Sunday, September 03, 2017

Those People (but not you)

The following is a quote from Believe Me by Eddie Izzard. As usual, any typos are my own:

Which was odd, since one of her really good friends - a man she'd met in San Francisco when she was on holiday there with my father - was gay and he and his partner lived there together. I think she definitely must have known that they were gay, but somehow it didn't bother her.

I think lots of people in the world behave similarly: they can like individuals for who they are, despite the fact that they don't' necessarily agree with or approve of the bigger issues and ideas related to their sexual or gender identities. Its a strange disconnect to me -  not wanting to let facts affect your opinions - but it seems to work that way. I've been on the receiving end of this kind of thinking. I may seem more acceptable as a transgender person to some people, and they may be more accepting of me because of my charitable marathon running, and perhaps being on the telly, but they won't necessarily change their mind-set about LGBT+ people in general.

This makes me think of an odd phenomenon I've experienced over the years: people who rant and rail about "those people" (who have a certain characteristic or do a certain thing) but then don't include you in that, even though you do or might plausibly have that characteristic or do that thing.

Initially I thought they were just putting on a show of backpedalling in an attempt at being less rude. But then I had relatives whose hobby is ranting and railing about people who don't have jobs seem genuinely surprised that it never occurred to me that they would help me out if I lost my job.  They seemed to think it was glaringly obvious that of course they'd help me out if I lost my job, even though every word I've ever heard them say about unemployed people is that they're bad and wrong and lazy and unworthy of any help.

I was also once in a conversation with a small business owner who was expressing prejudice about a certain identifiable group, but then seemed genuinely surprised when I assumed they would prefer not to have clients of that identifiable group.  (And then, in an interesting feat of mental gymnastics, expressed the idea that the problem with Those People is they aren't interested in being a client of the business in question, and if they were a client of the business in question they would be One of the Good Ones.)

I don't understand how people can think this way.  And I'm not saying that in a bemoaning-lack-of-human-compassion sort of way, I'm saying I can't extrapolate from my own experience having a human brain to figure out how the human brain can do this.

If they think being unemployed is bad and wrong and means you're lazy and unworthy of help, why wouldn't they conclude that I'm bad and wrong and lazy and unworthy of help if I lose my job?  If they do conclude that but feel morally obligated to help me anyway, why would they be surprised that I wouldn't expect them to do that?  And why would they reassure me in advance that they'd help me if they think being unemployed is so bad and wrong it needs additional external disincentives?

Conversely, if they want me to be confident I'd cared for and supported if unemployed, why would they spend so much time ranting and railing about unemployed people in the presence of someone who could become unemployed at any time and historically has had difficulty getting jobs?

If the small business owner expresses prejudice against a certain identifiable group, why would they be surprised that I'd conclude they'd prefer not to have clients from that group?  If they want more clients from the group, why would they express prejudice against that group?  If they are in fact prejudiced against that group, why do they see it as a problem that members of the group are disinclined to do business there (as opposed to being indifferent or tacitly relieved)?


laura k said...

It is indeed confusing. Maybe the business owner wants those people's money but doesn't want the bother of acknowledging them as real individual people.

I know somewhere on wmtc I mention someone telling me "you're not one of those jew-y Jews".

impudent strumpet said...

I don't know what that even means, but it sounds gross.

impudent strumpet said...

It sounds like those "You're not like other women" men.

laura k said...

Maybe they meant I wasn't Orthodox. Whatever it meant, it was gross.

impudent strumpet said...

Wow. If that's the best they can do to describe Orthodox, I now don't feel so bad about the time I forgot the word for Hasidic and googled "Jewish guys with hats". (Google came through, BTW!)