More on Forgiveness: Silence and Sunflowers

I picked up a copy of The Sunflower at my local den of temptation (aka used bookstore) a couple of weeks ago, and have been slowly making my way through it since. It’s pretty much the go-to book for initiating theological discussions of forgiveness – first of all, the initial narrative is told exceptionally well, so it’s impossible for the problem to come off as a simple one lacking in personal emotional or moral resonance. Since the Amazon description kind of sucks, the book is in two sections: in the first hundred or so pages, Wiesenthal describes what his life was like in a concentration camp, surrounded by constant death and knowledge of death and wondering how there could possibly be a God as this was being done to human beings, then being called to enter a dark room for no immediately apparent reason, only to find that he was to hear the dying confession/request for forgiveness of a 22-year-old Nazi officer, and finally Wiesenthal’s inability to get the event, and his choice – to remain silent and walk out following the request – out of his mind, to the point that he visited the man’s mother after the war. The second section is the “What would you do?” posed to theological and philosophical scholars and leaders after the fact.

It sounds very abstract and grandiosely hypothetical, but a number of themes run through the book that make me think. One is the fact that the question of forgiveness in the book is tied up with issues of racism and collective guilt/responsibility, rather than just harm done on an individual basis. The story gets its name from the sunflowers that Wiesenthal would see marking the graves of Nazi soldiers, reminding him that even in death, they were connected to life, to beauty, to individuality, while he and his friends and family would ultimately end up in mass graves, unnamed and unidentified. I think it’s extremely important to point out that Wiesenthal wasn’t chosen by the Nazi soldier because he had harmed him personally. The soldier simply asked for “a Jew”, and the nurse went outside and asked Wiesenthal if he qualified. Rebecca Goldstein says it better than I can:

You are summoned for no reason other than that you are a Jew, as if “Jew” were a mass term comparable, say, to “water” or “salt”. Here is a bit of water, we say, and any sample of it will do. All water manifests the same interchangeable water properties. That a Nazi should think this way about Jews is not in the least surprising. Mass terms, mass murders, mass graves: they are all of a piece.

When I was writing about Apologies a little while ago, I was thinking about how those highly individual terms/experiences translate to “mass” community terms, and one of the parallels is the way that privilege allows the harmer to transfer responsibility back onto the harmee, to essentially demand forgiveness and suggest that the other lacks grace if s/he can’t forgive/chooses not to/remains skeptical. Personally, I found it heartbreaking to read Wiesenthal’s description of the guilt he felt at having remained silent, which he felt and discussed with friends even while still in the concentration camp, assuming he would never survive. I honestly can’t think of a more powerful manifestation of grace than that, not because he was giving anything to the Nazi soldier or to the complicit bystanders, but because it speaks to his inability to lose that thread of connection to hope, humanity, the possibility that something like that mattered.

Eva Fleischner’s response reports that, having used the book as a text in a Holocaust course for years, the division between students who believe that Wiesenthal should have forgiven and those who believe that his silence was okay falls fairly neatly along Christian/Jewish lines. I find that sad, but completely unsurprising. Thinking about contemporary discussion on race, so many privileged people ask why it is that they’re expected to repent for things they’ve never done (perhaps vaguely beginning to entertain the notion of complicity, but only ever so peripherally), why we even have to keep talking about shit like this, demanding to know what more these people want, since isn’t an apology enough already? There is still a mass of these people who are not forgiving, and there is still one evildoer who has asked forgiveness/accepted punishment, thereby letting the rest of us off the hook. One action/one individual’s action is enough for those needing the forgiveness – the pope can do it on behalf of the Catholic Church, say, and then all Catholics are good to go in a general sense – but if even one among the harmed group speaks to say that no, s/he is not satisfied, it is not enough, we need more time, we need to see more change, you can damn well bet that others will step in to condemn the mass because of it. Ungrateful, the lot of them. The oppressors, those in power, are still individuals, they still get their single sunflowers, while the harmed are still a mass, because hearing them as individuals is way too damn difficult.

