On jerking white knees and intellectual laziness

Those people are too easily offended. They like being victims. Whiny millennials. Redneck morons. Liberal idiots.

Many of us white guys react to ideas these days the way a healthy knee jerks when tapped with a reflex hammer: completely without thought.

keys 009Our reaction often is to dismiss the voices of those whose life experiences don’t mirror our own. Why? Because it is easy, and because thinking requires effort. We are prone to intellectual laziness.

It takes no thought to reflexively discount what we don’t understand. We can simply type out a slur or roll our eyes and shake our heads and go on our way.

We can read something like #BlackLivesMatter and take it personally because we’re not black. The easy thing is to lash out defensively, insisting that #AllLivesMatter, because of course they do.

In doing the easy thing, though, we miss the point entirely. We miss the message those other voices carry. We fail to understand that acknowledging the importance of their lives doesn’t diminish our own.

It takes some effort to ask questions like:

Why are those other people angry?

What is the problem?

What the hell is a microaggression?

Why do I have to worry about every damn thing I say?

Even asking such questions means admitting that someone has gotten our attention and that maybe their voices raise legitimate issues. The questions alone can make us uncomfortable and the answers, if we make the effort to look for them, are not always easy to understand.

We have a choice.

We can make the effort to hear and understand, or we can admit that we really don’t care.