Jim Taylor's Columns - 'Soft Edges' and 'Sharp Edges'

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Published on Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Christmas dinner reveals hidden prejudices

Thursday December 16, 2021

 

A few years ago, my daughter invited three temporary Jamaican workers for Christmas dinner. 

            As the oldest male in the family, I got to carve the Christmas turkey. Of course, I served the guests first. “White meat or dark meat?” I asked.

            The three women looked at each other. Then one of them ventured, “Dark.”

            The other two agreed. 

            I was a bit surprised. Personally, I find the dark meat moister, more tender. But generally, people seem to prefer the white meat of the turkey breast. 

            Nevertheless, I carved dark meat for them. 

            When plates were emptying, I offered seconds. This time, all three of the Jamaican women asked for white meat.

            It turned out that they had made an assumption. They thought that references to white and dark related to their skin colour, not the colour of the meat. And so they, of course, would be “dark.”

 

Victim perspective

            The incident has stuck with me. It reminds me that prejudice – racial or otherwise – can be defined only those on the receiving end. 

            Granted, some people can discern prejudice were none was intended. Some people almost make a career out of pointing out the prejudices of other people, seeing themselves only as victims. 

            But of course, I say that from the safe side. I’m not the one feeling classified, denigrated. 

            Those three Jamaican women must have experienced enough colour prejudice in other Canadian contexts that they just assumed this was yet another instance. 

            I can never know if I’m expressing unrecognized prejudices unless someone points them out to me. 

            I have never been Black, for instance. I cannot know what it’s like to be a Black member of a predominantly white country club. Where every fault or misstep is taken as typical of a whole “race” – while white flaws are seen only as reflecting on an individual. 

            I have never been a woman, breaking through the glass ceiling into the corporate or political world, being a minority in an old boys’ network. Where every word, every gesture, is perceived as feminine frailty. Or unpredictability. 

            And I have never, as far as I know, been treated as gay, Jewish, or mentally challenged – with whatever negatives that may imply.

 

Dominant perspective

            I do know what it’s like to be left-handed in a right-handed world, though – however insignificant that may seem to right-handers. 

            My electric kettle, for example, has a handy gauge to show me how much water it contains. But the gauge is positioned so I cannot see if it I hold the kettle with my left hand. 

            Tear-open packages position the tab for pulling with the right hand. 

            And the zippers on men’s pants are universally right handed. That may seem like a ridiculous example to offer – but I defy any right-handed man to operate that zipper and use a urinal using only his left hand.

            No right-hander will ever perceive those handicaps on his own. 

            That’s my point – and about time, you may say. The people on the top of the dog-pile can never know what it feels like on the bottom. Good intentions and social solidarity don’t equal actually experiencing prejudice and discrimination.

            Even if some of them over-react, sometimes, it’s their call. Only they can make it. 

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Copyright © 2021 by Jim Taylor. Non-profit use in congregations and study groups, and links from other blogs, welcomed; all other rights reserved.

            To comment on this column, write jimt@quixotic.ca

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YOUR TURN

 

The cashier at my grocery market greeted me with a terse, “I hate masks too!” She has to wear them all day; I only have to wear a mask when I go into public spaces. 

            Ralph Milton wrote, ‘In those old western movies, I have the impression that bad guys wore bandanas covering their nose and mouth and good guys wore the eye masks. Is that how you remember it?”

            I remember that the good guys always wore white hats. 

 

And speaking of hidden prejudices, as I did in today’s column, Laura wondered, “What do you think about changing the name of ‘White Gift Sunday’. I understand that the original objective for wrapping the gifts in white paper was discretion, so that no-one would be judged on the monetary value of their gift. In recent years, as I have become more aware of racial inequity, I am wondering if we might find a new name for this tradition.”

 

Steve Roney focused on one sentence in last week’s column: “Nor are we, as some like to believe, immortal souls temporarily housed in human bodies.”

            “You are a Christian,” Steve responded. “To Christians, the Bible is the ultimate authority. The Bible seems utterly definitive in saying this is exactly what we are.

            “The Bible agrees here with all other ancient authorities. The pagan Romans and Greeks also held this to be so. The Egyptians, Chinese, and Hindus held it to be so. The native people of North America held it to be so. 