I think Fleischner’s response is my favourite among those I’ve read so far, and she goes on to discuss the difference between “atonement” during Yom Kippur – which is asked directly of those harmed – and confession in the Catholic tradition, which is mitigated by a priest presumably unconnected to the incident and which usually includes as the path to forgiveness the message “Say and Our Father or Hail Mary” and you’re done.

As I reread the story once more I am struck not only by the agony of the dying man, but by his obliviousness to the suffering, the inhuman condition, of Simon and his fellow Jews. The mere fact of having summoned Simon to his room exposes the Jew to punishment, if not death. Yet Karl insists on seeing “a Jew” – any Jew – in the hope of being able to die in peace. His own suffering completely blinds him to the suffering of the Jews – not of the Jews in whose murder he participated and who continue to haunt him – but of those still alive in the camps and ghettos, also of Simon.

We’re not just talking about the limits of forgiveness, about the psychology and metaphysics and theology. We’re talking about humanizing and individualizing, we’re talking about “othering” and dehumanizing and objectifying and making into a mass. I keep coming back to hearing the voices of “but what do you want me to do about it?” and “reverse racism/sexism/etc” and I see this: It’s uncomfortable for someone in a privileged position to become part of a collective, a mass, a group. We’re used to seeing ourselves as individuals. We’re used to being sunflowers.

(I’m leaving my reference to “silence” in the title of the post, even though I didn’t get around to making the point I wanted to in that regard…I’m hoping that will remind me to do it later).

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10 thoughts on “More on Forgiveness: Silence and Sunflowers

  1. BetaCandy says:

    Hmm. I think Wiesenthal did the right thing. I would’ve felt bad about it afterward too, but I do think it was right.

  2. observer says:

    This is a little off topic but I went back and read your post on apologies and couldn’t help read it in the context of the Australian Apology to Indigenous people earlier this year.

    There was a lot of people claiming “why should I apologise, I wasn’t even alive” but the thrust of the argument for was that the relationship can’t heal without acknowledging and apologising for past abuses.

    There was a lot of discussion of the meaning of the word sorry and blame and why symbolic gestures should be entertained when there are far bigger physical problems to deal with. The anti-apologists claimed sorry apportioned blame, so the former PM formally expressed “deep regret” which wasn’t enough, the Aboriginal leaders wanted the word, which the current PM delivered. It is a powerful word.

    I’ve linked the text of the apology.

    http://www.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/asiapcf/02/12/australia.text/index.html

  3. purtek says:

    I tend to agree, mainly for reasons I was intending to post in the “silence” section of the topic (which hopefully will not fall into the standard black hole of Purtek’s Proposed Posts). The short version is that I think there was something re-humanizing in what he did, both for himself and for Karl.

  4. Philomela says:

    I never heard of that book before, I will definatley get it.

    I’ve been thinking a lot about forgiveness because someone in my church keeps telling me I need to forvive my abusers before I can be “healed” and i just think that is backwards really.

  5. purtek says:

    I highly recommend it, and I totally agree that it’s backwards to see forgiveness coming before healing. Whenever I hear people saying things like that, it feels like such projection or wishful thinking or something – like your pain makes them uncomfortable, and they demand that you forgive so that they can stop being reminded of the unacceptability of your pain. Some of the responses in the book kind of touch on that, too – dealing with the issue of “never forgetting” regardless of whether or not you “forgive”.

  6. purtek says:

    observer, your comment got misinterpreted as spam; sorry I didn’t notice it earlier.

    It’s not entirely off-topic, either – one of the things I’ve been thinking about while reading the book has been the forthcoming Truth and Reconciliation Commission here in Canada, and that particular model of justice/healing. I agree, the words matter. The “truth” part of it is important.

