MARA Season 2 Episode 1: Doug & Samia / Feminism & White Privilege
Samia: You’re listening to Make America Relate Again, presented by Better Angels Media. I’m Samia Mounts.
Welcome to Season 2, babies! Thanks for being so patient. A lot has happened in American politics since last summer, and a lot has happened in my life, as well. So let me give you a quick update.
First of all, I’ve relocated from New York City to Seoul, Korea, the amazing, dynamic city where I grew up. Yeah, you heard that right - I’m producing this shiz from across the Pacific. Which makes it significantly more difficult. That’s why it was such a blessing from the heavens that Better Angels Media - haha, see what I did there - decided to take my little podcast on and make me part of their team.
Better Angels is a pretty incredible organization. They’re a nonpartisan nonprofit, with a rule - called the Better Angels Rule - that there is equal representation from both sides of the political aisle at every level of their organization, and they’re working to depolarize the American political scene. One of the major ways they do this is by gathering volunteer organizers all over America, and providing them with the materials to organize workshops that help reds and blues communicate better. Their media arm, Better Angels Media, also produces podcasts that examine the issue of polarization from different angles. Make America Relate Again is now one of those podcasts, and I’ll be introducing you to the others when I have two of the media team organizers on the show later this season.
And that’s a great segue into the new format of the show. Instead of me having every conversation, and featuring only women’s voices, I have opened this season up to other liberals, and people who aren’t, well, women. And I’m still looking for future guests for the show, so if you’re interested in expanding your horizons a bit by trying to understand the “other side,” please shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You could be a guest on the show!
One more change for Season 2 - this time around, there will be no comprehensive fact-checking show notes on the website. I know, you guys all loved the show notes so much and read every single one last summer, but those notes nearly killed me. I also felt that they took away from what the show is really about - not facts and figures, and who's right and who's wrong, but human relationships. That being said, if there are major issues with the facts in any of the episodes, I will try to address them either on the website or within the episode itself. And if I miss something you think is important - let me know! You can tweet at me @relatepodcast, or use the contact form at makeamericarelatepodcast.com.
Okay, enough exposition, let’s get to the plot, already! For this first episode, you’re going to get one last taste of me having a conversation with a conservative, and this one’s a doozy. You might remember that in Season 1, I chose to only speak with women because I was having a lot of trouble keeping my temper in check when discussing politics with conservative men. For some reason, the same words coming out of a man’s mouth would make me lose my cool in a way that women just didn’t.
Which is why I’ve decided to start Season 2 off with a bang by having my one and only conversation for the season - with a man.
Doug is a researcher working as a contractor with US Forces in South Korea, and before that, he served in the Army. He’s got a Bachelor's of Science in Physics, the one subject I refused to fry my brain on in high school, and he’s incredibly intelligent. Doug’s got well-formed opinions for daaaays - opinions that I mostly passionately disagree with, pretty much across the board. He has issues with feminism, thinks white privilege isn’t a thing, and believes homosexuality is a choice (although, he was clear he doesn’t judge, and sees it as the same kind of vice as smoking or drinking, both of which he indulges in.) I meeeeean...I’m a proud feminist who knows white privilege is a thing, and knows sexuality ain’t no choice anyone’s making. But hey, people are entitled to their opinions.
We met in an Irish pub here in Seoul, called Maloney’s. Best burgers in Seoul, by the way, in my humble opinion. Maloney’s attracts a mostly military crowd - it’s right next to the base I grew up on - so it’s not really a place I would normally hang out in, but I’ve known the proprietor, Brendan Maloney, for over twenty years. He’s one of my oldest friends, and like a big brother to me. I go there to hang with him - and I meet lots of conservative-leaning gentlemen there as well. When I first met Doug, I could tell we disagreed on almost everything, but I could also tell this was a guy with a good heart.
That being said, I haven’t been this nervous since my first conversation with Ellen in Season 1. Wish me luck, kids! Let’s see how this goes...
Samia: Doug, welcome to the show.
Doug: Well, thank you. I'm glad to be here.
Samia: Why don't you tell the listeners a little about yourself before we get started?
Doug: Okay. I am Doug, and I'm a early 40s white male. I consider myself to be a conservative. I've got a four-year degree in physics. I used to teach high school. I worked for a long time in computer technology, and I also currently have a job as a researcher.
Samia: Fabulous. Here in Seoul, Korea.
Samia: So I'm super excited to have you on the show today, because I have never had one of these conversations for the podcast with a man, only with women, and so this is a bit of a test for me, so be gentle.
Doug: Okay. Likewise.
Samia: I promise I'll be very nice and respectful. We decided that we're going to talk about feminism and white privilege, or what you call reverse racism, which is a term I have trouble with. Why don't we start with feminism?
Samia: It's one of my hot-button issues. I have considered myself a feminist since I knew the word existed. I wanted to ask you, in your email to me, all you said was, that's an issue that you lean right on, but you never explained how you lean right on it, so what are your positions on feminism?
Doug: In general, I believe that men and women should have equal rights, but I see a lot of things that keep popping up in my YouTube feed and other things on the internet, this thing called New Wave feminism. You've got people out there screaming about the wage gap, and in my experience, I've never seen such a thing. I think that right now, institutionally, there is not a strong demand signal for a gender-based movement like feminism. I believe that we have equality right now in terms of men's rights and women's rights. I have not seen or experienced or heard first-hand any true stories of situations where someone was discriminated against because of their gender. I say that because all of the jobs I've ever had in my life, and that includes government jobs, working for large corporations, working for small companies where you've got a delivery truck and a bag of tools, it doesn't matter. You're paid the same, and if anyone is paid more, it's always been because of their time, their experience, them having worked to that level. I could never, as a male, get into a position at a company and automatically make more than a female counterpart, because in fact, I've had many female counterparts who made more than me, but they had better degrees, or they had more time, better experience, so I don't think that there's as big of a need for it. When people talk about a wage gap, I just haven't seen it.
