Giving, Taking and Privilege

“Obama, who I consider to have been a divisive traitor who hated this country was never treated as harshly by the opposition, the media or the other half of the country that didn't vote for him.”

I see many people as being primarily what I label: “givers” or “takers”.    Both groups live in a world where they see major problems.   How they view these problems differs greatly.

Givers consciously work cooperatively to help others.   They seek to share of themselves, with others.    Where they have views that may be seen as socialistic, they try to be cooperative and not elitest.   Where they are more “capitalistic”, they see a need to help those who are less fortunate, without being paternalistic.

Where religion is significant to them, they see needs for equality through sharing.   Their religious beliefs may be “liberal” or “conservative”.   Inclusivity and benevolence are key values for them.

Politically, they may tend to be more liberal, rather than conservative, however how they approach politics, rather than their specific beliefs, may be more significant than the directions of their views.

Givers see a need to help others.   Puerto Rico’s devastation from its hurricane needs assistance.   Global warming is a real problem which needs our attention now.    Women and girls need our help in having rights related to their bodies.

Takers focus much more on the individual, rather than the group.  They believe that they are entitled to a lot, and often don’t feel like they get what they deserve.   They seek to make a lot of money and get other things primarily for themselves.   Often, they feel that they are better than other people.

Where religion is significant to them, it provides for them as individuals.  Politically they tend towards being conservative, seeking a smaller government with lower taxes that they see as respecting them as individuals.

I really tried to see the man I quoted above as being at least partially a giver, but I couldn’t find a giving part of him.   From his perspective, others are oppressing him and attacking him for no good reason.   Through the little that I saw, I only saw a man who didn’t recognize and accept the privilege that he has.

President Obama has given a lot to others.   Donald Trump says to me over and over again: “me, me, me” and “you” (Muslims, women, political opponents, etc.) are unjustifiably trying to prevent me from my rightful being.

My friend V saw an over 80 year old women, with a cane, who had a Trump button on her walking on the street.  Tomatoes were thrown from a passing car, hitting her.    V took insults from those in the car, while assisting the quite shook victim.   Her attackers were takers.   V was a giver.

What makes us givers or takers?   

It seems that being a taker may come from at least several directions.    One may come from a lot of privilege and feel that one is entitled to more of it.    Plenty of wealthy and powerful people, who have inherited wealth and power feel justified in “ruling the world”.

One may also come from perhaps lesser or low privilege and feel that as one accumulates wealth and/or power that one has “earned it” and deserves to be respected and essentially “obeyed” due to what one has accomplished.

Taking can also come from a place of disempowerment or dysfunction and be either “real” or “fictitious”.   A survivor of “hurts” can seemingly be a taker.  One may, for example, have survived significant physical or psychological abuse, and seemingly be a taker in how one approaches others.   

Taking can also be a case where “the oppressed” push down others seemingly below them.   Poor white people in Little Rock and elsewhere allied themselves with wealthy white people, scapegoating black people in the 1960’s (and before then).

Pseudo-taking can occur when people facing oppression push back against those they identify as their oppressors.   White women were the primary beneficiaries of affirmative action.   Some black people may push back against white women (seemingly ignoring white men) and appear to be takers related to how they act.   In some cases, such actions may appear totally reasonable, while in other cases it may appear to be less justified.

Giving seems (to me) to come more commonly from people without privilege than from those with privilege.   When I moved to Oakland, California into a neighborhood that was 60% black people (mostly older), many black men and women would say “hi” and engage in conversation as I walked by their houses.   White people ignored me.

Why do some people become active in their churches, community centers, and many other areas, volunteering their time to help other people?   How are these people different from those who focus all of their time on their local sports team, for example?

During the 1950’s and 1960’s a high percentage of the white people who worked on civil rights related issues were Jewish.    There was a “liberalism” then that didn’t seem to affect anywhere near as high percentages of non-Jewish people.   Unfortunately, as the Black Power Movement exerted itself, too many of these people didn’t see the need to work on racism issues with white people.

Privilege can be an important factor relating to giving and taking.   The most significant areas of privilege we live with are:

racism – race,

sexism – gender and

classism – class.   

Other areas such as heterosexism, different-ableism and ageism can also have significance.

Racism and race are the most significant areas where privilege is important in the U.S.    Black people, and other people-of-color, face oppression related to white people in multiple ways.   Commonly they can not “pass” as white, though some can and do.   They face both significant and small pressures, that white people do not face.

As a white person I live in a world where I am “normal” and do not need to identify as “white” at all most of the time.   My worlds of work, school, “play” and similar areas all generally have been where people “like me” have been either a majority, or the largest minority, nearly all the time.

Sexism and gender are also important.   Being male, as well as white, has generally made my life much simpler.   As one who is “aging”, being male is still “attractive” in a way that women don’t have.    I have never faced a world of catcalls or fears (of rape) in the dark.    If someone is following me in the dark, getting robbed (unlikely most of the time) is all that I face.

Classism and class is also important.   Affordable housing is not an issue for me.   My neighborhood being free of gunfire is never an issue.   Paying for healthcare is not my issue.   Living in an area with a lot of toxins is not my issue.   Being able to afford healthy food is not an issue for me.

As an upper-middle class, hetish, white male I have the opportunity to learn a lot from others, particularly those with less privilege.   To do this, I need to really listen, as commonly their voices are not heard.   They may express themselves to me in veiled tones, not trusting that I want to hear what they are saying.
If, they speak their truths, I may hear a lot which may be new to me.   I may also hear their anger at me, because of the privilege I have.    I have to listen carefully.   I need to hear the depth of both what they are saying and of their anger, if they have anger. 

It can be easy to discount what others may say.  It is much harder to hear both the passion and the substance of what is said, particularly when it contradicts so many things I may have heard and seemingly learned over the years.
I believe that it is very important for most of us to reach beyond ourselves and try to learn and grow from others around us.   Commonly it relates to privilege, though it can be helpful in other ways also.   It takes sustained efforts over the long-run to really move.  

Though I will be racist and sexist for the rest of my life, I can and will move positively and affirmatively towards a better world.

Thank you!


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