6/1/2014 18:40

Standing on Social Status

For good or ill, I am a member of the broad elite of mature, male, white, propertied American citizens. It's a pretty large group, and I do and say many things to claim a certain amount of independence from the majority of this group. Yet it remains true that I am accustomed to stand on those privileges which ought to belong to every human person.

I presume, for example, that I will receive the respectful support of the local police and city government. I can be quite vociferous about any perceived lack. One time the plumbing inspector was checking every house up and down my street because of the complaints of some homeowners up the street concerning sewer backups. I was slightly miffed that the inspector would giving so much credence to these equally self-righteous homeowners as to feel the need to inspect my house as much as anyone else, but I was prepared to get over it by demonstrating my own perfection for the record. (When I say "equally self-righteous homeowners", I mean compared to me.) At the time set for the inspector to check my house, I discovered that he was sitting in his car in my driveway on his cell phone. As a presumptuous member of that broad elite, it was only natural for me to charge out of the house and inform this inspector that "we are not paying you to talk on your cell phone in my driveway".

The important point of that story is not that I can be an irate homeowner but that I get away with it. The inspector apologized and complied, even though the call he was making was to me, in lieu of ringing the doorbell. Were I not a mature, male, white, propertied American citizen, I wonder whether the inspector would have responded as meekly.

Another fact about me is that I have been a licensed math teacher. (I've never actually used the license, even though I've been paid as a teacher 3 days and 4 years.) Just recently, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction implemented a new and web-based system for renewing teacher licenses. I tried it out. I wasn't happy. I wrote to the Superintendent of Public Instruction. I invited him to a "forced out of teaching" party.

The point is not that I contacted one of my elected representatives. The point is that I got a response. Not a canned, "thank you for your email" reply message, but an actual response involving several employee hours of attention to my concerns. And ... that I was not surprised to get it, because I presume that government exists to support me. I presume that effective attention to my concerns is the minimum due to me.

There are times when individuals and organizations, public or private, fail to live up to these expectations. Just this past year, for example, I've talked with several real estate agents about the potential for me to experience a change in domicile. So far each of them has come to talk with apparent eagerness only to disappear without a word. Such behavior leaves me confused and indignant. Imagine anyone choosing not to play with the mature, male, white, and propertied citizen! What can these people be thinking?

What I am thinking is that such trivial episodes are giving me a taste, a slight taste, of what actual reality is like for other people, for people who are not overwhelmingly (or overbearingly) mature, and male, and white, and propertied, and American.

I believe that they should be able to play the game the same way that I do, and get the same respect and response in return. I do not believe that I would like to play the actual reality game without these prerogatives.