Samia: So how do you respond to the studies that have been done that show clearly that across most professions, there is a wage gap? It's like 80% of what men make.
Doug: I've seen these charts where they've got a breakdown on the different types of careers and how many men and how many women are employed, and what the average salary is. I see that there is a lot of positions like care and education, like nurses and teachers, where there are proportionally more females than males, but the salaries are comparable based on years of experience. I've seen where there's more males in some fields like certain military disciplines, garbage collection, construction, oil working, STEM careers. There's a lot more men in those fields, so if there are women in those fields, they're being paid as much based on their experience and their merit as men are in those traditionally female careers.
Samia: It kind of sounds to me like the study data we have, the research data, really doesn't hold much weight for you because, in your own experience, you just haven't seen any evidence of that happening, so it's kind of easy to say, "Well, I don't get that. I don't see that. I don't really buy it."
Doug: Yeah. I mean, if it was a matter of unintended bias in the hiring process where men or women are given preferential treatment in the hiring process, I can see how that could be possible. For example, I can see that some people may be better negotiators when they get, when they apply for a particular job. If that means that I am able to better negotiate for a particular salary, then the person sitting next to me, regardless of gender, okay, that's a plus for me, and it's a minus for the other person, but if that happens to be more common of a situation with men and women, men may feel much less inhibited to speak up and speak out and try to negotiate or haggle a little bit. Maybe it's in the nature of how we are and how we think, and some women may be less like that. I've known some women who are very, very good negotiators, and I lose ground every single time, so-
Samia: That's interesting that you bring that up, because that's really the crux of the issue for me, is the way we are culturally programmed as men and women to advocate for ourselves or not advocate for ourselves. When I look at issues like the gender pay gap, which I actually have a lot of experience with in my line of work in entertainment, that - you've seen articles, I'm sure, about celebrity actresses playing just as big a role as their male co-star, but getting paid way less money for it, and that happens all the time in Hollywood, and it's just now starting to really become an issue that people are doing something about, but in my own career, in my own experience, have I been paid less than men for the same work? Yes. Have I been looked at as a bitch or overly arrogant, overly bossy, for trying to negotiate for more money? Yes. Even in situations where I knew men were doing the same thing, and they were being treated as if that was totally fine, and when I did it, it was like, "Whoa. Calm down. You're getting ahead of yourself," so that's been some of my experience, and I feel so strongly that women are raised with this idea like you have to make everybody smile and make everybody like you. You have to be a nice girl. You have to be polite. That doesn't really align with being a tough business negotiator, and so a lot of women, and I've read many articles on this too, a lot of women go into getting a new job, and they don't want to piss people off, so they're not as likely to try to get more money or try to get what they're worth. In addition to that, they're also trained to sort of not rock the boat, and often won't be as powerful in advocating for themselves in other ways besides money, like pushing their ideas. You hear about women who have an idea that everybody steps on, and then a guy repackages the same idea, and everybody thinks it's great? That's happened to me.
Doug: One thing I know, I have always encouraged my daughter ... I've got one son, and I've got three daughters. My daughters are 13, 17, and 22.
Samia: Wow. Congrats. They made it.
Doug: Yes. Thank you.
Samia: You did it.
Doug: The youngest, she's at that age where she's sometimes got a lot of things that frustrate her. Mom and Dad don't exactly get along. Try as I might, it just doesn't work out that way, so my 13-year-old feels a lot of frustrations about that. Then she's not happy with some of her friends in school and teachers, and just preteens, tweens, they just got happiness issues sometimes. They just want to be angry, and that's what makes them happy. So what I've always tell her is, "Be sweet." I realize that that may be, from what you're saying right now, I'm thinking that maybe I am pushing a little bit of that ideology onto her that you just described, but my rationale when I tell her that is if you have a calm and gentle, quiet nature, which I try to do as well, and it's not about gender, it's just in general, try to be a nice person, because people will respond to you differently. And if you have someone who rubs you the wrong way, or really pisses you off, or does you dirty, you can always flip that switch later, but if you come on like that in the first place, it's sometimes so hard to take it back. I have so many things in my life that I wish I could go back and redo, or do differently, or just completely take back, and I can't. I've got some people who do not like me for reasons that I think are wrong, or petty, or just poorly grounded, but some of those are situations that I created intentionally or otherwise because of how I handled those situations. Hindsight is what you get when you get further down the road and realize that you're not on the right path. It's like, "Oh, I should have turned here." As a father trying to instill what hopefully will be wisdom to my children, yeah, I've told my youngest daughter when she wants to be angry and snotty about something, I say, "Hey, try to be sweet. Try to find a better way to handle it. Be nice."
Samia: That's the premise of this podcast, like I can't say I disagree with that at all. I used to be quite an angry person, and I was always feeling like the world was attacking me for something, and I would go into situations guns blazing and not get the result that I wanted. When I changed my approach to be more diplomatic, and more patient, and respectful, and kind with people, I got better results, so I agree with that. It is difficult for me to talk about that in relation to how we raise little girls versus little boys, because I do think that feminine anger is something that society is just not okay with the same way it is with masculine anger. It seems to me that men are, they have more cultural permission to experience emotions like anger than women do, and I see that as a problem. I think there should be true equality there.
