I just recently finished Strangers In Their Own Land by Arlie Russell Hochschild and in the wake of recent racially motivated events I feel privileged in my perspective. I read ‘Tears We Cannot Stop’ by Michael Eric Dyson just before I cracked this one open. The messages are almost completely opposite sides of the spectrum. Almost. I see things from many perspectives because of how I was raised but these two books have heightened my awareness about other people’s perspectives and I have an advanced lens on the media and whats being shown (as well as whats not being shown).
Arlie Russell Hochschild is a sociologist out of liberal Berkeley, Calif., who ventured down to poor lil ‘ol conservative bible thumping mardi gras bead slangin shrimp boat fishin Louisiana to get a better understanding of what makes people vote or be in favor of legislation and situations that aren’t in their best interests, namely identifying with the Tea Party and Republican Party (which is less in favor of ‘big’ government). Hochschild over a series of visits meets and befriends several families and individuals in Louisiana and come to understand their position on things. For example, many Tea Party supporters are in favor of less government regulation, less bureaucracy, and more autonomy as states. Great for big business… like the oil and chemical business.. like British Petroleum (BP), Texas Brine, and Citco to name a few. —Remember the BP Oil Spill into the Gulf of Mexico?😳 yea– There’s been several prior to, and after because of the deterioration of land and the resources available (and not regulated) underneath said land.
Two things ✌️I really took away from this book and that I want to share. The first thing, Poor red states that border the Gulf of Mexico are prime real estate for big business BECAUSE of the lack of regulation and the politicized incentives offered to states and local governments (from these companies) and the presumed benefits to the people upon arrival. Its said that Louisianan loses land the size of a football field every year due to, not only global warming, but the long term destruction of chemical spills into the environment, affecting people’s homes, food source, local travel, and general quality of life –There is really something wrong when a fish advisory is given to the public not to eat the fish, and then revised to say HOW to eat the poisonous fish. WHAT THEE ENTIRE FUCK? 😳🤢🤦♀️
There’s a bigger problem needing to be addressed here– There has been chemical spills, leaks, and dumping into the Bayous and swamps of Louisiana since the 70’s and believe it or not, there are still people who live in those heavily polluted areas –because they are too poor to move or they love the area too much to leave… even if they are the only one’s in the sinking Bayou. Depressing right? ANYWHO!
Second, the real takeaway from this book is this (and I am going to build this up so bare with me): Hochschild gives a very good analogy illustrating the perspective of most white conservative (christian) right leaning civilians, some even Trump supporters. Picture this: people are standing in a single file line, and the line is going over a hill. On the other side of the hill is the American Dream and everyone standing in line is waiting and slowly but surely moving towards the hill and over the hill. Standing in line represents doing what you’re supposed to to achieve the american dream, like go to school, get good grades, be an obedient christian, get a job and support yourself, have a family and provide for them, work hard to earn and own your own home, cars, land, businesses, etc. The idea is to be self-sufficient and not owe anybody and live happily ever after (whatever that means). Now imagine this, you’re in line and with help from another person (not standing in line but helping to ‘regulate the line’), someone cuts IN FRONT OF YOU in the line!! THE NERVE! At least that was my thought lol its happened to me where someone has cut me in line at McDonalds and I almost lost my damn mind, and as a kid, I slammed another kid’s head into a water fountain because they cut me in line (but that’s a different story for a different day lol) so you see how I’d feel about it. But the cutting in line is representative of people getting ahead, particularly black and brown people and foreigners and “the help” is the federal government. Many of the people Arlie Russell Hochschild met and studied are anti-government because of affirmative action and government assistant programs alone (such as unemployment benefits and welfare). So in their minds, you and I are cheating the game.
Now I don’t share this sentiment, actually quite the contrary. I think that amends for minorities from white america, the black community specifically, are necessary and should be extended at every opportunity. BUT I do understand their perspective given the analogy.
For a second, take white people out of the equation and picture only black people in the line waiting to get their piece of the American Dream on the other side of the hill and you’re doing everything right and all of a sudden, a Saudi Arabian man, an Indian woman, and a Chinese woman, WITH HELP, cuts in front of you in line… now wouldn’t you get pissed off and potentially lose all decorum and start calling them every racial slur you can think of as well as verbally protesting THE HELP!? C’mon, be real with yourself. Racial slurs leave your lips the minute you’re behind the wheel of your car and a bright yellow Honda Civic with a 2ft spoiler, painted flames and a low riding body kit cuts you off on the road goin ‘Vroom Vroom’🏎️🏎️. Don’t play☝️. The real us always comes out behind the wheel of a car, even from the passengers seat (I’m a passenger driver, not gonna lie 😅🤣). But you get what I’m saying. The cutting in line, regardless of what that person looks like, is potentially enough to piss you off and the habitual cutting is potentially enough to get you out of pocket and want to do resort to a physical (possibly violent) reaction… I’m just sayin.
In real life, poor white people relate to black people more than you’d think. They’ve experienced (not oppression but) discrimination and limitations based on how they look, what they have, and where they come from. Understand that they feel the way they feel because they don’t know any better. They’re uneducated. Those RICH EDUCATED white racist people are the worst… because they know better. The Poor uneducated white racist don’t. Hate is taught and can be untaught. But think about it. More money = better education = more culture = understanding others’ perspective = acceptance. Get it? If you know better and don’t do better, you’re part of the problem.
Look, check this book out. Seriously. Its not what you expected but its crazy enlightening and given the world we live in today, we’re all at some level strangers in our own land.
One final thought: in the wake of Hurricane Harvey tearing up Texas, does it really matter the skin color of the person rescuing you and your family? your kids? Does it? think about that the next time hate boiles over and spews out your mouth as racism.