Misrepresentation

“A funny thing happened on the way to the studio today.” Remember how Johnny Carson would often start off his monologue this way? For me, it’s always been interesting to think about how the littlest things that happen during our day can be like a little pebble in your shoe – sooner or later a small statement or comment or ocurrence can take on such mythic proportions in your mind that you just CAN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE.

Such a thing just happened to me.

There are two types of people on the internet today: 1) Those who have tried to use it as a networking tool and have most of their lives (for better or worse) chronicled in detail; and 2) Those who are more private and (for better or worse) have little or nothing written about them. I am, without question, the former.

Thus I was a little taken aback by a visitor to my MySpace blog yesterday. I am listed on my profile as being “Caucasian”; a term I have used my whole life, since my father is from Iran (a country in the Caucasus itself) and my mother is Irish (a European country whose inhabitants have appropriated the term for themselves). My birth certificate and passport both list me as “Caucasian”.

This particular reader, who is of Welsh descent, accused me of misrepresenting myself as Caucasian when in reality I was Middle Eastern. The implication being that my descent would, of course, dictate so much of my life (i.e. political views, social status, etc.) that I was irresponsible for ‘withholding’ such vital information from my readers.

Two thoughts occurred to me after thinking about that comment:

1)This particular reader is the second type of person mentioned above – a private person on the internet who has taken great pains to remain anonymous; as is their perogative. I found it completely ironic that someone who valued their privacy so much would insist that everyone else be clearly labeled so that they could categorize them according to their OWN value system.

2) There is such a misunderstanding about race in our society today. This reader was from the South, and as such was responding to deeply-rooted social programming that told them that anyone who was not “Caucasian” (according to THEIR definition of the word) was just simply living on a lower plane and should identify themselves as such.

These points are troubling for many reasons. As a culture aren’t we supposed to give people the benefit of the doubt before judging someone on the labels they choose to identify themselves?

Of course, being a true Caucasian myself (see link above for the history of the term), this particular reader’s comments don’t impact me personally – I can brush off the feedback as just ill-informed; however as an AMERICAN, the sentiment expressed deeply disturbes me. Like Imus’s comments, which we’re all sick of analyzing at this point, they serve to remind us to approach each human we encounter along the way with love in our heart and as a unique member of Creation. Whatever status, job title, skin color, political view, relationship status, address, sexual orientation, or creed – remember that we are all, on some level, part of the same family.

As the Jamaicans say, RESPECT!

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15 Responses to “Misrepresentation”

  1. Logipundit Says:

    It is pretty sad that someone would discount someone based on a last name and obvious ignorance of the facts. I had a conversation with a Hispanic the other day (who is every bit as “white” and “caucasian” as me) about these terms of race.

    My first response to the guest on your Myspace page would be, “OK, so you got me, I’m Persian, so what?”

    I would point out one slight bit of willful ignorance on your own part, though:

    “This reader was from the South, and as such was responding to deeply-rooted social programming that told them that anyone who was not “Caucasian” (according to THEIR definition of the word) was just simply living on a lower plane and should identify themselves as such.”

    This perspective continually perplexes me. Not only because the majority of educated Southerners do not feel this way, but because “deep-rooted programming” is deemed as even relevant.

    This guy was a tool, pure and simple. Pointed out that he was “from the South” and “as such” an ignorant racist surrounded by ignorant racists, is bigotry at its peak and not welcome on an intellectually-driven site.

    You Iranian, terrorist, Yankee freak.

  2. Logipundit Says:

    Or did you forget that ALL OF THE OTHER AUTHORS on this blog are from the South?

    Relay this to all your Al-Qaeda friends, too.

  3. scottie Says:

    Someone forgot to take their medication before responding …

    I read the same post and did not reach the same conclusions as Logipundit, surprise surprise.

    There are many racists in the South. Much of racism is cultural, and usually racist attitudes vary inversely with one’s level of education.

