Racism: Racism, at its base, is about belonging to a group. A person feels alienated by their various groups, so they pick out an individual of another group and attempt to alienate them. This is done by the person to allay their own feelings of alienation from their own group.
When racism occurs in these subtle, non-violent ways it is one party trying to convince another member of their group that they belong as much, if not more, to the group than the individual they are trying to entertain. It’s the rationale by which a bully picks on someone smaller than them. The bully wants that smaller person to know that they don’t fit into “our” group, because it makes them feel more aligned with the group, and they usually attempt to entertain another into believing that they belong to the group.
Most of my fellow classmates felt superior to those that didn’t go to our school. This contemporaneous feeling of superiority was not an attitude that we gained accidentally. It was taught to us in our school. I never quite learned it however. I had an outsider mentality for much of my time in high school that I could never shake. I had a lot of friends, but most of these friends felt like outsiders too. So, when I saw the punker at the end of the row in my Spanish class, I decided I would be friends with him. He appeared to be one of the biggest outsiders in my circle of life at that point, and I thought he and I would have a lot in common. After a couple attempts at making friends with him, he turned to me and basically said, “You don’t belong here!” He said it loud enough that a third party overheard him. The punker then laughed with that person, and that appeared to warm his heart a little. This wasn’t racism of course, but it was similar in that I had probably done more to help that punker feel a part of the high school than anyone else had. He bullied me down to a place where he could feel like he was more a part of the group than someone, anyone. Most people are familiar with this form of bullying, what could be called bullying down, but bullying up is a term that is referenced far less.
Class Envy: Bullying up is a term we can use to describe those bullies who feel like they know their place a little better, but they’re envious of a person, or group, that they believe is above their station in life. In high school, the classes are more stratrified than they are in adult life. Adults tend to attempt to be more subtle, and their class envy tends to be directed more generally. High school age students tend to be more insecure about their beliefs in life, and their place in society, so they tend to be more blunt and overt when it comes to their interactions, as they try to convince themselves of their character. In the hierarchy of the stratified classes, we tend to see the jocks and those from money at the top. Since my group had no entrée into either of these groups, we pretended not to want into their group. We decided that there was something wrong with each of the members of these groups, and we ridiculed them individually. We wanted it known that we wanted nothing to do with them, because we were sure of ourselves and our place in our group. We didn’t need a group mentality to define us. We were individuals. It was a subtle form of class envy, even if we didn’t outwardly engage in it.
Bullying is not usually the term associated with class envy, but it is just as pervasive. It just doesn’t make the same headlines in our lives, because we believe that those who are above us can afford to be bullied.
“They don’t care, they can afford it,” said a friend while he raided our rich friend’s refrigerator. I found such an action distastefully funny. I also saw it as a small way that we could get even with those who engaged in such frivolity.
When a burglar, on television or in the movies, says “I only steal from those who can afford it” we find this justifiable and valiant. The character doesn’t lose the prestige they would normally lose by being a burglar. Some of us actually see him as more righteous for his motivation of balancing the scales of economic injustice. We don’t see the faces of those above us, and we don’t calculate the hard work they may have put into attaining status into our judgment of them. They’re faceless entities that have accumulated wealth that we deem to be too much, and we justify our actions by saying that they must have been selfish to attain that plateau.
If we are able to justify our class envy through these various measures, how far do we take it? Do we, as me and my friends in high school, hate them in non-confrontational manners, or do we escalate it into physical acts? What would we call it if our friend vandalized a rich person’s Hum-V, and he did so with the rationale that Hum-V’s are harmful to the environment. What if he poured animal blood on their fur coats, because they’re contributing to an industry that harms animals? The implication that our friend would want us to have is that he could afford to buy those things too, and he could belong to their class, but he chooses not to for political reasons. Could this be said to be a form of bullying? Why didn’t he just have a political discussion with them?
Well, if he did have this political discussion with them, he would be humanizing them, and thereby be losing a vital component to his hatred. If he did have this discussion with them, you can bet it would be snarky? “Do you know what you’re doing to the environment driving that beast around?” He would be attempting to take a step up on them from his communal, underdog status to attempt to level the classes with such a discussion by asking them to be what he termed “more responsible”.
What is he stole from them? What if you caught him, and asked him what he was doing, and he said, “Oh, they have money coming out of their orifices. They’ll never miss this.” Would you feel compelled to steal something too? I know I did. I’m ashamed to say I saw my friend’s rationale, and I welcomed it. I didn’t actually steal anything, but there was a part of me that saw his actions as justifiable, because no one person needs that much money or that much wealth. I saw this as a zero-sum game approach to fairness: if they were able to afford less, perhaps I would be able to afford more. The rationale my friend gave me was very attractive.
Hatred of the Beautiful: Class envy was never as appealing to me as hatred of the beautiful however. I would love to engage in a Greg Gutfeld joke here and say that people have hated me for this reason for much of my life. Of course they haven’t. One look at me would tell you that no one has ever hated me because I’m beautiful. Perhaps this is why I instinctively blanch at the notion that someone is smarter than me, because they’re better looking, but it has happened on numerous occasions.
I don’t hate the beautiful, but it does annoy me when people act differently when they enter the room. It does annoy me when I change in much the same manner. It does annoy me that we project qualifications on them that they don’t have based on their physical appearance. It does annoy me that we pay more attention to what they have to say, and that we give their statements more weight. It annoys me to hear that we, as jurors, tend to ask judges to grant the beautiful more lenient sentences based on physical appearance. It annoys me that we judge candidates for office based on looks, and that we’ll pay to see the good looking walk and talk on our various screens. We all know these truths, yet we keep doing it, and we continue to hate ourselves for doing it.
There’s a marginally attractive woman in England, Samantha Brick, who claims that women hate her, because she’s beautiful.* She says that women won’t befriend her, or if they do they keep her away from their significant others. The first instinct is to minimize her beauty. We then attempt to minimize much of what she writes in her blog. “I don’t do that,” we say in defense. “I treat everyone the same, regardless of class, beauty or race.” We don’t, but we don’t know it. Most of us don’t actively hold a bias. Most of us don’t purposefully bully another up or down, but we can’t help it. It’s elemental to our makeup
I am not usually a victim of class envy, for I usually feel there was something I could’ve done in life to join them. It’s not my fault that I’m not beautiful though. Sure, I could lay off the noodles and the salty products that I love with an undying passion, but even if I was as svelte and muscular as I could possibly be, I would still lack some of the natural gifts that the good Lord has endowed upon the beautiful. If I left it at that, I could still be a great guy, but I have to take it a step further. I have to get annoyed with my friends who say the things they say, because a beautiful girl is around. I have to live with the fact that no one acts different around me when I enter a room, but if there is a beautiful person behind me, everyone takes notice. Say what you want about the rich, and powerful, but no one is more powerful in a room full of nobodies than a beautiful girl, and I hate that, and I hate myself even more for being a part of it.