`           “In general, if you are going to deny the traditional wisdom, the onus is on you to justify your claims. As Chesterton observed, you cannot tear down a fence simply because you do not know why it is there.”

 

Isabel Gibson: “With respect to Jesus being a whole-body person, C.S. Lewis said that if we wanted to get an idea of what the incarnation meant for God-the-Son, we should imagine becoming a slug and see how we'd like that. He wasn't being egregiously rude, just trying to express the gulf across which (he believed) God had reached to become a person like us in all respects, while yet retaining his own nature.”

 

Alistair McBride: “Your story about the speech teacher reminded me of my time as a beginning teacher. I can distinctly remember that hand in my jacket pocket at times grimly holding my pipe and thinking only ¼ hour to go to break time and a relaxing puff on the pipe to get me calm for the next class. It never seemed to happen in silence or chemistry classes. Possibly not just because I was in a lab coat, but the classes were interactive with me and the students working on experiments that tried to explain the mysteries of the universe.”

 

Penny Rankin: “Your reference – ‘As a baby, he sucked Mary’s nipple. He had his bum wiped. He probably had acne in his teens’.-- reminded me of a book I read some years ago: irreverent definitely, and yet I enjoyed it immensely. Have you ever read: Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal, by Christopher Moore?”

 

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Psalm paraphrase

 

Mary's--and perhaps every woman's--song of pregnancy. 

 

47        My body bulges with new life;
the joy of it shines in my face.

48        For so long I have longed for this child.
Year after year, I felt I failed;
I was the most miserable of women.
But now everyone smiles at me; they congratulate me;
I'm so happy!

49        Now I know that prayers can be answered;

50        now I know that the deepest longings of the heart can take flesh. 

51        I will be the best mother there ever was!
You don't have to be rich or famous to nurture new life;
you don't need big houses or expensive nannies-- you need love. 

52        The most important person in the world lives inside me;
my unborn child matters more than prime ministers or presidents.

53        I feed my child with my own life blood;
I will nurse it with the milk of my own body.
No one else in all the world, no matter how rich or powerful, enjoys that privilege. 

54        I care for my child the way I know God cares for me. 

55        As the child lives in my womb, so I live in the womb of God.

 

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TECHNICAL STUFF

 

If you want to comment on something, send a message directly to me, jimt@quixotic.ca.

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            I write a second column each Sunday called Sharp Edges, which tends to be somewhat more cutting about social and justice issues. To sign up for Sharp Edges, write to me directly, jimt@quixotic.ca, or send a note to sharpedges-subscribe@lists.quixotic.ca

            If you’re interested in the poems I occasionally wrte, please check my webpage .https://quixotic.ca/My-Poetry And If you’d like to receive notifications about new poems, write me at jimt@quixotic.ca, or subscribe yourself to the list by sending a blank email (no message) to poetry-subscribe@lists.quixotic.ca (If it doesn’t work, please let me know.)

 

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PROMOTION STUFF

 

To use the links in this section, you’ll have to insert the necessary symbols. Some spam filters have blocked my posts because they’re suspicious of the web links.

            Wayne Irwin's “Churchweb Canada,” an inexpensive service for any congregation wanting to develop a web presence, with free consultation. http://wwwDOTchurchwebcanadaDOTca He’s also relatively inexpensive!

            I recommend Isabel Gibson’s thoughtful and well-written blog, wwwDOTtraditionaliconoclastDOTcom. She also has lots of beautiful photos. Especially of birds.

            Tom Watson writes a weekly blog called “The View from Grandpa Tom’s Balcony” -- ruminations on various subjects, and feedback from Tom’s readers. Write him at tomwatsoATgmailDOTcom (NB that’s “watso” not “watson”)

 

ALVA WOOD’S ARCHIVE

            I have acquired (don’t ask how) the complete archive of the late Alva Wood’s collection of satiric and sometimes wildly funny columns about a mythical village’s misadventures. I’ve put them on my website: http://quixotic.ca/Alva-Wood-Archive. You’re welcome to browse. No charge. (Although maybe if I charged a fee, more people would find the archive worth visiting.)

 

 

 


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Author: Jim Taylor

Categories: Soft Edges

Tags: racism, Prejudice

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