    But there are many racists everywhere is more the point. I think the South has made great strides in race relations. Having attended a HBCU and also having taught at a HBCU, I can tell you I felt what it was like to be the one that people looked strangely at.
    These experiences, as well as my Dad’s job taking us all over the country and overseas as a kid, showed me very different perspectives, and my attitudes have been molded as a result.

    This country is only 50 years removed from the Civil Rights Movement, and the progress made in this short span of time has been monumental in the South. Obviously, it could improve.

    One should not let a single jackass taint the entire “group” to which he/she belongs. Not all Muslims are terrorists, even though a small percentage is. Not all Jews are Zionists, even though a crazed subset is. Not all Southerners are racists, even though a backward fraction is. Not all Koreans are gun-toting maniacs, though one recently was. Not all Presidents of the US are clueless, even though the current one is. I could continue (its pretty fun)

    Don’t let little people drag you down dude.

  4. Rip Says:

    I’m not really offended by your comment about the South but it does go a long ways towards undermining the intent of your post.

    The lesson here is that as hard as everyone tries to be “enlightened”, they always end up finding a way to oversimplify some “other” group of people. And, we are quick to notice the oversimplifications of others and slow to notice our own. Live and learn, right?

  5. Eric Says:

    Thanks Scottie for the added dialogue. Thanks Rip for the level-headed concern you express on my intent here. Butch – I don’t even know where to start with what you’ve written here.

    I don’t think anything I wrote is stereotyping in the least. Certainly it is not incorrect to point out that in every culture there is social programming that we each respond to in different degrees?

    In this case, the social programming won out and this person responded in an uneducated way. In MOST cases, Southerners (myself included, thank you) rise above any negative aspects of their social programming – to whatever extent it happened to intrude upon their upbringing – and respond in the disgust that racist viewpoints rightfully should elicit.

    You profess surprise that deep-rooted programming would NOT be deemed relevant – surely it is only HONEST to look at the ingredients that make up our world-view and examine them. Just as Oregonians and Washingtonians are exposed to programming that says “eat more granola” and “save more trees”, so are other regions of the country more likely to expose their residents with their own messages (good, bad or neutral).

    It does NOT necessarily follow – NOR did I make the point – that because you are FROM that area that you AUTOMATICALLY adhere to every nuance of thought that you are exposed to. That would be just plain silly – and would feed into MY point that labeling someone as being FROM a place, does NOT mean that they fit the stereotype of that place.

    I will not renounce my Texan citizenship.
    I will not apologize for making what I still deem to be a fantastic point.
    But I will find another blog if it becomes a place where it’s OK to attack the author of a post with racial epithets rather than to debate the IDEA in the post.

  6. Logipundit Says:

    No, E, I did not debate the IDEA of your post. I actually took two paragraphs to emphatically AGREE with the idea of your post.

    The racial epithets were in jest (as you well know, good try) to better illustrate the idiocy of a)dismissing you because of your last name, and b)answering labelling with more labelling (again agreeing with your point).

    Sincerest apologies you didn’t catch that, and still disappointed that you don’t see your dismissal of a Southerner because he’s a Southerner as illustrating your point.

    And no, clarifying that racist social programming as being unique to the South is indeed sterotyping. (whether or not the majority-like yourself- are nobly able to overcome it).

    I’m all for stereotyping I just wanted to make sure you knew that you weren’t above it.

    As Rip pointed out, your post, the heart of which I COMPLETELY agreed with, lost value when you made the point that someone’s ignorance had more to do with being from the South than from simply not knowing (or caring) any damn thing about you but your last name.

    Hey, we’re all one big happy damn family here…but I get my ass chewed up about every second time I post here (and so does Scottie). You can take it, especially when everyone agrees with your post.

    As Randy Jackson would say, “I’m just keeping it real, dog.”

    However, obviously Rip and Scottie answered with more sanity, and that I applaud. My medication is on its way. But it takes a while to get down here to the South…

  7. scottie Says:

    see, I thought you were being facetious (to a point) in the first response, but then the follow-up took a different tone, which made me think you were seriously frothing at the mouth ….

