I want to preface this post with a warning sort of preface saying that, well, I am a bit irritated at the moment. The bit of irritation being a Dur-Untash-ziggurat-sized burning-hatred-of-ten-thousand-supernovas-filled fury.
Also, I’ve been contemplating a FList purge for days.
Probably every ethnic/sexual minority person ever(1) had to deal with Privileged Arsehole Friends (PAF).
A PAF is:
1) privileged in that they belong to their respective majority group.
2) arsehole in that they repeatedly fail to own up to and confront their privilege, which in turn leads them to be:
a) completely ignorant about everything ever that is a little bit different than their tiny-not-tiny mainstream environment, which in turn
b) leads them to being offensive and insufferable all the time, but
c) even when their arseholisheness is remarked upon, the only thing they’ll invariably do is to engage in some serious denial, because, they obviously didn’t mean it that way! Also, they have minority friends!
But we’ll get there.
A member of a majority group will always have some privileges that the members of minority group will not have. A refusal to own up to the majority group privilege is motivated solely by intellectual indolence and can be interpreted as another privilege, which is apparently all-encompassing enough to allow the members of the majority group to control the discourse in such a way that they can dictate the other groups what should and should not be acceptable, and what should and should not be offensive.
This is obviously not fair, because when a member of the majority group says something that is offensive to the member of the minority group, it is the member of the targeted minority group who has the right to decide whether it offended them or not. However, the usual case with PAF is that PAF will try to derail the minority member by saying one of the following things:
a)”But I didn’t mean it to be offensive!”
This is of course ridiculous in the extreme. When you say something that is, for instance, considered a racial slur, do you actually seriously expect other people to think that the sole fact of the utterance coming from your special snowflake minority-allied lips will somehow annul and cancel out the offensiveness, the sociolinguistic context of the utterance, and the historical baggage of thousands or hundreds of years of oppression and discrimination? Seriously? PAF, are you deluded or what?
b)”You just enjoy being offended!”
Yeah, totally. It is a well-known fact that all members of minority groups undergo a compulsory masochism and humiliation kink screening before we can be taught our secret handshake.
We are also prohibited from ever having safewords.
c)”Aren’t you just overreacting?”
My favourite derailment tactic ever; has obvious roots in the inability to think beyond PAF’s privileged experience and the lack of empathy. For PAF the offensive things they said weren’t offensive at all; this is, because to them, not belonging to the targeted, offended group, they actually are not offensive. When something is not offensive to them, it couldn’t possibly be offensive to anybody else, because their experience is universal and therefore representative of everybody else’s experience, therefore all other experience is non-existent and invalid, therefore, in the vapid mind of a PAF, our irritation at yet another offensive turn of phrase is indeed much ado about nothing.
d)”I totally agree with you, but shouldn’t you just be less angry/more polite? You’re hurting your own cause.”
Brilliant. Instead of focusing on the real issue, which is the PAF being a jerk and a bigot, the discussion is derailed so that we can analyse the impudent conduct of the offended member of minority.
This is because when someone says something hurtful and offensive to you, the proper answer is to be appropriately humble about asking them to stop. It’s not like you have a right to feel entitled to be treated like a human being, OK?(2)
Also, there is no fucking way I’m going to be polite to a bloody bigoted person.
Unless I’m paid to do so.
What I don’t understand is, why not just take our word for it when we say we’re offended? Why is it so hard to accept that when we’re saying we’re offended we really actually are, and for a good reason? Is it really that plausible that we would want to arrange to have an uncomfortable situation like that, where we are hurt and have to call our supposed friend out on being bigoted, just for fun? Do you really think we would lie? Is the perspective of having done something wrong really so terrifying? Or have you got member-of-minority friends something you only do for status and progressive self-image, and, hey, you do let us use your bathroom, so why all the nerves, man.
Not confronting their privilege allows PAF also say things like:
“So, I guess you, lesbians, must totally hate dildos, since they’re vaguely penis-shaped”
“So, I hear Thailand is totally an undeveloped country, so you had to go to school on an elephant, right?”(3)
When their curious questions and/or creative witticisms are met with uncomfortable silence, displeasure or outright anger, the PAF want to know what went wrong. However, they will not do any independent research googling. They want everything handed to them on a silver platter. With a bow, and a nice note, and a pat on the head.
After all, they apparently are unable believe we wouldn’t lie just to make them feel bad about themselves and their level of progressiveness(4), so we’re liars until proven otherwise. The burden of proof lies entirely on us, so we have to spend hours hunting links, writing posts, explaining stuff during conversations and so on. PAFs universally assume that we have nothing better to do – after all, we are their token minority friends, not actual persons with lives, hobbies, and everything, but their own private minority spokespersons – than to waste our time and resources on continually explaining the same basic stuff all over again.
Bugger that, I could stand to explain something from time to time, but seriously, when I’ve tried and tried and tried with no results? No fucking way.
Also, if we’re really friends, PAF, if you’re really friends with a member of a minority group, why can’t you just devote an hour or so – in the name of a friendship which is, as you say, so important to you – to google the stuff before you:
a) make a PAF out of yourself,
b) upset us?
Is that really such a terrible effort?
And while a simple assumption that we will tell you when we feel uncomfortable and upset over what you said is more or less correct – don’t you realise that it would be nice to maybe try avoid making us uncomfortable and upset in the first place? Since, as PAFs like to say, we’re friends? The thing with us, minority group members, is that we don’t actually exist to provide you with a Meaningful Learning Experience every other day, you know?
Then, there is the tiny wee little detail that even if we do make the effort and explain something, the PAF will invariably start the denialist bullshit from 1). So we might actually not bother in the first place.
We are also not obliged to know everything about our minority group stuff, so if you assume that every Asian person must speak Chinese, or every lesbian has to know everything about LGBTQ-themed films, you are actually being a complete arsehole.
In short: what my PAF experience taught me is that I’m totally heterophobic and don’t care about straight people. I also don’t need friends like that.
BRB. Have an address book to purge.
(1) While I’m not trying to say that all kinds of oppression are absolutely like each other, I’d like to point out that there are in fact several universal constants.
(2) The people who made a complaint like that personally to me should be advised to admire my formidable restraint, because what I actually wanted to do was to beat them with a stick.
Not like it could do any damage to the brain, anyway.
(3) Both examples of anecdata were gathered personally by me IRL.
(4) Yeah, like that’s even possible, hurr durr.