    To relate the broad, deep and widespread to the simple, personal and much smaller again, I’ve been working on repairing a relationship with a close friend I hurt a few months ago. I’ve run into him quite a bit, our interactions have gotten progressively less strained, and I’ve known for a while that he knows I’m sorry. I’ve known for a while that he’s forgiven me, really. But I finally got an opportunity to say that a few days ago, and it was important for me to do it. It wasn’t enough and it certainly wasn’t (isn’t) the only thing involved in being forgiven/reconciling, but the words did need to be a part of it.

    It does apportion blame. That’s the point of it. It accepts responsibility. It’s specific, it’s direct, and when it’s done right, it’s truthful. Which is exceptionally powerful.

  7. Observer says:

    Good analogy. And you’re right, the words need to be said. The telling (and moving) part in relation to the Apology was the people wearing Tshirts saying merely “Thank you” on the day. It seems so simple and honest and just considerate but had so much significance.

    Sorry to take the discussion of subject. I’ll see if I can grab a copy of the book, it sounds interesting.

  8. Jay says:

    I’ve been meaning to reply to this for ages (well, since you posted it), but haven’t had a chance ’til now. I’m going to start disagreeing with you again (yay!), and hope that in so doing I give no offense, and that you’ll feel free to point out any flaws in my thinking or blinders due to privelege. 🙂

    First things first: I do not blame Mr. Wiesenthal at all for his response, and in fact respect him for it.

    “Mass terms, mass murders, mass graves: they are all of a piece.”

    I have to disagree mildly with this, not because the speaker is incorrect, but because she is herself making an overly broad generalization about generalizations. 🙂
    In the specific case she’s referring to, yes, she’s right about the attitude of the Nazis (and others like them). This does not, however, mean that mass terms are automatically bad, should never be used, or are always linked to bigotry (and worse evils). I feel using mass terms with regard to race/ethnicity are fairly pointless, in most all circumstances…but there are times when one can effectively generalize based off of other factors, and while it will never be 100% accurate…generalizations never are, and are not intended to be so.

    “…the division between students who believe that Wiesenthal should have forgiven and those who believe that his silence was okay falls fairly neatly along Christian/Jewish lines. I find that sad, but completely unsurprising.”

    I find it sad…and I’ll admit, not especially surprising, though it didn’t fall neatly into how I think about Christians. I often think some Christians take the forgiveness/turn the other cheek thing a little wrong.

    “Thinking about contemporary discussion on race, so many privileged people ask why it is that they’re expected to repent for things they’ve never done (perhaps vaguely beginning to entertain the notion of complicity, but only ever so peripherally)…”

    What is complicity? Am I complicit in racism by dint of my (accidental) birth into a structure that favors me? Even if I commit no racist acts myself? Some would have me believe that what I consider “a fair deal” (and which I think everyone has a right to) is in fact racist because it stands upon some sort of historical pyramid of racism.
    In general, if I’m going to make an individual act of apology, I would like it to be for an individual act (of racism, or whatever). If the crime is societal (as institutionalized racism is) how can an individual apologize for it? Doesn’t that require a societal apology? Does it require individual apologies or acts of contrition from the entire society?

    “…why we even have to keep talking about shit like this…”

    Depending on what “shit like this is”, I feel we need to keep talking about it because it’s still happening. But…I don’t like to keep talking about shit that’s NOT still happening…and unfortunately, a lot of discussion of “racism” is about vestiges of past acts which have ripple effects into the present…and such ripples are often hard to quantify concretely.

    “There is still a mass of these people who are not forgiving, and there is still one evildoer who has asked forgiveness/accepted punishment, thereby letting the rest of us off the hook.”

    If I’m getting this right, this is about:
    a.) a group of people who feel (and even have been) wronged
    b.) a group of people who did the wronging
    c.) ANOTHER group of people who are associated with the group of wrongdoers (by race, creed, what have you) who are held as complicit in the wronging.

