at 4:01 PM on January 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


I've often wondered what it would take for me to give up my privilege, and it usually (shamefully) comes down to the same answer.

Force.

I am starting to resign myself to the hope Frowner figures it all out so I don't have to keep trying.
posted by fullerine at 4:03 PM on January 18, 2013


I'm glad this conversation has started. It's a fact that America is polarized, for example, but what do we do about that?

I liked how the Coffee Party talked about promoting a real discussion about the issues, as a way of re-engaging everybody in the conversation. Eventually I wondered if it wouldn't just be easier to outnumber "the privileged," but they're both strategies that are worthwhile and reasonable.

To quote Star Trek: Only a fool fights in a burning barn.
posted by destinyland at 4:11 PM on January 18, 2013


I'm guessing that people having fewer of the privilege boxes checked than is often assumed is one of the reasons that framing things in these terms can go bad.
I certainly know a lot of people that I think are more privileged than me, who think that I'm more privileged than them.


Of course this is natural. It's the nature of privilege to be largely invisible to the privileged and obvious to the non-privileged.

A straight woman never really experiences her hetero privilege as something she has (even if she knows it exists) but the male privilege of gay man is glaringly obvious to her just as his privilege as a man is invisible to him but her privilege as a heterosexual is blatant to him.

What Harvey Jerkwater says about language being a dominance game as well as about communicating information is also true. It's the reason why being corrected mid-conversation is so annoying, most of the time the corrector has no real interest in making sure that your information is correct - what they're really doing is engaging in a verbal power struggle.
posted by atrazine at 4:19 PM on January 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Nah, that's just your privileged straight white guy doing his "I'm no different/worse than anyone else" routine.

Thanks for reading my comment so carefully. What with the sentences that follow addressing that very idea.
posted by Harvey Jerkwater at 4:22 PM on January 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


has anyone addressed how poverty and class correlate with conservatism and how hard it is to tell a person with no money and no prospects that they are privileged without having it blow up on you
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 4:26 PM on January 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


has anyone addressed how poverty and class correlate with conservatism and how hard it is to tell a person with no money and no prospects that they are privileged without having it blow up on you

Pay them to agree with you?
posted by Nomyte at 4:27 PM on January 18, 2013


has anyone addressed how poverty and class correlate with conservatism and how hard it is to tell a person with no money and no prospects that they are privileged without having it blow up on you

Consider that "privilege" is a cognitive tool, like a metaphorical hammer, but not all problems are nails?
posted by anonymisc at 4:29 PM on January 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


The sad thing is in the comments the privileged people who took the time to write out how they weren't privileged, just right, usually using the bible as justification.
posted by happyroach at 4:32 PM on January 18, 2013


As a non-American I perceive this effect on MetaFilter: the presumption of the world's highest standard of living, despite relative economic decline in the face of non-American economic growth. It blows up every time there is a discussion about free trade, for example.
posted by alasdair at 4:33 PM on January 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


Pay them to agree with you?

other people can pay them better and you've also insulted their pride

i didn't say this was a problem with a solution
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 4:35 PM on January 18, 2013


That wasn't really a solution. In other news, professional child impersonators have been dispatched to Newtown, Mass., to enter families to try to heal the void.
posted by Nomyte at 4:38 PM on January 18, 2013


(More seriously, I think describing someone with no prospects as more privileged than someone with bright prospects is a failure on the speaker's part IMO, and yeah, I think people often do this without realizing - the language of talking about privilege lends itself to generalizing, while actual circumstances are individual. Most people have some things going for them and some things working against them, in various strengths. Glossing over parts of the equation according to unconscious personal or political bias is more likely to create heat than add light. Having more empathy is a good start. Full circle. :))
posted by anonymisc at 4:42 PM on January 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


Stop squirming! You're oppressing our religious freedom
posted by growabrain at 5:36 PM on January 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


has anyone addressed how poverty and class correlate with conservatism and how hard it is to tell a person with no money and no prospects that they are privileged without having it blow up on you?

This is tricky, so you have to be careful and go slow. If you know the person, you probably know of at least one time they got help, maybe even help they would not have gotten if they were even poorer/of a different color. You might talk about that.

More simply you might say, ok, so if you could, would you become black/gay/a woman/disabled/Hispanic (what have you) right now? If not...why not? Maybe because they know down inside that there are disadvantages that go with those things?

I've met plenty of guys who bitch about women getting doors opened for them or special treatment, but none that would, if the chips were down, actually want to be a woman. Same for white people discussing black people. Curious, if you think about it.

Of course, you might end up having them come at you with some straight up racism/sexism by opening that door, in that they don't want to be one of "those" because "they" are not as good. But at least that changes the focus a bit and drags the ugly truth into the light.

So, like I said, tricky.
posted by emjaybee at 6:31 PM on January 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


has anyone addressed how poverty and class correlate with conservatism

They don't. 1 2 3 4.


[1] “the association between same-sex marriage attitude and income is not statistically significant at any conventional alpha level (p=.368).”

Stein, Jordan Maxwell, The Pieces of a Changing Social Puzzle: Socio-Demographic Influences on American Attitudes Toward Gay Marriage,
https://etd.library.emory.edu/view/record/pid/emory:bpz45.

