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14 February 2015 @ 11:02 pm
I am college-educated; I am not American. Which modifier did I remember to put in That Post?  
This post, I mean.

I said, "Able neurotypical not-fat not-poor straight cis white anglophone American Christian men are considered to be prototypical humans."

Someone on boingboing pointed out that college-educated should be in that list. They are absolutely right. I missed it because we are often unaware of the ways in which we match the prototype. The default is unmarked.

Someone on metafilter claimed that I'm falling into my own categorical trap, which I think means projecting my own experience, when I say that Americans are prototypical, since they are a tiny percentage of the global population.  If I interpreted them right then this is wrong, for a few reasons.

1) I'm an Indian national. And, yes I live in the US now, but I didn't when I wrote the post. And I've lived in a lot of countries; US-centrism is a phenomenon I've encountered in all of them. (Consider the impact of white Americans getting killed. The whole world is expected to care. It's just not true for anyone else - unless it plays conveniently into existing bigotries/narratives of course.)

2) Percentage is irrelevant. Americans' position (in the absence of other context) as global prototype human has to do with their global power and prestige, and their extremely effective imperialism.

3) Going back to college-educated - if I were American, I probably wouldn't have thought to put that modifier on the list. Like I didn't think to put college-educated on the list. The default is unmarked - and the way I fall into my own categorical trap is in the things I don't notice.


Having said all that - prototypes absolutely do vary between people & communities, based on experience; and relevant categories and thus prototypes do absolutely shift with context. Take all generalizations as exactly that.
hyperbardhyperbard on February 15th, 2015 06:28 pm (UTC)
I hate the idea that friends of mine from college who are Indian or Pakistani are getting persecuted now. Or, that I keep seeing people on the news complaining about "illegals need to go home." Or, that friends I've had since highschool are posting things on facebook like "homeless vets get no aid but illegal aliens do - wtf?"

My ancestors were illegal immigrants. I'm a direct descendant of Richard Warren and several others who were on the Mayflower and signed the Mayflower Compact. My ancestors practically built most of New England, in fact; they left their mark everywhere, side by side with the ancestors of many other Americans of today. They fought in the French and Indian War, on both sides of the Civil War. But yeah, they didn't belong here either when they first came. It wasn't like King George signed anything with the local Native American chief before he sent ships here.

Recent events do bother me a lot though. I remember reading awhile back about how immigrants get persecution in waves: the Irish had it happen to them, then it was the Italians, now it seems to be Hispanics (of any kind, because most non-hispanics seem to be lumping them ALL into one category no matter where they might have originated) and, unfortunately, Muslims (for which most non-Muslims are doing the same as with Hispanics) and Indian/Pakistanis (who might not even BE Muslim; I have several such friends who aren't!).

I am proud of my heritage. I know there were wrongs done in the early makings of America, but I'm still proud of what was accomplished and then what was done to try and rectify those wrongs. I still believe in the message of the Statue of Liberty, but it seems like a lot of people attach an asterisk or a disclaimer to that now: "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses..." *unless you don't look right to us.

No, that isn't what my ancestors fought for, I'm very sure!
shweta_narayanshweta_narayan on February 15th, 2015 08:01 pm (UTC)
I'm... really not sure what this has to do with my post, but it displays an awful lot of wishful thinking and romanticizing of history.

Your ancestors were invaders, not undocumented immigrants. (Edited because I used your phrase but no, no human is illegal. It's a horrible term.)

If you've any belief that they ever wanted immigrants of color, that the racism is at all recent, you haven't read things your founding fathers said about other races. You haven't read what they said about the genocide they were advocating, the idea that this continent was pristine virgin land for white people to fuck.

And the Irish & Italians who are now accepted as white in the US, got there on the backs of POC, especially of Black people. As South Asians are often trying to do now, frankly, which is a horrific thing to be associated with.

This is, exactly, what your ancestors fought for. My ancestors sucked too. Fuck em all, we need to do better. And we can't if we pretend they are awesome when they were decidedly not.

Edited at 2015-02-15 08:04 pm (UTC)
hyperbardhyperbard on February 15th, 2015 09:22 pm (UTC)
You wrote about "who's considered to be humans". White Anglo-Christian Males was I believe the thought, which to me is pretty correct (I'd also add Healthy and Non-Disabled as modifiers, myself, though I agree with the person who suggested College-Educated). You also mentioned a bit about racial profiling. That's why I wrote this.