    And we (group C) feel that since group B (or some of ’em) have already apologized, we should be forgiven as an associated group.
    I don’t want to be forgiven. I don’t feel I need forgiveness for something I haven’t done and am not responsible for. What I want is to not be blamed for things I haven’t done or have no control over.
    Should I be blamed? For what?
    Do I need forgiveness? For what?
    If this is not about blame or forgiveness…what exactly is it about? That’s what I think most straight white guys like myself are asking. We don’t want to know what we need to say or do to be forgiven of some ambiguous crime…we want to know what it will take on our part for everyone to at least TRY to treat everybody as equals, without letting stuff that we consider peripheral and cosmetic getting in the way.
    (And I know, we get to treat it as peripheral and cosmetic because we’re priveleged…the question for me is, how can I make it so EVERYONE feels it’s peripheral and cosmetic…since I think it really is?)

    I don’t feel a need for any INDIVIDUAL to not complain about racism, not speak against it, not to accuse others of it, whatever. I know there’s racism. It’s worth fighting. It’s worth talking about.
    What I would like is for individuals, who are feeling individually wronged, to not blame a mass group (of which I may be a part). If I am to treat them as individuals (which I feel is generally the best way to relate to people), I would like the same respect. Is this wrong of me?

    “…but if even one among the harmed group speaks to say that no, s/he is not satisfied, it is not enough, we need more time, we need to see more change, you can damn well bet that others will step in to condemn the mass because of it. Ungrateful, the lot of them.”

    I try not to do this, and if I have ever done it, I am sorry for that. For whatever that’s worth (not much)…not sure why I’m saying it.

    “The oppressors, those in power, are still individuals, they still get their single sunflowers, while the harmed are still a mass, because hearing them as individuals is way too damn difficult.”

    First, I have to admit I resent the idea that one is automatically an oppressor or an oppressee. But that aside, I take no shame in wanting to be a sunflower…I want everybody to be sunflowers. And while I’m willing to hear people as individuals, it’s hard for me to hear individuals with complaints about a group…since my membership in the group does not (IMO) imply my complicity with it, or my control over it.

    “It’s uncomfortable for someone in a privileged position to become part of a collective, a mass, a group. We’re used to seeing ourselves as individuals. We’re used to being sunflowers.”

    This is undoubtedly true. However…
    Do you think this is because being sunflowers lets us feel superior? That we feel the need to be sunflowers and see everyone else as (a collective mass of) dirt?
    Or could it possibly be because we feel being a sunflower is the natural state of all humankind, and that ALL people have a right to be sunflowers?

    I do want to be seen as an individual, and I do resent it when someone refuses to acknowledge my individuality. The fact that others are wronged does not (IMO) justify a similar wrong being done to me, simply to “show me how bad others have it” or some such. If I am to treat everyone–regardless of race, creed, gender, etc–as a unique sunflower…doesn’t the relationship have to start with us both treating each other that way? Acting as individuals?

    So when a conversation starts by talking about my collectiveness (in terms of skin color, gender, sex-bent, or whatever)…this does not inspire me that we’re about to have a conversation as individuals…any more than a conversation that I started by taking about someone’s blackness or queerness would be a good omen.

    Sorry…I probably used a lot of words to restate an old position, which is mainly: Why is my (ostensibly priveleged) position something to be ashamed of, or something I should reduce? Why shouldn’t I like what I have? Why shouldn’t everyone have what I have? Why shouldn’t I just work to give everyone what I have?
    Is there really not enough equality to go around?

    Sorry to return to disagreement mode. Friendly debate ensues?

  9. purtek says:

    Woo, disagreement! *cracks knuckles, prepares for fight* 🙂

    1. Mass terms. I think you’re right; not all mass terms are inherently bad. Categorizing is a pretty vital part of cognition, and it’s way too time consuming to *never* have categories. I do think the phrase is a good way to make her point, however – one of the ways that we can dehumanize another is to reduce them to nothing but that category. Since you’re only mildly disagreeing on this one, I think you’re with me so far, so I won’t spend a lot of time elaborating on it, but I think that for those who *do* see “generalization” slapped over the face of every woman, non-white person, queer person, etc, it’s a forceful passage that can be used to start looking at the potential end result of that kind of thinking.

