While doing research for my new book about racism from a white man’s perspective, working title Reluctant Racist, (coming soon to a bookstore near you!) I’ve come across a recurring theme that tends to be included in many conversations about race, as well as conversations in general regarding what people consider to be important. That theme is pride.
I’ve always been curious about pride, and what makes people proud. So many are proud of their heritage, skin color, relatives, ersatz accomplishments and other things that were forced upon them, or just really easy to do. During the aforementioned research, I’ve seen something called the Whiteness Project, whereby various white people talk about the problems they have with race, affirmative action and other pet peeves. Many of these people talk about their “pride” at being white. Hmmm.
I’ve never understood why people are proud of such fundamental things. I’ve never understood how people can be proud of things that they’ve had no hand in, such as their race, or nationality, or intellect, or sex. I’ve never understood why people assign their self-esteem to things that are so common, so pedestrian, so banal, as to have, in the scheme of things, such tiny significance.
If your life is so uneventful and so bereft of original thought or accomplishment, then maybe you’ll spend your time being proud of your skin color, something you had nothing to do with. If you’ve never done anything more complex than play a sport or go on rides at Disney World, I guess you’ll be proud of how far you can throw a football or how many times you can go on a roller-coaster without puking. Yeehaa!
If you’ve done nothing in your life of any consequence other than to reproduce, then maybe you’ll be proud of what a good parent you are, disregarding the fact that parenting is one of the least exclusive or original things done by humans. I’ve heard many people claim as a reason for pride the fact that they’ve raised children. Really?
Since there are approximately 6.5 billion people in the world, and it takes two people to make a baby, that means that parenting has been successfully done, accounting only for people who are currently alive, at least 13 billion times. If we take into account all the people who have ever lived, its probably in the trillions. (Except, apparently for Jesus Christ, but that’s a different blog post). There are few more common practices on earth than reproduction, yet we somehow think that we distinguish ourselves by partaking in it.
(Commencing slow clap)
There is so much more to discuss about this, but I could go on for hours. My point is, the world might be a better place if we were proud of things that we’ve actually done. Things that are truly difficult, things that take skill, education or are accompanied by genuine risk.
If you’re black, that’s no reason in and of itself to be proud. If you’ve marched in a rally where you risked arrest or were taunted by racists, now that’s something to be proud of, because that requires courage. But if you have a chip on your shoulder and spend your days just waiting for some white guy to knock it off, you’re an idiot, with apparently little to be truly proud of.
If you’re white, and you defended yourself against blacks who were physically attacking you because of your race, that’s something to be proud of, because that requires courage. But if you carry around a concealed weapon all the time because you fantasize about heroically defending your family from those black marauders who you believe are lurking around every corner, you’re just a coward who dreams of glory like a five-year-old. Confusing hatred for another race with pride in yours doesn’t make you smart. It makes you simple-minded. And just being white, or black for that matter, is a pretty lame excuse to be proud. I mean, is that all ya’ got?
If you caught the biggest fish today, you’re lucky, but there are billions of fish caught every year, and probably a few bigger than yours. If you raised the smartest kid in school, you should certainly be impressed with your child, but that’s not the same as being proud, because if you know anything about genetics, you know that you probably had very little to do with your kid’s IQ. It’s almost all in your genes, and you had nothing to do with those. But, if you have a child who is learning disabled and you stayed up with them and helped them get through school, you’ve done something to be proud of. That’s an accomplishment, not some affectation what helps you sleep at night.
The difference is whether you’re proud of what you are, or proud of what you’ve done. The first one is common, low rent and borderline vulgar. The second is, well, you know…