Stan at TYWKIWDBI, a blog I love, posted this segment from This American Life recently, and I made a mental note to return to it when I got time. I listened to it last Monday, and It moved me to tears. So I want to repost it here. I’ll write a little bit about it below the fold. But do yourself a favor and invest 20 minutes of your life to listening to this segment. I’ll wait on the other side of the bump.
Hopefully you finished the segment.
What did you think? Were you moved? Did it impress a serious level of, I just listened to something very special and I need to share it with others?
Stan posted an addendum that discusses Presidential Candidate Joe Biden’s speech impediment. He stutters. He worked to overcome it, but it still affects him. And what some are confusing as “dementia” are slowly realizing that his stutter is still a part of his life.
I didn’t watch any of the DNC this week, because we were staying in an AirBnB in Wilmington and they were experiencing incredible internet outages. Tina likely wouldn’t have wanted to watch it anyway. But I do want to go back and watch some of the speeches.
But I heard that Biden invited a young man with a stutter to be a part of the convention. Wow. That’s so cool.
I don’t have a stutter, but I have a lot of trouble getting my brain to coordinate my thoughts into words. I’ve long had a trigger centered on the pain surrounded by being misunderstood. I hate when I feel like I say something clearly and correctly and the listener says something completely opposite.
“I like going to the movies.”
“So you’re a pedophile?”
“I think people shouldn’t get abortions, but I’m glad we live in a country where people can choose.”
“You are a murderer?”
You know. That kind of stuff.
I feel like it’s sort of a stutter. Because I’ll make long-ish pauses between words and I think it makes people nervous. I think about entire conversations for years bashing my inability to clearly state my case. Something I feel I can do quickly and easily in the typed word.
The whole idea that stutters should be cared for, should be empathized with, that they should save 50% on their phone bills, because it takes them upwards of twice as long to communicate … this has me torched with awe.
That these people live in a timeline of space time that is not equal to everyone else’s … that’s mind-blowing to me.
I can’t tell you how teared up I was apart from saying I really teared up. I was choking on a wobbly voice as I praised the segment to Tina.
There’s a quote that the speaker gives that sent my brain soaring with intrigue. It’s this:
“Treating different things the same can generate as much inequality as treating the same things differently.”
― Kimberlé Crenshaw
This quote to me is a rewrite of The Golden Rule. It takes the essence that says, “Treat your neighbor as yourself” to the next level.
On a simple level, you could say talking to a child and talking to a PhD in physics would require two different levels of speaking traits. To the child, you might stay away from larger words. You speak with a singsong and patience. To PhD, you might dig deep for some bigger words, so you don’t look like a child. To treat them the same, would be inadequate and foolish. But you also cannot risk letting the audience of a child and the audience of a PhD in on your secret inequality. You’ve generated disparity between two different parties. And on the surface, it shows.
Or let’s put it in the context of race.
Let’s say your friend is racist. Not you. You’re not racist. I mean you are. But you can admit it. You understand that everyone is racist, and that approaching racism is a work in progress.
But your friend that you know, he is clearly a person who sees people of color as inferior. He says things like, “I’m not racist … but …” He will be first to point out the black guy in the room. But never say, “This white guy I know named Bob, he’s a stick in the mud.” Color adjectives are ONLY attributed to people of color.
Anyway, your friend, the racist, he thinks black people have every access to the same economical promise that white people do. And if they hunker down, they can rise above, out of their situations and SUCCEED.
But that’s oversimplification. That’s not what necessarily happens. You can’t pull yourself up by the bootstraps and pick yourself out of poverty if you don’t have bootstraps to begin with. If you move to a big city with bigger opportunities in the 1930s, a time when if you wanted a big corporate electrician gig, the Union wouldn’t accept you on the basis of the color of your skin. So you’re relegated to jobs that aren’t so regulated.
Voting back then was relatively new for Black people, and even then, women of color wouldn’t see that right for years.
We treat different things the same and the same things differently all the time. It pushes inequalities before anyone has a chance to address it.
But that doesn’t even begin to address the ideas that a handsome man or a beautiful woman have a larger chance of moving up the ranks against an less attractive man or woman of any color. Or the lottery of growing up in a rich family sets people far ahead of people who don’t. It’s not that people can’t experience successes. But failure is so much more prevalent when daddy’s bank account is zero, his education is crap, and his idea of a good time is a crack pipe, a hand job and a bottle of bud.
My parents, especially my Dad, impressed me at a young age as someone who did his best to treat all women with great enthusiasm and respect. He often joked and flirted with the women behind the counter at Krispie Kreme Donuts, where we spent many hours as kids. The women who worked there were often larger black women and they loved my dad. He was always joking and laughing with them.
I remember a few times running into older corporate women after I left that world. Women of all ages and colors would say, “What was great about you is you always treated people the same, no matter who they were, what department, and what walk of life.”
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve heard my dad say racist things. And he’s admitted to saying racist things. There’s a certain age when it just seems racism is more or less embraced by certain personalities as “It is what it is.”
My dad views my successes as divine gifts. But then I look at the poverty of others, I get confused by the idea that if I’m so lucky to receive these divine gifts, why are those people camping under the overpass and begging for change getting divine gifts?
My glasses are distorted with the constant comparison of my experience with theirs. And mine doesn’t compare and yet we’re all the supposed recipient of divine gifts. Just some gifts are way bigger than others.
If you gifted me with poverty and drug addiction, I’d ask for a Christmas Mulligan.
We are the purveyors of inequalities. The cycle is turning and turning. And as much as I want to treat you as my neighbor, if you vote for a moron and I point out that he’s a moron, I create an inequality that is completely impossible to overcome.
If we are standing at a bar, we are served the same beer, and you love it and I hate it, we’re now treating the same thing differently. If someone dies of Covid-19, and you cry and want to wear a mask to help prevent you of the same demise and your friend does not, we create inequality.
If we all bind together on the things that are the same, we can hope to start making sense of what divides us. The facts are the same. I hate murder. I don’t want to be murdered. You don’t want to. If you think I’m a murderer because I support a party that doesn’t oppose abortion, than I guess we’re going to create inequality between us.
If you look at a man who treats women like dirt, and I see a monster and you see a wise man with much to adore, we are disparate souls without a standard for decency.
If homosexuality is viewed as a sin and I think it’s a natural tendency for some people. When you start saying shit like, “Love the sinner” I hear a push for superfluous inequality.
The inequalities are rolling over and over and over and over. We keep returning to them, because we cannot settle on universal truths.
We are not equal. We view the world without equality. We are never going to be equal.
But I truly do not want that. I want to help be a solution. So let’s solve.