    2. Complicity. Okay, here’s the challenge. Are you complicit in racism because of your accidental birth? No. Do you benefit from racist structures because of your skin colour? Undeniably, yes.

    And I think that you (using the general ‘you’ rather than the specific one, because this is not an accusation) are complicit if you continue to deny that you’ve had those benefits or if you dismiss the impact of racism on the lives of those who don’t have them.

    Wiesenthal is referring specifically to the feeling he had as he and others, presumably emaciated and obviously enslaved, were marched past people. These people weren’t Nazis – in Poland, they were also a conquered people, just a higher level of “people” – but they turned away, and afterwards said “We didn’t really know. We couldn’t really know”. I have to ask myself whether that’s true about me, in anything I’m seeing, right now. Especially since the Poles didn’t have it so good, either, I think it’s worth questioning – how much am I inclined to say that I don’t benefit from the racist structures because economically, I’m not doing all that great, when in reality, the options that are open to me are wider, and the barriers that are present are smaller, than they would be if I were non-white (around here, especially if I were First Nations).

    As for the apology you owe, I think you’re right. As an individual, you only owe an apology for an individual act of racism. But as a member of a society, is there a way to create a climate where a societal apology might be issued? Can you contribute to that climate, or are you going to detract from it? The upcoming Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) that I linked above is going to be revealing in this regard – many white, mainstream Canadians are going to talk about it angrily, viciously, dismissively, bitterly, saying that we – societally – do *not* owe any apologies to any “damn Indians”. Many of them are going to talk about how “we” have given “them” enough, listened to “their” complaints enough, “suffered” enough for the crimes we didn’t even personally commit.

    That would be continued complicity.

    If this is not about blame or forgiveness…what exactly is it about? That’s what I think most straight white guys like myself are asking. We don’t want to know what we need to say or do to be forgiven of some ambiguous crime…we want to know what it will take on our part for everyone to at least TRY to treat everybody as equals, without letting stuff that we consider peripheral and cosmetic getting in the way.

    From a feminist perspective, I don’t imagine looking for an apology from men in general for, say, rape. It’s about “blame” only insofar as society spends a hell of a lot of time telling women what they can do to stop themselves from being raped and very little telling men to stop raping or looking at what motivates men to rape. “Forgiveness”, as I’ve suggested in other posts on the subject, is about healing, for me. So part of what it’s about is about how healing can happen, and if you really want to know what’s being asked in these kinds of discussions, I think the question is – how can straight white guys like yourself contribute to healing a broken society that has taken it out a lot more on people who don’t look like you?

    You don’t have to ask my forgiveness (or that of anyone else you haven’t personally harmed), but it seems to me that the people I see locking themselves into the mindset that they haven’t done anything wrong end up becoming angry, aggressive and minimally, complicit. (I’m not quite awake yet, I’m not sure how much sense I’m making)

    3. Oppressor/oppressee, and sunflowers. First, good point on the dichotomy. As I said above, there was a third group acknowledged in the book (primarily in the form of the Poles), and there are contemporary analogies in discussions of “intersectionality” (I’m in “power” position as a white person, “non-power” position as a woman, etc). The dichotomy creation is part of the problem in these intra-feminist discussions where the white women refuse to see that there are layers beyond “oppressor” and “everybody else”.

    As to the sunflower/individuality question –

    could it possibly be because we feel being a sunflower is the natural state of all humankind, and that ALL people have a right to be sunflowers?

    Agreement! Abso-fucking-lutely! I think that’s why it was/is such a powerful metaphor. Those in a state of pathological power-grabbing (like the Nazis) can’t seem to do that, though.

    I can see why your back goes up when a conversation starts by pointing out your whiteness, and I can relate. I always want to immediately prove I’m “different”, I’m “one of the nice ones” if I’m in a conversation with someone who doesn’t share certain privileges. It’s…really obnoxious, and I know it. 🙂 It’s gotta be a show, don’t tell, thing. Don’t know if that’s what you’re getting at, but that’s what I feel.

