I haven’t been writing much on this blog; I could list excuses, but really, I think I painted myself into a corner by making things more complicated than they have to be (a pretty common problem for me). So I’m taking a break from my ever-so-well-thought-out-but-too-much-of-a-pain-to-execute format to start a new portion on my blog, which I choose to call Sunday morning run ramblings.
Most of my working out these days is done with a jogging stroller and a bunch of mommies, but some weekend mornings, usually Sundays, I leave my husband and daughter sleeping in bed and get out before the sunrise to go for a five mile run on one of the beautiful greenways In our city—solo. While I’d like to say I do nothing but commune with nature on these runs, the truth is I very much miss my heart-pounding running playlist (after all, I mostly listen to children’s music these days), so I use these morning runs to catch up on my Zombies Run episodes and listen to techno and/or industrial music. Despite the welcome chaos in my earbuds, though, during these runs my mind wanders aimlessly and serenely—the best conditions for deep thoughts and aha moments.
Which is why I think this is the best way to get the writing gears churning again—by writing without pretense and just laying honest thoughts on the page. I’m hoping this will inspire some more focused writing in the future. I may have to write before I shower next time, though, as I feel the water has already sapped the inspiration from my brain, which is quickly re-filling itself with to-do lists, appointment reminders, and planning agendas. But I think I still have some of the thoughts from this morning to share….
What I’d like to talk about is zero-sum versus win-win situations as they pertain to solutions to racial inequality (or just all inequality in general). I have been watching world events with an increasing sense of dread lately, as I’m sure have many others, and wondering what kind of world my daughter will be growing up in. It’s not that I didn’t know that there was still bigotry in the world, or that there are still great injustices being done regularly to all minority groups. It’s just that I always had the sense (maybe naively?) that we were at least heading in the right direction as far as these things were concerned. After all, marginalization has been going on for as long as history, it’s not like equality is going to happen overnight, right? I do realize that I am lucky enough to have been born in the United States to middle class parents with mostly Caucasian genetics. I am largely protected from the consequences of prejudice and marginalization, and I didn’t even really understand that until I had already been navigating the world as a young adult for a while, which shows you just how protected I was. I am a woman, which has on occasion afforded me the opportunity to see bias in action on the receiving end, although I wasn’t even really able to recognize that for what it was until much later in life.
What bothers me most, the way recent events have been unfolding, is seeing the fear that pervades equality issues, on both sides (sorry to sound like Trump…. I said FEAR, not VIOLENCE). The majority, white men, are fearful of losing what they have. Generally speaking, white men make more money, have more education and career opportunities, and generally maintain a bigger foothold in most fields than anyone else. I think that any kind of supremacists are abhorrent, and to say that they all follow their ideology because of one thing would be an oversimplification, but I think it’s important to try to dig to the root of what they want and why they want it. I think that the majority group is afraid of not being the majority anymore BECAUSE it means that they lose something. They lose power. They lose the ability to protect themselves and their families. They lose economic stability.
Minorities are also afraid, inversely, of not gaining what they do not have. I should put in a disclaimer that I strongly support affirmative action as a means to boost minority presence in schools and workplaces (we can’t just grant equality with a magic wand), but by the same token, I see why people might have a beef with it. If a minority applicant is not as qualified as a non-minority applicant, is it really fair that the non-minority has to lose out based on their race/gender? By this argument, we are working with affirmative action under the premise that in order for minorities to gain a seat at the school/workplace, they have to TAKE it from someone who is a non-minority.
This is all probably old hat to everyone, but the reason this bothers me so much is because so many people are working under the assumption that there has to be a winner and a loser. Someone has to win, and in order for that to happen, someone has to lose. Just look at what a divisive sentence that is. It implies that we are not all playing on the same team. The majority says, “Hey, they want to REMOVE us. We can’t have that.” And the minority says “That’s right, some of you are going to have to MOVE OVER to make room for us.”
I wish more people were saying, “How can we make room for everyone?” I don’t think that it is impossible to make room for everyone, but it has become impossible for most people to think in those terms because our capitalist society has created an environment where the American dream has been twisted from “you can all have your own stuff” to “if you bust your ass you can get ahead of everybody else and if you don’t you’re not going to have squat”.
Okay, so the gap between the rich and poor getting bigger is nothing new to everyone either probably, but I don’t see why more people aren’t drawing a connection between income inequality to inequality in all other areas.
We’ve created a society where yes, you have the freedom to chase happiness, but you also have to be able to pay for it. Being successful often costs money because we have stopped investing in our collective future under the guise of everyone pulling themselves up by their own bootstraps— We all love a good rags to riches story, and those stories do exist (we eat them up!), but the reality is if I am a marginalized member of society, I am more likely to be poor, and if I am poor, I am less likely to be able to afford school, and the less likely I am to be able to afford school, the more likely I am to have more children and those children are less likely to get a good education and more likely to get involved in crime and etc., etc.
No wonder everyone is so afraid. When you have to be a winner or else you’re a loser, you become much more likely to push someone over and steal their lunch money to get what you need.
This is not new either. I first started thinking about it when I read it in Richard Weiner’s “The Geography of Happiness” in his section on Iceland. He said Icelanders are happier in general because unlike Americans, they believe it is better for everybody to suffer a little bit than for a few to suffer a lot. Americans would much rather have winners and losers. If somebody else is suffering, well, it’s not my problem, and they probably deserved it anyways.
You may think I am not patriotic, but that is not true. I love that our country was founded on the ideals of equality and freedom. Mind you, it was founded by white men who believed in equality and freedom for white men, but I think that the founding fathers would extend that to everybody else if they were alive today, to reflect the changing of the times, or I hope they would anyways. That’s what I love this country for. What I don’t love is the fact that we continue to think in these stunted, limited terms.
There is enough for everybody, if we would just stop and think about how to share everything; but instead of learning how to be more efficient, how to share resources, how to include everyone rather than just the people that live in our gated communities, we waste all our energy trying to figure out how to win.
Just look at our government today; partisan politics, winners and losers. It just totally freaks me out. We may as well have two countries, because if everything that happens is going to completely satisfy one group and royally piss off another one, I don’t think we’re going to last very long as “United States”.
And yes, this is what I think about while I’m fight zombies for Abel Township and listening to dubstep.
Looking forward to the next run!