Doug: Yeah. I can see that. One of the things that I've tried to...and just to clarify, with my son, I've tried to do the same thing as well. My son and my middle daughter have reached a point in their early teenage years where they decided that Mom's Kool-Aid tasted better, and I am not the person that they want to talk to anytime soon, so I'm-
Doug: ... waiting for that-
Samia: That hurts.
Doug: It does. I'm waiting for that situation to work itself out. It's just time, but outside of that, I've always tried to encourage my son to do the same thing. He had a lot of anger, a lot of aggression. He has Asperger's, so sometimes he has a hard time handling certain social situations that frustrate him. One of the things that I think really irritated him with me was if he was really angry with his sisters, he wanted to yell. He wanted to scream. He wanted to be the Incredible Hulk without destroying an entire city. You could see the color starting to turn. I would try and do the same thing with him.
Samia: Before we met for this conversation, we agreed on a definition for feminism, and we agreed that the definition is the belief that women and men should have equal rights and opportunities. Based on that definition, it sounds like you're a feminist, Doug.
Doug: Yeah. I could say, in that respect, yes, I can support feminism. Do I think that feminism is a systemic problem in our society, or the need for feminism in our society is a systemic problem? I don't think it is. But-
Samia: You don't think that there is a systemic bias against women favoring men in the United States.
Doug: From my experience, I haven't seen it, but I've not looked at and considered some of the careers that you've described, like entertainers. I haven't looked at that. Artist, performers, I've not worked in those fields, so I don't have good ground to stand on to talk about that, but within education, and STEM, and manual labor, and military, and government jobs, minimum wage jobs, physical labor, I've not seen that in any of the career fields that I've traipsed across throughout my years.
Samia: This is so interesting. I'll give you a little background on me. My mother was a first-generation immigrant. Her family came to the States from Jordan when she was a kid, and she was the youngest of 10 kids, five sisters and four brothers, all older. She got the most American culture superimposed on her of any of her siblings, and she decided she wanted to get an education, which was not something her family was willing to support, so they withdrew all financial support. She put herself through college. She put herself through a master's degree. She kept my sister and I far away from Arabic culture, because for her, in her life, it had been something that suppresses women's ambitions. All of her brothers were encouraged to go to college. Only one of her sisters even graduated high school. They now are all in their 70s and 80s, and she's the only one that drives. They don't read. They are very limited in their perspective. They're afraid to fly. They're afraid to travel. My mother is the only one of them who has had what I consider to be a more global experience of the world. She's got a PhD now, and she felt so strongly that the culture she grew up in, and also the culture of the United States when she was coming up in the '50s and '60s, were designed to hold her back because she was a woman, so I grew up listening to her stories and feeling really strongly that there needs to be more equality of the sexes, and the inequality has been apparent to me my entire life. This is something that every woman that I've ever really talked deeply about can kind of agree on, even conservative women often will agree like, "Yeah. It's a little rougher for women than men in our society."
Doug: When I think of a feminist culture in U.S. society, I think of the TV series Mad Men. I think it's a perfect example of how things were in the '50s and '60s, leading up to the '70s. There were certain expectations of men and women in their personal life, in their professional life. They were looked at differently whether or not they had a kid, or had children, or planned to become pregnant, whether they were married or unmarried. There were social stereotypes that were being applied based on gender.
Samia: And there still are.
Doug: But I see so much less of that, to the point where, in my experience, I really haven't seen any of it, especially the further on in life I go.
Samia: It has gotten better.
Doug: It has. I will absolutely agree that 30, 40, 50 years ago, very much there was an issue, and I'm not saying there isn't an issue today. I'm just saying that I think it's so small of one, I think it's more isolated to certain situations, certain scenarios, certain environments. It's not widespread. It's not a systemic issue. It's a industry issue. It's a regional issue. Regional, it may be, if you go back into some small town, something that is not a major metropolitan city, you may have more of an expectation that boys will be on the football team, girls will be cheerleaders, the boys will go on to work in some kind of commercial industry, agriculture, something that requires manual labor, heavy lifting. They may go on to a university and see where life takes them from there. Women may be expected to get married, to settle down.
Samia: There's still a lot of pressure on women to get married and have babies, even in this modern day and age. I mean, I still get, especially my family members on my mom's side, every time I see them, "When are you going to have babies?" I'm not going to have babies. "When are you going to get married? Don't you want to get married?" No, I don't want to get married. "Why?" Because every boyfriend I've ever had has limited my productivity.
Doug: My 22-year-old, she's made it very clear she does not want to have children. She loves kids, but she and her boyfriend, they're 22 and 25, respectively. They love playing ... Oh, God, what is that game? It's really popular out here. It's got to be played on a PC. It's not a console game. League of Legends. They are crazy into that, and they spend a lot of time playing that. They've got like a really good internet connection at their place so that they can play that.
Samia: You're fine with your daughter not wanting to have kids?
Doug: I'd like to be a grandfather, but if that's what she wants, that's how it's going to be. I mean, if, I think, realistically, at some point, she'll change her mind.
Samia: That's what my parents thought, too.
Doug: It's not that I'm encouraging. I don't encourage her to change her mind or stay on the course she's on. I just think, objectively, looking back, or looking at this thing from the outside, I think at some point, knowing her, she is going to want to have children. But she says right now that she doesn't want to have children, because she and her boyfriend, they're having a young life, adventure, they're traveling, they're doing all kinds of good things, and for them, trying to start a family would severely change the way that they want to live their life.