  8. Logipundit Says:

    after going back and reading it myself…you’re absolutely right, it did come across that way.

    A mental note: I’m programming myself to remember if I ever type the words, “Wait, I’m not done…,” then I’m done.

    Rip said what I meant to say way better anyway. So I defer.

    And Eric, you are indeed welcome on this side of the river…as long as you bring your passport.

  9. JohnnyB Says:

    Wow, Butch, are you kidding or serious?

    Eric, I think this was a good post. The world is changing and America is becoming more diverse (I hate to use that word, but there it is) as people of different cultures continue to pour in to seek the American dream. My wife’s cousin (Taiwanese)is married to a white guy and the kids are struggling with these identity issues…we had to educate the neighbors kids on a few things, they were being pretty stupid. This was in a tory suburb of Chicago. The South certainly doesn’t have a monopoly on race issues. I can drive you around Columbus and Cincinnati, near the birthplace of Sherman and Grant, and let you guess which neighborhoods are black and white, which schools perform well and which ones fail, etc. On the flip side, Scottie is right on the money to say the South has made a lot of progress in the last fifty years, and there is a lot more to the deep-rooted programming than racial bean counting.

    I think Butch’s rants, and the ambiguity of his sarcasm level, speaks to the caution one must use when blogging. People who remain anonymous do so to avoid the social blowback from throwing idea bombs at others, as a result we’re exposed to a lot more of the hatred that used to be kept quiet. When I hear about guys like that I feel pretty sad about their bunker down mentality. At the same time, I don’t want to put too much public info out there because I don’t want a target on my back.

    I certainly hope you don’t high tail it over to DC Offline, as I do enjoy the posts.

    I’ll close with a wise bit of philosophy from ‘Little Miss Sunshine’, “Sarcasm is the refuge of losers; it’s losers’ way of bringing winners down to their level.”

  10. JohnnyB Says:

    Ok group hug time, key the theme music and closing credits.

  11. Logipundit Says:

    deleted my second comment…just so you know. “A little over the top” is one way of looking at it.

    In case I run for office one day, I don’t want to be accused of being “insensitive.”

    What would be the word, out of curiosity, for someone who was prejudicial against Southerners (or for that matter Northerners, Californians or whatever else)?

    I was thinking:

    Dixiephobe
    Rutilophobe (fear of red)
    Regionist
    Anti-Southite

    Just need a blanket label to attach to someone if I detect the slightest hint of animosity towards a group I’m proud to belong to.

    Yeah, that’s pretty insane isn’t it.

  12. Cajun Tiger Says:

    You just have to love the Anon commenters that demand you bare your soul while hiding behind anonymity.

  13. MOM Says:

    Have to say something here since I enjoy this blog so much…

    Cajuns were officially (in schools) prohibited from speaking french in Louisiana…and we were allies of the French in both world wars and the military extensively used french speakers from Louisiana in both wars. Who can figure what tiny little differences in people make discrimination possible? And since there was discrimination against Cajuns, some tried to be included in the government’s Small Business Act for minority set-aside contracts and they were denied. I still think they had/have a case to be included.

  14. JohnnyB Says:

    Yeah, my (real) Mom told me how they forbid French in school, and how my Grandfather was in WWI as a translator. I think you’re pretty much leaving the barn door open if you let Cajuns have set asides. Me and my siblings are 1/16 (heck it might even be 1/32) Native American and still no scholarships! Since I’m pretty much for the abolition of the Small Business Administration and minority preferences, I can’t say I support them for Cajuns.

  15. MOM Says:

    Hi, Johnny B,

    I never said I was for set-asides. I used to administer those contracts for the government, mainly because no one else wanted to. The SBA dictated to other government agencies which competitive contracts would no longer be competitive, the SBA didn’t allow negotiations on offers submitted by their chosen minority contractors, and, in effect, the contracts I had usually resulted in an increase of about 20% in costs to the government over competitive contracts. Finally, the responsibility to declare a set-aside contractor “viable” (able to compete and thus removed from set-aside status) was with the SBA. This never happened while I was there.


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