"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Monday, October 1, 2018

My Space–When Race-Gender-Ethnicity Invades Individual Privacy, The Line Has Been Crossed

The politics of identity – or better put, the political movement to define identity as gender-race-ethnicity-specific – has until recently been considered by most to be peripheral to more essential national, personal, and philosophical issues.  It should matter little whether you are black or Latino, man or woman, or where you fit on the fluid sexual scale.  One should be concerned with individual worth defined by unique genetic and environmental traits – intelligence, humor, wit, courage, talent, compassion – and less with temporal, ascribed values.  No final arbiter, whether mortal or divine, will ever pass judgement on one’s color, sexual orientation, or national origin.

Image result for images rainbow flags of inclusivity

Nevertheless socio-cultural identity continues to determine being – who we are, what we are, and why we are.

An older patron of a popular, trendy, upscale bar in a small neighborhood of Washington, DC,  one which was still white and upper middle class,  had made a number of failed attempts to take a selfie of himself, the Nantucket IPA, the Duxbury oysters, and his new Chrome hoodie – but there was too much backlight, not enough wide-angle capture of both beer and hoodie, too much or too little expression. 

Image result for images nantucket oysters

A young black woman seated at the far end of the bar approached the patron, and suggested that what she assumed was his panoramic video of the bar, its patrons, and environs was inappropriate.  What business of it was his to summarily invade the privacy of the young women and her friends? Their sisterhood, she informed him, obviously recorded to chronicle some white elitist supposition of female, black bonding – a kind of Serena Williams moment – was not acceptable.

Not wanting a scene and not wanting to confront the woman, said that he had no interest in a panoramic screening of the bar scene nor any groups or individuals within it.  He only wanted to record a personal moment – a pleasant outing at a neighborhood hangout, delicious food, and the hoodie gifted by his daughter over Christmas but never captured in situ. This seemed to satisfy the black woman who went back to her friends and explained, the patron assumed, how she had put things in their proper place.  This place was hers; and while she might reluctantly tolerate the white, grandfathered-in residents of the neighborhood who frequented the bar, notice must be served that the old order was over, passé, and irrelevant.

The white patron, approached and now offended, assumed just the opposite.  Identity politics had  given the woman an assumed and facile legitimacy to unfounded claims.  These young women, residents of the far Maryland suburbs, working in nearby offices 9-5, had every civil, legal, and indeed social right to be there; but to assume a higher order – a righteousness based only on race and progressive insistence on absolute and universal inclusivity (belonging to a place, any place, without context) – was importunate and wrong.  Her presence was acceptable but her racial assumptions were not.

This is the way it must be, say social justice warriors who have raised race to a philosophical iconography.  Being non-white – is ipso facto is of a higher cultural value in a society which is finally and at long last dismantling the institutions and ethos of white privilege.  No matter if the older white patron of the bar, longtime resident of Hamilton Park, liberal, progressive, and sympathetic to the cause of racial parity, feels his privacy invaded.  Unwanted intervention in the name of progress is the price that he must pay.

This is the problem, the patron reflected as he finished his lunch.  He was willing to overlook the black woman’s history – outer suburbs, working class parents, junior college; and consider favorably the factors which rescued her from CVS cashier or elder-care assistant – but took offense at her sense of entitlement, an a priori bye given to people of color.

Had there been something intimately private in the young woman’s situation – a birthday, engagement, or anniversary celebration – he might have been more forgiving.  In this age of viral social media, videos of a very personal affair spread to millions without prior vetting or consent, might indeed be sensitive or at least treated as private; but a random panorama of a lunch group of administrative assistants in an unmemorable neighborhood restaurant was another thing altogether.
Making a big deal out of the clumsy selfie attempts of a clearly irrelevant neighborhood patron, well beyond the age of circumstances, influences. or matter, was an example of identity gone mean.

The young women had no idea whatsoever of context.  There was no way that the neighborhood patron had any intention of using the supposed panorama for suspect ends.  The bar was far from the K Street power corridor, far from the lunchtime watering holes of the Washington Post, distant in fact from any political interest or conservative advocacy.   She had been conditioned as completely as any Manchurian Candidate.  She, simply as a black woman felt duty bound to identify, challenge, and root out white supremacist elitism wherever she found it.  Poor Harvey Green, at the bar for a break from his wife, his medical problems, and his daughter’s upcoming divorce, didn’t deserve such suspicion.

Image result for images movie the manchurian candidate original

Nor did LaWanda Billings,  the young black administrative assistant from Gaithersburg, deserve her fate – compromised, pigeonholed, and characterized as an affirmative action woman out of place and out of her element in tony, upscale, highly professional Northwest Washington.  She, it turns out, had no need for recourse either to affirmative action or to liberal patronage.  She was intelligent, talented, motivated, and well-supported by parents and family.  She had no need to look for trouble, to add to her already heavy baggage of name, residence, schooling, and family history.  She had every reason to challenge the prejudicial forces of American society, but not to become caught up in a movement which devalued enterprise, true justice, fairness, and equality.

By assuming that the white patron of the bar was necessarily a racist, she pushed herself back into the ghetto, alienated a moderate American sympathetic to civil rights and civil justice, and did more in her unthoughtful and untoward approach to him to set back the very cause of what she was promoting.

She had been tricked, deceived, and manipulated.  She had bought a bill of goods which, in their loudest promotion appeal to consumers who have already bought from the shelves.  She did nothing to sell to those who, mindful of the long and storied tradition of European immigration and assimilation, resent any idea of entitlement, self-righteousness, and ascribed status.

The affair ended without incidence.  The young woman had shown her mettle to her appreciative colleagues and was proud of it; and the older patron finished his beer, pate, and whisky without a further thought.  Yet this simple, incidental, quick-to-be-forgotten episode in a forgettable Northwest Washington neighborhood, was far more important than either one thought.

It was an event on the American political dividing line – those who accept notions of righteousness and retribution as their due – and those who have insisted on and previously fought for the right of individual worth, valuation by enterprise, and success irrespective of identity.

The twain shall eventually meet – either that or the nation continues to veer towards political dissolution – but not in anyone’s lifetime.  Gone, it seems, are the fundamental principles of God-given personal uniqueness, dutiful and obedient faithfulness to those principles which have characterized empires and successful nations since the Pleistocene, and a Jeffersonian balance between the right to personal happiness without compromise of community integrity.

Image result for images jefferson

The incident at the bar took a matter of minutes, quickly resolved, and quickly dismissed; but it should never be forgotten, this one passing piece of current American history.  It was indicative and significant.  Once the demand for equal rights becomes defamatory, prejudicial, and intolerant, they can never be realized,.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.