Samia: You said that you don't see any kind of systemic or institutionalized gender bias, but what about the issue of maternity leave versus paternity leave and the way we are really, the way things are now, we are setting women up to take the bulk of the responsibilities for childbearing at the expense, oftentimes, of their careers? Women who are pregnant are regularly not given jobs that they're trying to get or promotions that they're trying to get, even if they're not pregnant, but they want to have kids. That's a question that gets asked in job interviews a lot. "Do you plan to have kids?" If a woman says, "Yes," that hurts her chances of getting the job.
Doug: See, I always thought it was illegal, or at least in the last 20 years, that it was illegal for an employer to ask if a woman intended to become pregnant.
Samia: We should look that up. I actually don't know.
Samia: I know that lots of my female friends have had that happen to them.
Doug: I can see why in some situations, knowing that may be very important in order to place someone in a particular role with certain responsibilities. If you're going to put someone into a role that it's not easy to replace them, you need to know if they're going to potentially be out of work for several weeks on end.
Samia: But men never get asked these questions, and men presumably should be sharing the child-rearing responsibilities if both parents are working.
Doug: It's going to be kind of interesting, because I've heard over the last few years that supposedly men are going to be allowed to have paternity leave.
Samia: That needs to happen.
Doug: I can see the need for that, because it is a lot of work for a new mother or a mother 2.0 or whoever, if you have additional children, it's a lot of work to take care of a new baby. You've got the time for your body to physically heal. There's a need for the child to bond with the mother. If you choose to breastfeed as opposed to bottle-feed, there's additional time. Mothers need time with their new children, and fathers need to have time to help their mothers.
Samia: Pause one second. What, Garan?
Samia: So we took a pause, because Garren did an amazing thing and looked up that there is actually a law on the books that prevents discrimination against pregnant women. It's called the Federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act and it says discrimination on the basis of pregnancy is specifically prohibited, which is awesome, but I still hear about this happening all the time, which is what makes me say there is a systemic problem. There are cultural biases that aren't being effectively addressed. I wanted to also cover one more part of this conversation, which is sexual crime, sexual assault. I think of the Brock Turner case. Do you remember that?
Doug: Refresh my memory.
Samia: This kid found a drunk girl passed out behind a bar, I guess, and he thought it was totally okay to finger her while she was passed out. He got caught and was prosecuted, and everything about the case was suddenly about, "Oh, let's not ruin this poor kid's life over one mistake." It's like, no, he sexually violated a passed-out girl. This isn't ruining his life. It ruined her life, what he did. Like-
Samia: It takes a lot to get over something like that. I mean, she never made her name public, the poor thing, like had to deal with being violated and then having to see it all over the news and having the system, the judge including, saying, "Let's not ruin this poor kid's life," about her attacker.
Doug: That, I agree, is a travesty. I vaguely remember loosely following that story. The only thing about that is if the kid actually did it, there's no question that he was the person who did it, hang him out. He should get every punishment that's coming to him. If there's any question that he didn't actually do it, then they need to have stronger evidence in the case.
Samia: I guess what I'm, I believe he was [inaudible 00:31:04]-
Doug: ... have stronger evidence in the case.
Samia: I believe he was convicted, but I guess what I'm trying ... The reason I bring this up is you said you don't see any evidence of inequality of the sexes. I see it everywhere. It's things like that that make it really obvious to me. Sexual assault against women is something that everybody can agree is a bad thing, but the way our system deals with it is often to put the blame on the victim. "Well, what were you wearing? Had you been drinking? Why were you alone at night?" Women get questions like that when they've just been raped and have gone to the police for help. That's something that happens all the time. That speaks to the inequality here. Women are less likely to be believed. Women are less likely to be taken seriously. It's easy for us to be dismissed as overly emotional, but I've seen plenty of men get overly emotional and nobody ever-
Doug: Yeah, I can name a few.
Samia: You know? It's these stereotypes that exist that create the inequality. The inequality is coming from cultural tropes that everyone has had programmed into them. Do you really not see any of it?
Doug: Because I've had very limited experience with some of those types of situations, what I can say is U.S. society is one where you're innocent until proven guilty. We are seeing some trends publicly. Very, very public cases, where someone is coming forward and claiming that they were assaulted or violated or touched inappropriately or sexually harassed. Sometimes there is no real evidence to go along with that. It becomes he said she said.
Samia: Well, what if it's when it's he said and 12 shes said or 17 shes said, like in the case of our President right now? Do you think they're all lying?
Doug: In some cases. I don't want to get into some of the specifics because I can think of a couple other situations, like with Cosby, where there have been ... Some of the credibility of some of the witnesses that have come forward has been questioned and challenged successfully. Some of them, I don't know, that sounds legit. Some of them, it didn't sound legit. Honestly, I think he's a Tiger Woods situation and it just is getting played out differently.
Samia: I don't know if I would compare those two. Drugging women is on a different level from anything Tiger Woods ever did to my knowledge.
Doug: It is. Then again, if you and I were to get together and say, "Hey, let's drink and drink and drink and have a good time. Let's have some Quaaludes and whatnot," and we agree and consent to things along the way and then later regret it, is that the same thing?
Samia: I don't think that was what happened in the situations with Bill Cosby.
Doug: Some of the cases, it sounded like that may have been the case. Others, it did not. I'm just trying to segue rather than going too far because I don't want to get into a Trump-
Samia: Didn't he also get convicted?
Doug: Cosby did. Yes.
Doug: There is currently an appeal out on that. Going back to what you said, there's a lot of burden of proof on women if they come forward and say that they were violated. They were assaulted. It does become a case of he said versus she said. There are situations out there where someone has been accused of doing something that they didn't do. We are in a period of our culture, our society, where if a man is accused of having done something, it can destroy his career. If those allegations are found to be without merit, his career may never recover from that, in much the same way that if the allegations are true and they are not given their full credit and persecuted thoroughly, it will destroy the woman and her life and her career. It's a very, very serious thing to go out there and have something like that happen. Someone's career and their life is going to change dramatically.
