I’m combining successive comments by a single commenter again. Humble Talent‘s observations regarding the angry “cultural appropriation!” reactions to Chris Cuomo saying he was “black inside” are wide-ranging and open up many difficult and fascinating ethics topics that I’m certain the 27 people still reading Ethics Alarms will find edifying.
HT began by responding to my query, “I wonder if Cuomo’s critic had the same reaction when Toni Morrison pronounced Bill Clinton as our first black President?”
Here are the two parts of Humble Talent’s Comment of the Day on item #5 of the post, “Monday Ethics Final, 3/8/2021: A Bad Day In The Revolution“:
They square this circle by comparing experience, neither is about objective reality.
Objectively, Cuomo is just as black as a fully intact biological man with gender dysphoria is a woman. But this isn’t about objectivity, reasonableness, or the truth…. It’s about oppression. Because really… What else differentiates someone who misrepresents their race, like Rachel Dolezal, or Shaun King, to someone who misrepresents their sex? Sure, both can be murky, is the child of a mixed race couple black or white? Is a person with Klinefelter or Turner’s syndrome a man or a woman? Progressives would usually say that the person With XXY or XYY are whatever they self identify as, and similarly for the mixed race child, whatever box they choose to mark. And if you get a fully intact biological man who believes that he’sa woman… Well, welcome to the club! But if you’re a white woman who puts on a lot of spray tan, dreds up her hair, and works as a black NAACP activist for most of her life… Fuck off bigot? I guess.
I’m not saying that I agree with this, but from their perspective the difference is oppression. The man who thinks they’re a woman statistically has a significant chance of having mental health issues, their suicide rate is orders of magnitude larger than the population in general, they’re often viewed as pedophiles, or predators, their families often disown them. Regardless of whether you’re a man or a woman who believes they are a woman or a man, saying so opens you up to a world of scorn and oppression in a way that Chris Cuomo saying he’s black on the inside never will. Similarly, Rachel Dolezal could have lived the life of a normal white woman, which they view as being privileged. It helps in understanding their mindset if you view lying about your oppression to be akin to stolen valor. Because black women as a class are disenfranchised, regardless of whether individual black women are disenfranchised, Rachel donning the persona of a disenfranchised class stole the social currency of oppression, because she hadn’t paid for it with the experiences of growing up black. And that’s not acceptable.
Here commenter johnburger2013 asked, “What do we say about an individual who thinks he/she is, for instance, an aardvark?,” and Humble Talent continued…
I mean…. This is the crux of the matter, isn’t it? Kindly, one would hope. There’s obviously a mental health issue there. But just like the right thing to do when your aunt sees hallucinated bugs crawling up her walls isn’t to fumigate the house, calling her crazy isn’t helpful.
Honestly… I’ve kind of come around on this, over the years. At a personal level, the progressive treatment for gender expression is closer to right; These people are in distress, nothing of value is added by demeaning them. For the most part, it doesn’t do anyone any harm in using whatever pronouns they want, and I don’t find a whole lot of value in being an asshole. The people we’re talking about aren’t well, and making fun of them is like making fun of a guy in a wheelchair: It can be funny in the abstract, but up close and personal, it’s not a great look.
But that’s personally. On a policy level, trans people are being used by people who don’t give a rat’s ass about them to push a political ideology that is kinder to them, but not really beneficial for them. We have to do a better job at picking our fights; and pick the right targets. There are precious few places where someone’s sex actually matters anymore, we need to differentiate where it does, and create policy that makes sense. Trans people don’t like that their driver’s license has the “wrong” sex in the sex field. I don’t like the idea of a government ID with false information on it as affirmation for a person with a mental health condition… But why does a driver’s license need a sex field? Can we do away with it and make everyone happier? It’s hard to mock the absurdity of ideas without mocking the people associated with those ideas, particularly in this case because mentally unwell people do absurd things, but I think we have to at least try.
Look at the first item on the list today: “Evangelicals for Biden.” It’s almost an oxymoron. But there were evangelicals who were willing to look past the Democrat’s record on abortion, which they view as the literal murder of babies, because they disagreed with Trump or the Republicans on issues x, y, and z. Somehow x, y, and z seemed worse to them than the possibility of more baby-murder. We need to give people less x, y and z. Sometimes x, y, or z are inherent to conservatism, and if those are deal breakers, we’re never going to convince people who care very much about the inverse of x, y or z to support you. But if x, y, and z alienate people, and they have nothing to do with conservative values or principles, then maybe we don’t need them.