I thought rather long and hard for an acceptable title, and it finally boiled down to the one you see for a very good reason. You see, I want you to treat me like I am gay, or black, or Latino, or poor. All at once. Preferably while also thinking of me as white, cisgendered, heteronormative, and socially acceptable.

Here I will spare a moment for the postmodernists, confused feminists, and bigots of all stripes: I do not care for the privilege or oppression that you want to give me based on accidents of neurochemistry, genotype/allele frequency, or cultural nurture. I care neither for your hatred of ‘faggots’ and ‘dykes’ or for your loathing of ‘kikes’ or ‘niggers’. Certainly I care nothing for the nearly insensate babble of moral relativists or the self-satisfied and myopic wailing of certain racialists and feminists about privilege and invisible knapsacks.*

The fact of the matter is that yes, a large amount of work is necessary to understand the origins of racial privilege, gender privilege, and so on; but I find that those concerned with these things frequently spend what seems to me to be entirely too much effort chasing their own tails in self-justification. The point to be made from these studies is that our human brains, while extremely impressive in many respects, suffer from some adaptations that were useful in the past, but are now useful only if we deliberately co-opt them for our own purposes.

In short, human brains spend a great deal of energy typifying things and attempting to locate our own position within that constructed space. This constructed space is exactly that: an artificial model that we use as a tool to provide ourselves the ability interface with reality. This sort of unconscious process is very useful to a primate species whose greatest strength is its ability to form complex and sophisticated social structures in the interest of accomplishing things that a single homo sapiens cannot hope to do by itself.

The distinctions created seem palpable to us because our neurochemistry requires ‘hooks’ to control our behavior. Thus we have feelings that are related to these distinctions, and this helps us in many ways. We do not try to team up with lions to hunt or trees to build in the same way we team up with other humans precisely because our brains contain the means to draw distinctions between “us” and “them.” This is where the trouble begins, and why I say to you: treat me like I’m not in the fuzzy and safe categories you have drawn up for yourself, however unconsciously.

It is critically important both to the advancement of human civilization and to our personal morality that we understand the reality of this process. At the most basic level, the only way to ensure we act in a morally sound way is to take command of this mental mechanism and bend it into a coherent shape through long and arduous effort. This is damnably uncomfortable, which explains easily and rather thoroughly why prejudice is alive and well in the modern era. I would challenge you then, to take responsibility for your mind, its mechanisms and contents, and begin to work at chipping away at those opinions of yours which formed under the supervision of apathy and in the service of expedience.

So to return to my original request, we must accept that others will never be identical to us, and that this does not automatically mean that they are of lesser merit. I wish you to treat me as though I were gay predicated on the assumption that you dislike or are made uncomfortable by the idea that two penis-bearers can give one another sexual pleasure. I wish you to treat me as though I were straight predicated on the assumption that you distrust people whose own preferences run in the direction of penis and vagina, if only due to past experience of prejudicial treatment.

I wish you to think of me as black if you look at people with dark skin who are of historically recent African descent as inferior. I ask that you think of me as Caucasian if you feel oppressed by people who are white. Just the same I want you to think of me as Latin, Asian, as a Pacific Islander, as an aboriginal native of any continent, or as a mixed-breed. In the interest of avoiding the derailment of my point into an endless enumeration of the infinity of possible distinctions, I challenge you to think of me as whatever and whomever you dislike.

In the end I remain confident that while you might not have any liking for me as a person, you will at least be forced to respect my insistence on occupying whatever divisions you have assigned negative emotional responses to categorically and in the absence of rational and evidential thinking. Please note that this differs from say, insisting that you think of me as a murderer or a child molester because we can draw some relatively clear distinctions about that group and provide clear evidence that can be woven into a coherent objection to those practices.

Without getting too far off topic, let me say that the group “murderers” are persons who deprive others of life for reasons that do not include the preservation of liberty and life in a substantive way. We can similarly say that the group, “child molesters” can be defined as persons who knowingly and willfully expose those too young to understand or defend themselves to hurtful touch not conducive to their current or future well-being. Quite simply the difference between these groups and say, homosexuals or persons of a differing skin color is that while the former can be defined by action and judged by the results of their actions, the latter cannot.

I am fully aware that this is a subject that, if bitten off, would not easily succumb to the jaws of this particular piece of writing. However, I maintain that we can draw further distinction and provide at least the tentative sketch of a defense by examining the way in which we assign labels. A murderer or child molester, for example, is so called because they have committed murder or molested a child. They have been labeled not because of their passive traits but because of their willful and chosen actions. There is no simple way to call someone a murderer before the act takes place–by definition referring to someone as a murderer means that they have already, in fact, committed murder.

By contrast, a person who has XY chromosomes and a phenotypically normative development who happens to be sexually attracted to other phenotypically normative individuals with XY chromosomes need only be so attracted to be gay. In precisely the same way, a person whose skin reflects light of a certain general wavelength in the visible band need only emit light in such a way to be called black, white, brown, or even nearly endless gradations within each single color label. It is a fact with its origins in their existence and not in their willed actions.

In brief summary: a gay man has sex with another man because he is gay; he is not gay because he has sex with another man. A person is black not because she deliberately chooses to actuate the biochemical reactions her body uses to produce melanin, but because she happens to have skin containing an amount of melanin that is relatively greater than some other portions of the human population. Our brains are not well suited to drawing these distinctions as a matter of course, so it falls to us to put forward the effort to draw them ourselves as a willed act.

Therefore judge people, in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, “by the quality of their character”–by their willed actions, and not by your mind’s instinctive schemata. Be suspicious especially of those judgments that seem most right and good; pull aside the cloak and examine the foundations, lest you find that your entire constructed view of reality has been resting on sand, sophistry, and somnolence in the mind’s faculty for reason. We have had quite enough time spent on that method in the history of our species, and while I cannot speak for you, I personally would rather it be gently but firmly shown the way out of human thought.

I am not you, and neither is anyone else. Get over it, but until you do: treat me as though I was those things you despise for no reason. At the least, I will be able to see something of who you choose to be, and in seeing can make meaningful decisions about your tentative placement in my own constructed reality.

Ille equus mortuus percussus est.

 

*I suppose this had better be the topic of another post, because wish to banish any possibility of being misinterpreted: I am firmly and insuperably egalitarian in principle, to include all positions along sexual, gender, skin color, financial, social, and political and related spectrums.

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