Samia: Should a victim of sexual assault be subjected to third degree interrogation, trying to figure out if she's lying or not?
Doug: Really, I want to say no, but at the same time, someone somewhere along the way has to challenge that person's allegations to give it a test of truth. If I come in and I tell you that I was standing outside and I saw a spaceship land in the alley next to the building. I saw little green men get out. You can accept me or you can challenge what I just said, but if I show-
Samia: But that's such a fantastical-
Doug: It is, but if I have some kind of evidence that I can show you right now on my phone of me taking a selfie with a little green man in the alley, you're going to believe me. I realize that it's a ridiculous example, but if it's something that you don't think would happen for whatever reason, there needs to be some kind of proof. You're going to challenge me just a little bit to convince you that this really happened.
Samia: But when you're a woman, situations where you are sexually violated or touched inappropriately in some way happen a lot. With the situation with Trump, a lot of the women who came forward had stories about how he groped them or kissed them without permission. It wasn't full on sexual assault, depending on your definition. I would actually consider groping or kissing without permission a sexual assault, but it's also not a level of sexual assault that me personally would bust out my camera phone and try to get evidence and go to the police. I would just be like, "You fucking suck. You're a dick and I'm going to get as far away from you as possible." Now if that dick went on to run for the President of the United States, you better believe I would shout from the rafters, "Yo, guys! He groped me on an airplane." If people didn't want to believe me because I didn't have any proof that that had happened, that would piss me off because I would know it happened and I would be saying it to protect our country from having a man like that leading us, which is I think what those 17 women were trying to do.
Doug: I look at it from a slightly different point of view. Not disagreeing with you, but I had something that happened while I was a teacher. I was always very careful. I made sure that my door was open. I made sure that I was never with less than two students at a time. I was always above board in everything I did. I left my job in teaching because of a political situation. Teaching is extremely political.
Samia: Oh, I know. My mom is a teacher and I've heard all the stories.
Doug: Yeah. I went from being someone who was very much liked by the principal and the vice principals to almost being persona non grata. I was welcomed to teach anywhere else in the county. I just wasn't welcome back at that school because of the political situation. I heard through some indirect channels that it was suggested the reason I was no longer teaching was that I was fired for something that was sexually inappropriate with a student in one of my classrooms.
Samia: Did you know what the situation was? Did you have any idea what that was about?
Doug: I do and I'm not going to get into that here, but the thing is it was something that didn't happen at all. The situation that they were referring to was a verbal altercation which had absolutely nothing to do with gender or sex. It was a disagreement over something and it was above board, but it was being portrayed way out of context and way out of character. Because this is something that-
Samia: Come on. You've got to give me the details of the story, Doug. You can't tease me like that.
Doug: I'm not going to do it here, but I'll say this, that it happened with two or three months left in the school year. If there was any truth that I was being terminated from my job as a teacher because of something that was inappropriate involving a student, I would not have been allowed back in the classroom the next day. I would have been most likely arrested. I most likely would have been made into some kind of spectacle and reported on the local news.
Samia: You think that they just used it as an excuse?
Doug: The fact that I left the school for ... I was not invited back to the school because of the political situation that happened as a result of my disagreeing with a student whose mother was the president of the PTA and good friends with the principal. I was above board, but I probably wasn't as professional as I should have been. It was a very bad political move for me to make in how I handled the situation, but-
Samia: Was there something that you said that made them think that they could turn it into a sexually inappropriate thing?
Doug: No, no. From the school, there was no issue. People who knew other teachers at the school and knew me, the rumor mill outside of the school from a few people who knew that I'd left the school and had quit teaching, somehow it got turned into I said something sexually inappropriate to a student, which was absolutely not the case. That's a situation where I was accused of doing something I didn't do. The whole situation was taken out of context and turned into something that was presumed to be sexual in nature when it wasn't. I was accused by friends of being sexually inappropriate with a student.
Samia: Do you think that the majority of cases involving an accusation of sexual assault are fabrications designed to take somebody down?
Doug: I think most of them are not, but I think-
Samia: Do you think most of them are legitimate?
Doug: I think most of them are legitimate.
Samia: Do we treat the majority of legitimate sexual assault accusations in a way that is skeptical towards the accuser because a minority of situations are illegitimate, are fabricated?
Doug: If we do, I think it goes back to the whole presumed innocence. If someone is going to do something or accuse someone of having done something so serious, there has to be a burden of proof. You have to challenge to get that proof.
Samia: It's the only kind of crime I can think of where we put the victims on trial.
Samia: Do you think that's right? If your daughter was assaulted but she had no physical evidence because she was too upset to go immediately and get a rape kit done, but it happened and she wanted to press charges after she had calmed down and the media and the courts treated her like she was the one on trial, how would that make you feel?
Doug: I have thought about this and I know I wouldn't like it. I would like to think that I would know if my daughter is being truthful or not. I would presume that she is. I would give her the benefit of the doubt. I'm not saying that I would challenge her, but I would try to learn as much as I could about the situation, more so to help her than to make her feel that I don't believe her. I think though in the process of doing that, she may feel like I don't believe her because I'm trying to learn more. I'm trying to get facts, so I can help her and I can be an advocate for her. I don't know. It's a situation I hope I don't have to encounter personally.