[2] “We begin our analyses by exploring the distribution of attitudes about gay marriage among these Louisiana, Arizona, and Minnesota residents... Neither employment status nor family income has a significant effect...When we include education as a continuous variable the overall effect of education indicates less opposition to gay marriage as education increases (b 1⁄4 À.05), but the effect is statistically nonsignificant (p 1⁄4 .157). Those with less than a high school education have the most favorable attitudes toward gay marriage, but those who have only completed high school have the most negative attitudes toward gay marriage. Movement from high school completion to postcollege education may slightly soften opposition toward gay marriage. Most importantly, the addition of these socioeconomic indicators does not reduce the effects of gender, race, age, or state of residence.”

Stacey M. Brumbaugh and Laura A. Sanchez, Steven L. Nock,James D. Wright, Attitudes Toward Gay Marriage in States Undergoing Marriage Law Transformation,
http://w3.muskingum.edu/~bking/2010westcoast/Attitudes_Toward_Gay_Marriage.pdf

[3]“We begin with a key descriptive fact: there are sharp differences in partisan voting by income. In national elections, richer individuals are more likely to vote Republican. This difference has persisted with few exceptions since the New Deal era.

This will come as a surprise to some, who observe the recent pattern of Republican presidential candidates faring best in poor states and infer that perhaps poor persons are now as or more likely than the rich to vote Republican. Gelman et al. (2007, 2009) resolve this apparent paradox...In poor states such as Mississippi, richer people are much more likely than poor people to vote Republican, whereas in rich states such as Connecticut, there is very little difference in vote choice between the rich and the poor... As a result, richer states now tend to favor the Democratic candidate, yet in the nation as a whole richer people remain more likely than poorer people to vote Republican.

How much more likely? In presidential elections, the share voting Republican has tended to be 5 to 20 percentage points higher among voters in the upper third of the income distribution than among voters in the lower third. ”

Andrew Gelman, Lane Kenworthy, Yu-Sung Su, Income Inequality and Partisan Voting in the United States, SOCIAL SCIENCE QUARTERLY, Volume 91, Number 5, December 2010

[4]“Within any education category, richer people vote more Republican. In contrast, the pattern of education and voting is nonlinear. ”
Andrew Gelman, Voting patterns of America’s whites, from the masses to the elites,
http://andrewgelman.com/2012/03/voting-patterns-of-americas-whites-from-the-masses-to-the-elites/.

See also: http://scienceblogs.com/mixingmemory/2006/10/19/how-does-income-affect-voting/

posted by tallus at 11:07 PM on January 18, 2013 [16 favorites]


More simply you might say, ok, so if you could, would you become black/gay/a woman/disabled/Hispanic (what have you) right now? If not...why not? Maybe because they know down inside that there are disadvantages that go with those things?

So, wanting to be yourself is now called selfishness instead of contentment? That's really horrible. Would you chide a black man for not wanting to become a woman as well? How many points does a person need in the right categories before they're allowed to be okay with the way they were born?
posted by michaelh at 11:26 PM on January 18, 2013 [5 favorites]


Thank you tallus. I think privileged liberals really need to examine how they project conservatism (homophobia, racism, misogyny) onto people poorer than themselves. In privileged circles it is almost a given that conservatism is a working class phenomenon. In reality poor people are predominantly more open and less ignorant than rich people imagine.

There clearly are working class conservatives. Although they are a minority of the poor in proportional terms, they are very significant numerically, and they are a particularly difficult issue for progressive causes.

But it is important not to make the step from 'working class conservatism is one of our most significant problems' to 'working class people are our biggest problem'.
posted by communicator at 3:13 AM on January 19, 2013 [6 favorites]


This essay is really brilliant. I think the most useful piece is that about the difference between justice and empathy. That it's important to be both empathetic towards people who fear losing privilege while also fighting for justice for those who have been denied it, but that the two should not be confused.

I also think his take on the whole "But some of my best friends are black/gay/whatever!" phenomenon is really interesting and not one I'd heard before. Lots of food for thought.
posted by lunasol at 5:07 PM on January 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


These conversations make me realize just how shit I have been at leveraging my privilege but then I guess that was my prerogative.
posted by srboisvert at 9:33 PM on January 19, 2013


So, wanting to be yourself is now called selfishness instead of contentment? That's really horrible. Would you chide a black man for not wanting to become a woman as well? How many points does a person need in the right categories before they're allowed to be okay with the way they were born?

That is kind of an odd reading of what I said. We are talking about someone who says that Group X (of which he or she is not a member) gets special privileges, despite abundant evidence that Group X experiences discrimination. I suggested one way to make people realize that deep down, even they don't believe Group X has it all that great is ask them if they would like to be a member of Group X. Because, my feeling is is that they, knowing deep down that membership in Group X is not in fact all puppies and sunshine, would say no. Thus putting the lie to their "Group X has nothing but puppies and sunshine and it's not fair, wah." stance.

I said nothing about selfishness or wanting to actually change one's gender/race/what have you. In fact, I would actually be asking someone to literally put themselves in another's shoes in order to (hopefully) disrupt their racism/sexism/ableism, if only for a few moments.

No one was being chided for wanting to remain who they are. Just the opposite; the hypothetical person was being reminded that being who they are is, in fact, benefitting them.
posted by emjaybee at 7:46 AM on January 21, 2013


"Men are afraid women will laugh at them. Women are afraid men will kill them."

This article has done a terrific job explaining something with which I have wrestled for a long time. Many thanks.
posted by parallax at 8:12 PM on January 29, 2013


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