Monthly Archives: August 2014
Transgender people run the gamut just like any other segment of the population. You will have your butch trans, your ultra-femme trans, your military trans (Kristen Beck), your actress trans (Laverne Cox) and there will be the sporty trans (Fallon Fox.) The point is, to understand the trans population one needs to view it not as a monolithic block, but as a collection of individuals in various points of transition, with different dreams and aspirations. Is it fair for trans athletes that have undergone a full hormone regimen to compete with genetically born females? Perhaps. Is it fair for large powerfully built genetic women to compete with smaller, more petite genetic women? Probably not. It’s a question of degree and there is quite a bit of strength and performance variation amongst the genetically born female population. I’m not sure if any existing trans tennis athlete could take on Serena Williams. Admittedly there is some call for concern from genetic females on a very narrow sports and regarding transgendered people but overall the things that trans people are fighting for coincides with the general thrust of women’s rights. After all, genetic women were born female and had no choice as to their gender. Trans people CHOSE to be female even knowing the issues that face women in society. What better advocates for women’s rights could there be? I hope that feminist and trans rights groups are able to not only co-exist but are able to help each other.
In crafting my response to the news story of the 9 year old girl that shot and killed her shooting instructor, I Googled girl and uzi and this is a sampling of the images that showed up on Google. Can anyone explain to me the link between sex and a cheap military weapon manufactured for the defense of Israeli citizens? Not getting it……
The shooting of an unarmed black man named Brown is an ironic and tragic twist on words as well as a societal metaphor. Public polling shows widely divergent views on the situation dependent on whether you are white or black. For many in the white community, we watch the nightly news and we don’t understand why “the blacks” are thinking and acting the way they are. Let me, as a white girl who has engaged in frank racial discussions with many very close black friends, try to explain in “white-speak” to my fellow white people how the black viewpoint can be so different. As a society we have come a long way, but if you don’t have true black friends, you may not hear a heartfelt opinion. You certainly won’t be able to have a back and forth discussion that leads to true understanding. Working with a black co-worker doesn’t qualify, you need to have someone you can go out with after work and have a beer (or vodka cocktail) with, and commiserate with on all the things going on in each other’s lives. In today’s racially charged society you need to be pretty close to someone to give an honest opinion on race and still feel safe.
As white people we see the case as an isolated incident. We observe the facts and details of the shooting. We think we should wait for all the information to emerge before we jump to conclusions one way or another. We see black people interviewed on CNN jumping to the conclusion that the white officer is guilty of premeditated, racially based homicide and the entire Ferguson police force as complicit in his act. We note that Michael Brown had just stolen from a store and had strong armed an immigrant businessman in the process. We don’t understand how this fact could be seen as completely separate and irrelevant by blacks. We key in on the eyewitness who stated that Brown charged the officer. We note that all of the bullet wounds were to his front. We can sit back and wait for a prosecutor to determine if the police officer was guilty of not. We don’t understand why people are rioting and marching. After all we didn’t riot when O.J. was found not guilty. We contrast that to the actions of the black community when the police were found not guilty in the Rodney King case and Los Angeles burned.
For the black community it’s not just about Michael Brown and this one police officer. It is about the current plight of the entire black community. It’s a large number of separate and disparate issues all rolled up into one explosive example. It’s about the larger picture. The symbolism of the shooting allows ignoring the strong arm robbery component because that is one small detail in the current plight of black America today. It’s hard to draw a picture using statistics. The statistics are bleak in and of themselves as you examine black poverty, education, literacy, unemployment, abortion, and crime rates. I’m not offering explanations of why the black community is in the condition it is in, or how to fix it, that is far too extensive of a discussion for an article. Let me take a specific example and ask you to become the man I write about in your mind for a day. Assume that you are a young black man who has done everything right. You graduated from high school staying away from gangs and crime, you managed to find a way to pay for college and you were able to land a nice white collar job. Now you walk down the street and the elderly woman crosses to the other side. You’re in an elevator and the pretty woman next to you slowly clutches her purse tighter hoping you won’t notice, and hoping you won’t mug her. You’re in a store and the salesclerk follows you around waiting for you to shoplift and trying not to be too obvious. Business clients eye you wondering if you are a token hire, or if you had special treatment in college and if you are really smart. You worry about being pulled over for DWB, (that’s Driving While Black by the way.) You worry about what you say and how you say it at work, you “code-switch” so much sometimes you forget how to talk to your high school buddies. At the company picnic you forego the barbecue ribs and watermelon because there is no way in hell you are going to let them catch you eating that! You go for the bland quiche and some salad instead. You look at that cool hoodie in the storefront window and wonder, will this get me more likely to be shot? You note how you are steered to the vehicle with the biggest, shiniest hubcaps in the car showroom. You cringe every time you hear a crime being committed, thinking: oh please don’t be one of us. When they interview black people on TV about the crime, you cringe as they invariably find the most ignorant trifling blathering idiot they can find. You notice the waitress keeping an eye on you throughout the end of your meal, expecting you to bolt for the door before paying. You hear how the conversation about President Obama’s latest policy dies down as you near the water cooler. Then you go home after all that and tell your son how he can be whatever he wants to be if he studies hard and stays out of trouble. Then you tell him how to behave so he doesn’t get shot by the police.