Samia: I hope not, either. All right. We should at least touch on the other issue that we wanted to talk about today, which is white privilege. In quotes, "reverse racism," which I don't think is a thing that can actually exist, but we'll get into that. We agreed on this definition of white privilege: "The societal privilege that benefits people from - whom society identifies as white in some countries beyond what is commonly experienced by nonwhite people under the same social, political or economic circumstances." What is your issue with white privilege? What are your thoughts on racism and reverse racism? I did the air quotes again, just for the listeners. Every time I do it, Doug is just like, "Come on." What are your thoughts on it?
Doug: I have only seen a few situations where I believe that race was a factor. These have been social situations. Being excluded from a group, being isolated, but in social situations. Some of those have been cases where as a white person, I was not welcome with a black crowd or in situations that were more ... Situations where the people involved were more predominantly black.
Samia: Tell me about some of those. Is this the reverse racism you're talking about?
Doug: No. On the flip side of that, I have been in situations with people who are considered white, where I know black people have felt uncomfortable being around. They weren't being excluded. They just weren't comfortable with the topics. They weren't comfortable with the humor and things that we were interested in. A lot of the segregation that I've seen, like in college, it seemed like it was self-imposed. When I was in a fraternity, most of the fraternity members tended to be one race or another. We talked about that sometimes in some of our private meetings, particularly when we were looking at recruitment for new members for the new semester. How do you get someone interested in your organization? Well, you want to be who you are. We didn't have anyone in there who was racist, anyone who had racist attitudes or ideas or feelings, but we couldn't get any of our black friends outside of the organization to be interested in joining. They just weren't interested in it. It didn't matter what we did. If they were interested in joining an organization, they would gravitate towards groups that were more traditionally black or Asian or whatever racial group it was.
Samia: You've seen some self-imposed racial segregation?
Doug: Yes, I've seen a lot of that. More than I've seen racism, I've seen self-imposed segregation. When I say reverse racism ... If someone accuses me of having white privilege, I think that that is-
Samia: I mean, you do.
Doug: Well, I would say if-
Samia: I do, too. I have white privilege, even being half Middle Eastern. My skin is light enough, I am seen as a white girl and I have white privilege. I'm aware of it.
Doug: I don't think I have white privilege.
Samia: What do you think white privilege is and why don't you think it exists?
Doug: Well if white privilege exists, then so does black entitlement. Someone who is of a-
Samia: I just made such a face, listeners. Go on.
Doug: I've seen people accused of being on welfare and milking the system and taking advantage of benefits that are intended for lesser income individuals. I've seen some of these people be of African-American heritage. I don't believe that they are trying to milk the system, but I've seen people take situations like that. They'll say, "Well, that person has got black entitlement and that white boy over there with a pretty Corvette has white privilege." I'm not saying I agree with those philosophies, but-
Samia: White privilege is more than about the welfare system. It's about being able to get ahead in life.
Samia: It's about being able to walk through a store without being eyed suspiciously by the clerk. It's about being able to walk down the street without being stopped by a cop just because you're there or being able to drive somewhere without being stopped by a cop, even though you weren't doing anything wrong, because you're black. I don't know a single black person who hasn't had those experiences and much, much worse.
Doug: I can't speak to situations where someone is driving at night and gets pulled over because a lot of times, a cop doesn't know who they're pulling over. They really can't look in the window, especially when you're driving by. If you have any kind of tinting on your window, I don't see how they can tell who's inside.
Samia: That's a real thing, though. Especially for black men. All of my black male friends have experienced being pulled over for absolutely no reason and not being able to get it out of the cop why they were pulled over. They check everything and then they let them go because there's nothing to find. My best friend's brother, they're from St. Louis. He lives in Los Angeles now, but every time he goes home to St. Louis, he gets pulled over almost every single time he gets into the car.
Doug: I don't know what to say about that, but I can say that I don't believe I have white privilege. The reason-
Samia: You wouldn't get pulled over for no reason all the time. That's your white privilege.
Doug: I see a lot of white people and black people and Asian people and Middle Eastern people and people wearing Islamic headgear, including hijabs ... Well not the full face coverings, but the-
Samia: Hijab. Yeah.
Doug: Hijab. Turbans. I've never seen them get pulled over for anything that I could identify, "Oh, that's why he got pulled over or she got pulled over." I hear stories about it on the news.
Samia: Just because you haven't seen it doesn't mean it's not happening, particularly with ... It seems in the States, the darker you are, the worse you have it. Lighter skinned black people feel like they have it better than darker skinned black people. There's this real ugly perception that the darker your skin, the less human you are somehow. That's what people experience. That's how people are treated, especially in certain parts of the U.S., especially in the south. It's really, really bad. Black people have an entirely different experience of life than white people do in the U.S. Right after the election ... Then I'll let you talk. I promise.
Samia: I was in Australia, which is a predominantly white country. My best friend Lisa was there singing with a Cirque de Soleil show. She's black. In Australia, she was shocked. She was just like, "Where are the black people? There's no black people here." She had a few situations where people said things that she felt were really racist, but overall, she was like, "Even though this country is mostly white people, I still feel like I am more respected here than I do in my own country." Right after the election, we had this conversation where she was crying. Lisa never cries. She's a really positive, funny, charismatic person and she broke down. She was like, "Now that this guy has been elected, I don't feel welcome in that country. I don't want to go back. I'm afraid to go back."
Doug: You know, the crazy thing is I think how "white people" and black people look at each other and how the whole race relations thing in the United States was, I think it got so much worse under Obama. The way it was at the start of his eight years and the way it was at the end of his eight years, it seems like it got worse. I don't have any good quantitative examples of that, but just looking back, it seems like things were so much better 10 years ago than they were two years ago. I really don't understand why.
Samia: Do you think that there might have been some backlash against us electing an African-American to president?
Doug: I don't think so.
Samia: What do you think of the Black Lives Matter movement?