    No one’s asking the privileged to feel ashamed of their privileged position. They’re just asking for people to understand that it’s part of the reality of their experience, and that privilege itself allows them *not* to have to see the world through the eyes of another. No blame, no shame, just a request to expand perspective, and to think about privilege as a thing that has heretofore limited that perspective.

    There damn well should be enough equality to go around. There damn well should be enough time spent on listening to people who don’t look exactly like the straight white dude talk about their individual experiences, opinions, values and goals, and having those experiences, opinions, values and goals be just as important politically and viable economically and accepted socially. But unless the straight white dudes who have gotten the bulk of the attention, funding and social capital up to this point will stop, look at what they might be missing, listen to the voices they might not be hearing, we’re in the same boat as before.

    No shame. No need to ask forgiveness, in this case. Just be different, and seriously see how you can help redistribute that equality.

    No worries on returning to disagreement – I’ve been getting too much total agreement lately, it’s starting to make me all arrogant. I’m still friendly, you?

  10. Jay says:

    1. Mass terms. We’re good here. 🙂

    2. Complicity.

    Okay, here’s the challenge. Are you complicit in racism because of your accidental birth? No. Do you benefit from racist structures because of your skin colour? Undeniably, yes.

    Ah, here is a rub for me. Do I benefit from racist structures? Or is it simply that everyone else suffers, which still puts me ahead?
    I see a difference here, though I’ll admit I understand how someone else might not see (or consider important) the distinction:

    a.) imagine a 100 yd race, but white people start 30 yds ahead of everyone else, so they really only need to run 70 yds. Naturally, most white people finish first.

    b.) imagine a 100 yd race, but non-white people have to start 30 yds behind everyone else, so they need to run 130 yds. Naturally, most white people finish first.

    Now, in reality, both of those situations come out largely the same: white folks got an edge on everyone else. But for me (and this is probably due to my privelege, and may even be defensive) the distinction is important…I like to feel that I am being judged “fairly”; that I’m running an honest race. I know other people are getting the shaft, but I’m not personally giving them the shaft…I’m playing fair. Other people are cheating non-whites so as to hurt their chances in the race, but all I’m doing (as I see it) is running the 100 yd dash as best I can.

    In some ways, it doesn’t much matter whether we move the starting line for whites back or the starting line for non-whites forward. A fair race is what we want. But (and I know this is only my own perception, and is therefore making this conversation about me…sorry) I see a distinction between being told “hey, other people are getting cheated” and being told “hey, YOU’re cheating”.

    And either way, the solution is the same: standardize the rules. Make the referee hold a fair race. And of course this starts by whites admitting, “this isn’t a fair race, I need to admit I’ve got an advantage here”. I agree and understand there.

    …how much am I inclined to say that I don’t benefit from the racist structures because economically, I’m not doing all that great, when in reality, the options that are open to me are wider, and the barriers that are present are smaller, than they would be if I were non-white.

    Well, there are 2 aspects to your statement: how you’re doing, and how you’re doing by comparison.
    I don’t think you ARE benefiting from a racist structure; you’re running a straight race. Yes, you’re naturally finishing ahead of other people who had to start behind you, but how does someone else’s loss equal your gain? Is society a zero-sum system? Sometimes, whites and non-whites both lose.

    But as a member of a society, is there a way to create a climate where a societal apology might be issued?

    I’m not even sure how a societal apology could be offered, at least not in words. A forced apology is meaningless; therefore, a societal apology has no meaning except as the acts of individuals. And while individuals of course can apologize for things that were neither their fault nor their doing, is that what minorities want?

    It’s about “blame” only insofar as society spends a hell of a lot of time telling women what they can do to stop themselves from being raped and very little telling men to stop raping or looking at what motivates men to rape.

