Sunday, June 25, 2006


(News-Herald, June 22) One of society’s challenges today is dealing with injustice and protected minorities, the groups in our culture that have special status. If they invoke that status in the midst of some struggle or strife, we may not criticize them.
Lots of folks in a variety of situations are abused, bullied, and mistreated. Some give as good as they get; some do not. Some ask for it; some do not. Often the business of justice, official or unofficial, is to talk about the various factors that led to the conflict. But if someone can make the claim that they have been mistreated because of the group they belong to, we can no longer discuss any of the particulars.
That’s not entirely wrong. When someone is beaten or abused or killed because he’s Black or gay or Jewish or Etc, that’s just plain wrong.
I want to be absolutely clear about this. There are no circumstances that justify attacking people simply because of their race or orientation. There are no circumstances that justify even giving people a hard time because of their race or orientation.
Prejudice is the business of judging all of a person’s character based on a small set of superficial characteristics. It’s the business of saying, “Since I know you’re black, I know everything I need to know. I know how you think, feel, and act.” At its very worst, it’s the business of saying, “Since I know these things, I also know that you deserve whatever abuse I want to give you.”
(Note: prejudice also includes looking at areas like Venangoland and thinking, “Well, everybody there is undoubtedly a dumb hick redneck who is racist, sexist, and homophobic.”)
But here’s where it gets tricky.
Because while people should never, ever be subjected to mistreatment just because they’re a member of a minority (have I made myself absolutely clear on this point?), that does not mean that all of their bad behavior should be automatically excused.
Every imaginable demographic subdivision includes some examples of a distinct and recognizable type of person—what we most politely call Jerks. These are people whose ignorance and obnoxiousness is always a trial to the people around them. When Jerks Behave Badly, everyone else suffers, and some people will fight back.
But in modern times, some Jerks hide behind protected minority status. These Jerks will punch you in the nose, and when you object, complain that you are picking on them because they belong to Group X.
This is of course unfair to the people these Jerks punch in the nose. But it’s even more unfair to the members of the minority who have real grievances. Minority Jerks tend to be very noisy, and too often they drown out the sound of minority members facing real injustice. Worse, Minority Jerks make it that much easier for Majority Jerks to dismiss all related issues. “Well, you know, it’s just those people trying to cash in on their status again.”
Any minority group member can play, though not all can play equally. We are still arguing as a culture whether fat people should be a protected minority. And while it’s pretty hard to pretend to be Black, anybody can claim to be gay.
If we’re going to work toward a more just, fair and free society, we have an obligation to approach these cases with brains fully engaged. When one of these cases appears, it’s a mistake to automatically jump onto the “for” or “against” bandwagon. We need to look closely at what really is going.
How do we spot the Minority Jerks?
Well, one way is to look for a pattern. If, everywhere they go, they find themselves surrounded by people who are Out To Get Them—well, it’s possible they are the victims of uncommonly bad luck, but then again, perhaps they carry their problems with them everywhere they go.
Second, if we look closely, Minority Jerks are usually angling for something other than justice. They are not looking for a solution to the problem; they are looking for a way to benefit from it.
Sometimes the benefits are obvious—that’s why Minority Jerks frequently appear in the company of lawyers. “I just have to speak out about this,” declares the Minority Jerk. “But if you give me a big wad of money, I believe I could shut up.”
Sometimes the benefits are less tangible. Minority Jerks can use their status to get revenge—“You didn’t give me my way, so I’m going to plaster you all over the newspapers.” Sometimes Minority Jerks just want attention. “Look at me! Look at me! I’m a victim of injustice. But mostly, look at me!”
There is too much real prejudice and injustice in the world to waste time on Jerks of any type.


Joel said...

MR Greene,

Thanks for stopping by my blog.Thanks to all this hi-tech development I have found myself the writer of like 7 blogs and this one does not get enough attention as it should.
I will link to your blog from VenCo Unite. The more links the better in the chaos of the internet.

Hope all is going well.
Take care

Jason said...

I was so insanely pleased to find the writings of Peter Greene online. Ahhh!!! So excited!!!

With all these Venango blogs online (well, ok, two that I've found--Joel's and your's), it gives me some hope that there are others out there that care about Venango County.

And I hope that the students are not giving you as much trouble as our class did back in the day.

- Jason Smith

Dittman said...

Thanks for the plug this morning Pete! I didn't know you had this site up, but it's great because several times I've wanted to link to your column only to find that the paper doesn't list it online. I'll add you to my blogroll!
Thanks again!

Anonymous said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


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