Doug: I think it's the black answer to the KKK.
Samia: Whoa. Okay. Black Lives Matter is not lynching white people.
Doug: Okay. Why do black lives matter more than white lives or yellow lives?
Samia: That is not what Black Lives Matter is saying. They're not saying black lives matter more. They're saying they matter. Throughout the history of our country, black lives really haven't mattered. At the beginning, they were literally bought and sold as property and forced to endure unimaginable horrors for half of our country ... For how long? When was slavery abolished? The 1860s? Yeah, the first 100 years. Almost half of our country's existence. Then you had the results of slavery immediately after, which you were still seeing today. Those ripple effects, the way black families tend to be in general on a lower economic standing because where they came from really sucks. It doesn't get turned around just by being like, "Okay. You're free now, but also we still hate you and you can't go to our schools. Sorry about it." Even in recent history, Brown v. The Board of Education, which was supposed to be this great leap forward in civil rights, created so much backlash. Black kids were really given short shrift in these white schools that they could now go to because they came from black schools with black teachers who understood them and cared about them. Now they're being put into white schools where there's white teachers who still think that they're some kind of an animal because of the color of their skin. That had negative effects on the black community. Now segregation wasn't better, but what they tried to do by pushing it forward so quickly ... People were totally unable to do the right thing by these poor little black kids. We've got this terrible problem and we still see it today. There are ripple effects, which is why I support things like affirmative action, because I don't think the playing field is even. We need to make it so. We need to right the wrongs of the past.
Doug: My only problem with affirmative action is you can't fix the past. You can only fix things going forward. The issue with affirmative action is if two people are applying for the same job and they have comparable skills, you're going to hire A or B. It doesn't really matter. If affirmative action says you have to hire the minority candidate, okay, that's who you hire. If you have two candidates who it turns out the minority candidate is not as well-qualified, but your shop is not racially balanced, you're going to be motivated to hire that lesser qualified minority candidate just because you were required to.
Samia: I would rather raise up people who have historically been pushed down and stomped on to make things right than try to have a full meritocracy at this point. I don't think we're at the point where the playing field is even enough that a meritocracy will work because there's still so much racism in our society.
Doug: If you want to make a meritocracy work, you have to live like that's what you're in. You have to treat situations like you're in a merit-based system. The situations will adapt to fit. If you go in with a racist attitude and racist policies, then that's the environment you will create. If you want a merit-based system, that's what you need to operate in. That's what you need to create. Having affirmative action, white privilege, black entitlement, the only way to get rid of these ideas, these concepts, these things is to have a merit-based system.
Samia: Sure, but when a big portion of the population, particularly the minority portion of the population is at a great disadvantage already because of hundreds of years of systemic oppression, then you can't just jump to a strict meritocracy. You have to even the playing field. That's what things like affirmative action are for.
Doug: Okay. My father was born in a little house in Lancaster, South Carolina. They had thresh on the floor. Dirt with thresh.
Samia: What's thresh?
Doug: That's like the wheat husk that they put on the floor.
Samia: Oh, gosh.
Doug: They were poor. Literally dirt poor. He eventually went on to do some really good things with linguistics, the Marines. He did get an associate's degree and he worked for many years in information technology. He was able to work really hard to get himself to a better point in life and the military helped him out a lot with that. It put him in a different station in life and gave him the tools that he needed. When he came out, he was better equipped to get into other things. That was how he got further up.
Samia: In that time period, a black man in the same socioeconomic circumstances as your father would have had a much harder time making those upward moves.
Doug: In the same time period, yeah. I can see that because you're talking about the 40s and the 50s. There was much more open and systemic racism in U.S. society.
Samia: The ripple effects still exist today. We're not there yet. The point I'm trying to make is that and what I'm trying to get you to include in your comments here is that, if you took your exact same family situation and economic situation with your dad to you to your kids, but you were all black people, I'm telling you, the experience would be different. It would be harder, much harder.
Doug: If I started in the '40s and '50s, I agree entirely.
Samia: Now as well.
Doug: But if I started today, even if you have a good start, being white doesn't necessarily guarantee success. I have two cousins-
Samia: No. It doesn't. It just makes it a lot easier.
Doug: I've got two cousins, women, and their father was a very well educated man. He had some money, worked hard to get where he was. His two daughters, one went on to become successful, the other one, she's struggling to get by month to month.
Samia: Uh-huh. I'm not saying that white people can't have problems. Of course, they can. White people have plenty of problems, but what I'm trying to get at, is maybe it's because I have lived in really big cities, basically my whole life. Maybe it's because I'm in a field where there is a lot of ethnic diversity and I grew up going to a school with a lot of ethnic diversity. But I've been exposed to a lot of different people from different backgrounds and I can say that for my African American and Hispanic friends especially, their experience of what it's like to go through life on a day to day basis is very different from mine. It's very different from my white friends' experiences. They experience little subtle jabs every single day, just because of the color or their skin, their ethnicity. They are looked at differently. They are treated differently. Things are harder for them. They have to change the way they speak to be accepted in business environments and a lot of situations. They have to change the way they wear their hair. Black woman are given shit for wearing their hair natural in business environments. And why should that be the case? You know, there's so much that goes along with it and to tie this into our conversation about feminism, black women get the worst situation of anybody in our country, because you've got being black and being a woman and there's discrimination that comes from both of those things and they have both of them. I would love to send you some maybe essays or articles that detail people's experiences, so that you can be exposed to some of this, because it doesn't sound like you've heard the same kinds of stories as I have. I think if you had, you might have a shifted perspective on this a little bit.