    I would agree with you here, and I think that acknowledging where rape-blame truly lies is important in stopping it.

    I think the question is – how can straight white guys like yourself contribute to healing a broken society that has taken it out a lot more on people who don’t look like you?

    I think that’s an awesome question, and would love an answer. I just can’t seem to get one.
    And I’ll be honest…I may not accept the answer I’m given. I’m not willing to surrender my own reason or opinions, necessarily (though I am willing to examine them and change if I can/want to). For instance, if somene told me that what I could do to heal racial divides/tension/etc would be to give up all I owned and spend my life in selfless labor for the cause,I probably wouldn’t do that. At the least, I’d like to understand and believe that whatever sacrifice I’m making will be meaningful.

    It seems to me that the people I see locking themselves into the mindset that they haven’t done anything wrong end up becoming angry, aggressive and minimally, complicit.

    This is possible, and I’ll admit it’s even possible in my own case…I am not a saint, and am as guilty of getting angry or defensive as anyone. The best I can do is promise to try to look at things as reasonably and objectively as I can.

    Those in a state of pathological power-grabbing (like the Nazis) can’t seem to do that, though. [acknowledge that all people have a rght to be individuals]

    Agreed…but that’s why I feel it’s so important to admit variances between the bad of “oppressor” and the good of “oppressed”…benefiting from a racist system doesn’t make one a pathological power-grabber, and treating him as “bad” by categorizing him isn’t likely to encourage him to dismantle a system that benefits him.
    People are far from perfect (myself included)…while we can make selfless decisions, it’s much easier for us to do so when we see some sort of upside for us…whether that upside is feeling like we’ve done the right thing, feeling like we’ve helped further human brotherhood, feeling like we’ve accomplished something, whatever. It would be wonderful if people would help dismantle a system that benefited them even while doing so brought them nothing but grief, from BOTH sides…but that’s not a realistic likelihood. I know that’s sad, and it doesn’t speak very well of humanity or myself. But I’m a realist.

    No one’s asking the privileged to feel ashamed of their privileged position.

    This is one where I still disagree…I think some people do ask/want that. Whether they do so outright or indirectly, there are people who want to make others ashamed of their privelege.
    I think such people are probably a small minority, but they’re a fairly vocal one…just as the Klan is a fairly vocal minority of modern white society. And I won’t judge all people outside my group based on the actions of a few; all I’d like is the same in return.

    No blame, no shame, just a request to expand perspective, and to think about privilege as a thing that has heretofore limited that perspective.

    When somebody asks me this, I have no problem with compliance. 🙂
    However…I’m willing to expand perspective, but I’m not willing to simply accept someone else’s perspective as objectivity or gospel truth, wthout further discussion/analysis/evidence. This was problem I had with Kynn…he sought the sole right to define terms and reality, and took any disagreement as unwillingness to look outside my own privelege.
    I don’t think any one person has a right to define reality in terms of race (or gender, or other societal constructs); there are enough disagreements among feminists on feminism, and among African-Americans on racism, that I know that very little is cut-and-dried.
    All I ask is polite, reasoned discussion. I know that can be difficult sometimes, but consider it always worth working towards.

    But unless the straight white dudes who have gotten the bulk of the attention, funding and social capital up to this point will stop, look at what they might be missing, listen to the voices they might not be hearing, we’re in the same boat as before.

    I don’t disagree. I just may differ in some cases on the best way to get straight white dudes to listen up. Shouting “hey whitey, shut up and listen to me!” may or may not be the best way sometimes. 🙂

    Just be different, and seriously see how you can help redistribute that equality.

    I’ll do my best…and I’ll admit sometimes my best isn’t all that great. I don’t have a problem with my own frailties or failures being pointed out to me…only those of other people. 🙂

    No worries on returning to disagreement – I’ve been getting too much total agreement lately, it’s starting to make me all arrogant. I’m still friendly, you?

    Absolutely.
    And I’ll try to disagree again soon. 🙂

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