Suffer these indignities stoically

Men who entreat us to remember that ‘not all men’ are wicked fail to understand something fundamental about people: we humans learn from experience — the more intense the experience, the more indelible the lesson. We also make generalizations based on superficial but easily discernible markers like gender and race. And because almost every woman has experienced violence — or at least the threat of violence – from men in her life, almost every woman learns to develop a keen watchfulness (if not paranoia) of strange men.

The sad fact is that prejudice against men protects women from harm. Alienating erstwhile allies and friends is the price women pay for protecting themselves.

Fear has always inflicted a higher toll on the good than the bad. Men who cares about women must pay this price too: they should not complain about mistreatment or prejudice, but suffer insults and indignities with as much stoicism as they can muster. They should go out of their way to allay women’s fears, and
accept that they will seldom see gratitude. Moreover, they should do the right thing even if no one notices or cares. Virtue is its own reward.

The unsettling corollary is that people of racial minorities should also be stoic in the face of racial discrimination. People who have experienced mistreatment or abuse disproportionately from one race will naturally make unconscious assumptions about members of this race. So even though no single person is to blame for the crimes of other members of his or her race, this doesn’t matter to those who are just trying to protect themselves, and must sometimes make snap judgements.

But wait a minute. Gender profiling is acceptable; racial profiling is not. Right?

Why? There is an important difference between a woman walking down a dark street at night, who fears a strange man she encounters, and a white person who fears a strange black person in the same setting.  In the former case, the woman is not only the potential target of violence; she also belongs to the traditionally discriminated-against group. In the latter case, the potential target of violence belongs to the traditionally privileged group. It’s often harder to have sympathy for the victims of abuse when that abuse can be cast as just comeuppance; whereas it’s easy to side with the perennial victim. Note thought that belonging to a traditionally privileged group is likely no solace to those who suffer from discrimination (or worse, violence).

So, the other side of the coin is that people who discriminate should be aware when they’re discriminating. They should strike a balance between making snap superficial judgements and taking the time to evaluate each person’s character fairly. Moreover, the bad apples who tarnish the reputations of their respective groups should be educated and corrected, or separated from the rest of the population.

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