I used to have a real bad temper. I rarely hurt other people, at least in my adult life, but you would not want to be a wall, chair or end table around me when my ire was raised. I could yell with the best of them and whether or not I was right or wrong about the issue at hand is ultimately immaterial, because I was so very wrong in how I reacted. I wreaked havoc on those around me and was frankly not a very pleasant person to be around. I have made peace with the demons that put in me in that place though and with the fact that I was there to begin with.
Which I suspect is part of the reason I get so bent when I am told I am overreacting now, or when I am told I am being mean. I won’t claim to be perfect. There are times I look back at my behavior even now and wonder what the hell I was thinking. By and large, however, I like to think I’ve grown to be a nice person. I do care about other people’s feelings and do a better job than I ever did in the past of considering how my words may affect someone. If someone screws up, I try to explain myself, or the situation to them. I try to express that I understand that sometimes shit happens, and that I know this because I have screwed up.
That said, I do not have infinite patience, and after a while, some of the bitch comes creeping back in. When I let one slide, and then speak up politely, and then do so a second time, by the fourth time you have behaved problematically, especially in regards to issues of privilege, I am done being nice.
Then again, “nice” cuts both ways, as does sympathy. I may not know your life, but I know mine, and I DO know the lives of many people in REAL poverty (and yes, this is directed at a particular “you” but then, also at a lot of nameless “yous” out there.) When you have been able to go to school, enjoy a relatively pleasant standard of living, had the opportunity to accept an internship that will give you valuable “experience” and, of course contacts, you enjoy greater economic privilege than a good portion of your fellow Americans. You definitely are not living in poverty. Complaining that you only have $50 dollars on hand when there are people forced to feed their families on that each week is tone-deaf as hell. Not to mention how dismissive denying your privilege is off all oppressed groups.
In case you have not figured it out, the person inspired this is a straight, white, cis male. His reaction to being called out, of course, was the standard “being a straight, white, cis male does not make me an asshole.” No, you are right, it absolutely doesn’t. In fact, I don’t think anyone actually IS an asshole, but saying you are not privileged when you clearly are, and crying poverty when there is real deprivation in this country, is BEHAVING like an asshole. After a point I am no longer entitled to be nice to you. Not after being part of, or privy to, multiple conversations with you on this very subject.
But we are expected to be nice to the oppressor when their feelings are hurt. They of course hate that they are privileged, which makes things so much more palatable, doesn’t it? So just be nice, because that demand in no way displays just how used to their privilege they are, does it? No, we need to be “nice” and complacent. We have to tend to their outrage at our outrage lest they put us in our place. We have to respect the fact that they are just “nice” to us to begin with, even though they really don’t have to be.
Of course they don’t all think like that, but then, so many don’t think at all. They don’t think about how that last bit especially is implied in their defensiveness, which of course implies that they don’t really see us as equals after all. I am a nice person, I have reined in my temper, but it is still there and I will let it off the leash given enough reason, and nothing demands that like yet another whiny, straight, white boy more concerned more with feeling like a good guy than being one.