So yes, the constant state of “being black” in America can be stressful and certainly adds baggage to the collective psyche of black people in America. Combined with the economic and social plight of black America, a dispassionate observer should be able to see how nerves are raw and tempers short. I’m not condoning looting or bad behavior, I’m just trying to give my fellow ‘white folks,” a hint of a glimpse into what your black neighbor, or coworker might be feeling. Try putting yourself in another’s shoes, try that different perspective. Think about how you would feel if you were a black man, or woman. Only when we can see each other through the other’s eyes will we have real hope for change and improvement. There is a long way to go toward racial understanding and equality in America, and it is the responsibility of both black and white to make that happen, to address these issues, and to find solutions. God bless.
I’d like to present a very short case study. Picture an office with an employee run coffee station. The workers chip in $0.25 a cup to buy coffee, filters, creamer, and filters. One day the coffee maker breaks down. No one has coffee in the morning. A worker takes the initiative to go to a local store, buy a new coffeemaker with their own money (there wasn’t enough money in the coffee fund) returns to the office and gets it up and running. All the workers are happy they have coffee. The employee is gone from the office for an hour. As a manager, do you: A.) publicly chastise the worker for being gone without a leave slip and make them take an hour of vacation, B.) Bring the worker into your office and warn them about being gone from the office without leave, C.) Congratulate them on their initiative and concern for their fellow workers. D.) Not only congratulate them but also offer to chip in for the coffeemaker.
Now as professionals you know where this is going, I wouldn’t be writing the article if this had a happy ending. In this case, the manager exercised choice A. Company policy is that employees need to arrive and leave at their official start times. They get a half hour for lunch and two fifteen minute breaks. The employee was chastised in front of six other employees for being gone without a leave slip, made to take an hour of vacation, warned of ramifications for future transgressions, and HR was notified. Due to these actions, the employee will be unlikely to deviate from their schedule for some time; however what were the side effects? Employee chatter was uniformly negative toward the manager and supportive of the employee. Hall conversations centered on a common theme which was to not work past their official stop time on critical projects, (which was the norm), and to religiously observe lunch and break times which were also routinely worked when there was a critical project. During a subsequent all-hands meeting, employees were uniformly silent when asked by the manager to contribute on updates. She was forced to call on people and prompt them to give updates. There was a complete lack of enthusiasm or happiness during the meeting. The manager saved an hour, but probably lost literally days of productivity. Contrast that to Choice C or D. Had the manager chosen either of those options she would have built up the morale of her employees, and increased their loyalty. Unfortunately she and her employees will likely suffer days of poor morale, and the company will suffer as a result. Take an inch, lose a mile. Managers need to think long term, not short.
What would you have done?
What can be done to improve the manager?
Recently in Detroit Michigan, a black shop owner refused service to a transgender person. Many people find it odd that a minority person who had been discriminated against would perpetuate that discrimination on another class. However, black discrimination against gays and transgendered individuals is often perceived as more strident than that of their white counterparts. One would think that a group that had been discriminated against at one time (or currently) would be more sensitive to others being discriminated against; however minorities often perpetuate the discrimination they receive rather than become more tolerant. A prime example is skin tone discrimination in the black community. Unlike the monolithic “black block” that many whites perceive, blacks discriminate against other blacks. Some lighter skinned blacks look down on darker skinned, and from hair texture to lip size and nose width, there are overt and subconscious views and discriminations at play. How does this white girl know and feel confident to broach such subjects? Unlike many in the white community I actually have real friends of color that are comfortable sharing their perspectives and daily realities with me. The difference between black friends and black associates is fodder for another article in and of itself. Getting back to minority discrimination, I’ve talked about the psychological mechanisms in depth before but it boils down to a feeling of empowerment and self-respect. Barefoot poor whites in the south were able to “at least” console themselves that they weren’t black and had privileges that blacks didn’t. Despite their poverty, lack of social status and education, there was a group they could feel superior to. Light skinned blacks can feel superior to darker blacks even if they aren’t “white” themselves. There is somebody lower on the food chain that they can feel superior to and abuse or discriminate against. This behavior takes back some of the power and loss of self-respect they perceive is lost due to white on black discrimination. To take the discussion into an even deeper and darker space, one may note the behavior of Jews in Hitler’s concentration camps. One may think that people in such a situation would band together, but wealthy Jews looked down on poor Jews, and western Jews looked down on eastern Jews. It was not hard for the Nazi’s to recruit Jewish “Kamp komandos” that would oversee the brutal behavior of their fellow Jews. The psychological ability to do so involved a subgroup feeling of superiority, where taskmaster Jews felt that the Jews they were brutalizing were beneath them. Given the prevalence of these examples throughout history, one should expect this sort of behavior rather than be surprised by it. Whites do not have the monopoly on discrimination. It is an unfortunate aspect of human behavior that will likely not be eradicated. However, education and teaching tolerance must be used to combat this darker side of human nature. The Jamaican shop owner has likely never thought about his prejudices against transgendered people in the light of the concepts discussed in this article. It is impossible to change human nature, but we can enlighten individuals and collectively if enough individuals are enlightened, society may improve. Hopefully people can use this incident to do some self-examination and improve themselves, and their friends. None of us are without prejudice but if we can understand the reasons for it, perhaps we can elect not to act on those innate impulses.