Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Bullying from a different context (this post needs a better title)

The impact of bullying is significant in understanding the concept of privilege.  Too often the concept of "privilege" is felt by some as just another tool with which others will bully them.  That accounts for a significant sector of those who resist some types of initiatives aimed at creating acceptance and tolerance.

The class aspect of discrimination is well documented (though some insist that in America it is not a matter of class but of social strata instead, quibbling over words).  Many issues appear to be an extension of class issues. That is why there is such a conflict over affirmative action being tied to economic status -- I knew millionaires sons and the children of academics benefiting from affirmative action, the lead plaintiffs in the famous case out of Texas that attacked affirmative action were trailer park types -- the poor rather than the children of privilege, seeking not to be excluded from the table to benefit others who were wealthier, of a higher class, than they were.

Of course I've also known those who truly were appropriate beneficiaries, kids from the barrio who were the first in their families to graduate from grade school, none the less medical school.  But, like all social constructs, if not guarded against, it becomes merely another tool of class oppression.

The appearance aspect of discrimination is also an area that is being appreciated more and ore.  One can treat many types of discrimination as just proxies for appearance.  Tall, strong, thin, young, good looking and articulate people are seen as attractive and have advantages when compared against the short, weak, fat, old and ugly.  You can even measure the economic impact of each factor. The weakness to this approach is that treating various conditions as shades of ugly is insulting.

Yet the math is straightforward.  On social dating sites, one can calculate how much in income a man must have to make up for every inch of missing height or every degree or shade of skin color off the optimum.  Dating sites provide a wealth of information that matches issues of wealth, height, age, appearance, neurological challenge and just about every other factor that discrimination is felt in.

Once you start factoring in the issues of class and appearance in discrimination (and in combating it), you can cover most of the emotional triggers, reasons for resistance and issues that arise.  However, there is one set left that has resisted analysis -- or at least meaningful analysis.

If you treat that resistance as resistance to being bullied, and put it in the context of the people who are resisting (almost all of whom are targets for various types of bullying), it makes sense.  It also paves the way for addressing the issues in a way that does not generate the same resistance.

Anyway, that is a lot of text for such a small insight, but one I just had in dealing with people who were not resistant to the concept of tolerance and acceptance initiatives, but who were resisting the application.  They felt excluded and bullied by the way the approach was handled, and were very receptive to an approach that did not trigger those feelings and emotions.  Night and day to see how effective a diversity initiative was that did not trigger those feelings in people.


Anonymous said...

I wish I understood this post. I followed your information until you tied it in to bullying. Can you explain your point about bullying and anti-bullying and what it has to do with what you were saying about discrimination? Thanks.

Stephen said...

Sorry I wasn't clearer. I think a fair amount of resistance to diversity initiatives is by people who feel like they are being bullied.

When the approach does not trigger the "I'm being bullied" feeling, the same people don't resist, but instead embrace, the same initiatives.

I just saw an excellent four hour training (everyone where I work, over 30,000 people, are going through it), and people who would usually resist did not -- but there were none of the flagged type behaviors.

Anyway, been thinking of bullying recently.

Then was in this facilitation and got to thinking of the people who resist diversity because they are idiots, the people who resist because it is used as a tool of class domination, etc.

A good initiative has nothing about class domination in it. But it also has no bullying elements.

Anonymous said...

I suspect you are right and this helps explain at least some political resistance to diversity. Even the best of intentions can seem like bullying if not handled properly.

What excuse is there for individuals who bully -- lets say LDS kids who bully another kid in their ward because they think he is a geek or weird or gay? I find this inexcusable. If kids can't feel safe in their church community, where can they feel safe?

Stephen said...

I find bullying to be the antithesis of the gospel, an archetype of satanic behavior.

It is also a childish fault.

But it is something that we need to repent of and grow out of.