I personally don't think my ancestors "sucked", though; I think they were doing what they considered right at the time. It's what they knew. You're doing your own a disservice by not considering that. A huge ton of sociological factors are required for change. Like you said, we need to do better than they did. Just don't discount the journey that brought you here, to be able to think this way.

I'm under no delusions that my ancestors originally wanted people of color around or even that they considered such folk to be human at all. That WOULD be a romanticized view of history, and very incorrect to say the least. I have read what the founding fathers said of other races. However, to say that the Irish and Italians "got there on the backs of POC" is kind of an odd statement to make; if we were speaking of infrastructure of the country, then yes there was slavery on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line, and yes people of various colors helped build America.
shweta_narayanshweta_narayan on February 15th, 2015 09:38 pm (UTC)

You're displaying an awful lot of implcit white supremacy in what you're saying here, and I frankly don't have the spoons or the interest to help you unpack it. If you're interested in doing so there are a lot of resources available, and I think you should look some of them up. If not, that's fine, but please stop doing this in my space.

Edited at 2015-02-15 09:39 pm (UTC)
Toomas Nipernaadinipernaadiagain on February 16th, 2015 06:50 am (UTC)
Americans as protoypical
Thank you for wording something that hurts me when I am emotionally fragile.

Sometimes it feels like non-Americans are not considered people, that my experience can be discarded as irrelevant, because I am not American, hence not an human at all.

Then again - it is a potential privilege (and at the same time a pressure to deny my heritage)that I COULD become an human just by becoming an anglophone American resident.

shweta_narayanshweta_narayan on February 16th, 2015 07:08 am (UTC)
Re: Americans as protoypical
It's a really hurtful aspect of the prototype-based reasoning, when those of us who aren't of the prototype get dismissed and pushed aside.

Thank you for sharing your experience, and I'm glad if my phrasing/analysis helps any.
Steffirecat on February 16th, 2015 08:31 am (UTC)
Also, on the far side of 50 it's starting to look to me like a certain age range belongs in that list and other age ranges don't.
Dr. Kvetchrose_lemberg on February 16th, 2015 10:11 pm (UTC)
I feel that age vs category centrality is experienced differently by gender. That is to say, men (cis men for certain, I do not have enough knowledge to form an opinion about trans men's experiences) are pretty category-central in their late 50s, which cannot be said about women; again, I do not have enough knowledge about aging NB people and experience of category centrality. I often wonder how my experience will shape up as I age (NB, female-presenting person with a Ph.D).
shweta_narayanshweta_narayan on February 16th, 2015 10:35 pm (UTC)
I think age is also experienced differently by race & possibly other things too.

So... yeah did not include age because it's complicated & I don't fully understand it. I agree it's important. I just don't know how to analyze it.
Dr. Kvetchrose_lemberg on February 16th, 2015 10:38 pm (UTC)
By race in the US; in other countries differently, in my experience (also by race, often, though not in the same ways as in the US).

Sorry for confused commentary, my brain I left it somewhere nearby.
shweta_narayanshweta_narayan on February 16th, 2015 10:39 pm (UTC)
By race in many countries, though not race alone and not all countries, I'd say.
Dr. Kvetchrose_lemberg on February 16th, 2015 10:40 pm (UTC)

Edited at 2015-02-16 10:41 pm (UTC)
Steffirecat on February 17th, 2015 02:03 am (UTC)
dionysus1999dionysus1999 on February 16th, 2015 05:08 pm (UTC)
I do wonder that as the U.S. demographics shifts to a more multicultural nation, how this will effect the elite and our perception of who's normal. The myth of upward mobility is becoming increasingly obvious, for example.
shweta_narayanshweta_narayan on February 16th, 2015 10:38 pm (UTC)
The experience of many colonized countries shows that even tiny white minorities can exert power to remain the prototype/default.

I suspect that holds true on other axes of power too. Visibility and positive representation do more to change our mental models than mere numbers.

So, I'm not holding my breath :/
(Deleted comment)
shweta_narayanshweta_narayan on February 17th, 2015 07:44 pm (UTC)
Thank you! A lot of it is remembering how other people have done so, though :) Most of this is pulling other people's thoughts together rather than original work.

Though I will go around preening myself anyway, at *you* saying *I* put things well :)