Doug: Most of the kids that I knew and grew up with were Jewish, Asian, and Arabic, then African American. In that order, in terms of concentration. So yeah, I can say that I did not have as many black friends growing up and it was because they just didn't live in the neighborhoods where I did and they didn't go the schools in as great of concentrations as White, Jewish, Asian, Arabic. So yeah, I can say I've had less exposure to that.
Samia: When you are dark skinned in the United States of America, unless you are in one of the urban centers that are a little bit more progressive and welcoming to all different people, there are cultural stereotypes. There are racial stereotypes that are so deeply ingrained in people's minds, that they affect how they treat people.
Doug: I would have to agree with that, from the conversation we've had so far, what I've seen, what I know I haven't seen, I think that statement right there probably sums it up very well.
Samia: So you do agree that there is a thing called white privilege?
Doug: I'm not saying I agree with there being white privilege.
Samia: You agree that there's discrimination?
Doug: I agree that there may be some discrimination and in areas where it's more progressive, where I have lived more, I see less of it and that may be why I have the point of view that I do, on many of the things that I do, because I have come from a more progressive environment, even though I didn't have a lot of black friends growing up. They just didn't live in the neighborhoods where I lived.
Samia: Last thing I wanna ask you is, reverse racism, which we haven't gotten to yet. Have you experienced what you call reverse racism?
Doug: I've been called honky and cracker and I've gone into classrooms that were ... When I was working a substitute teacher for a while. I had gone into some classrooms, where the schools were predominantly African American and I was the white sub and subs get zero respect.
Doug: And then when a white sub comes into a traditionally black school or a school where most of the kids who go there are black, it's not a black school, it's just most of the kids that live in that neighborhood and in that area and go to that school are of African descent and their teacher was of African descent and you've got this white guy standing in front. I had about eight minutes of students singing Weird Al Yankovic's "White and Nerdy," because I couldn't get the classroom under control. I couldn't get them on to any topics.
Samia: Did you laugh or were you upset?
Doug: When it first came, when I first heard it, it's like, "Okay yeah, ha, ha, funny." But it was done is such a very disrespectful way, there was no fun, no humor in it at all.
Samia: Did it hurt?
Doug: It did. And I actually spoke to some of the other teachers about it afterwards and I actually went so far as to write the student up on a referral, a discipline referral, for making racist remarks. The standard that I applied to that was, if a white student had said or done those types of things to a black teacher or a black substitute, it would be considered racism, racist behavior, derogatory racist remarks and he would be disciplined accordingly. So I applied that rationale to my situation with this student. I've heard people say that black people can't be racist. It's a disease of being white. But that right there was a situation I experienced where, I was being subjected to racist attitudes purely because of my skin color.
Samia: So I can understand your logic there. That makes sense when you lay it out like that. The reason that people say that black people can't be racist, is because there is accepted definition of racism, amongst liberal circles, which says racism isn't just having predispositions, negative predispositions towards a person because of the color of their skin or their race. It is a systemic, institutionalized situation where one group of people is oppressed. Racism is about power and in our country, white people have always held the power. So the reason I've put air quotes around reverse racism is, because if you try to do what you just did and turn the logic around and say, "Well if a white kid did this to a black teacher, that would be super racist. So a black kid doing it to me is super racist." It makes sense on the surface, but not if you put it into the context of the greater racial environment. The racial attitudes in our country, because at the end of the day white people were never oppressed in this country because of the color of their skin.
Doug: I think it's generalizing a bit too much to say, white people have always had the power. It's been wealthy white people who have always had the power.
Samia: That's fair.
Doug: I think that's probably a better place to start from. Why have they always had the power? Could it be that they benefited from, in the South, did they benefit from slavery?
Doug: Some of them did.
Samia: I mean, they managed to finagle it, so that they could count their slaves as part of the population, even though they weren't allowed to vote, so that they could have more political power in government. That's how the electoral college was born.
Doug: And if you look at someone who was white and wealthy in the Northeast. You know, a lot of the industries were not dependent on the South. They weren't dependent on black labor or slave labor. It was a matter of exploiting workers, period. So you had a lot of white people who were very rich and powerful, because they just were extreme capitalists and took advantage of the situations that they had. White slave owners were doing the same thing, because blacks were perceived as property, so you're capitalizing on your assets that you have. Is it morally right? No it's not, but that's how it was, but at the end of that, you had a lot of white people that were not economically privileged. I really think that people are looking at what they're calling white privilege and they're mistaking that as being about being white. I think, really the issue is more about being economically affluent, economically privileged, having opportunities because of your socioeconomic status that other people don't have. And yes, money opens doors and if you have friends who are in good positions, that can open doors. It's not what you know, it's who you know. It's who I know and how can I leverage those assets to get ahead and if that puts me in a better economic position, great. But if that is privilege, I don't think so. I mean, who I know and how much money I have can open doors or leaves doors out of my reach, not because I'm white.
Samia: Okay. I can understand not wanting to be told that the only reason you have the things you do is because you were born white.
Samia: Because you have worked hard and that's obvious and you're a really smart guy and that's also obvious within like five seconds of bar conversation with you. I would love to, if you wouldn't mind, I'll find some articles, I'll find some essays, I'll send you some things that go deeper into the kinds of points I'm trying to make and why saying that white privilege is a thing, isn't the same as saying you only got the stuff you got because you're white, because that's not what I'm saying.
Doug: I'll definitely read that, but when I hear a lot of people talk about white privilege, it's got such a nasty, negative connotation about it, that it seems like that's all they're saying. They're saying it's because you're white.
Samia: Then the messaging needs to get better.
Doug: It does.
Doug: Just like with Black Lives Matter. Well, why don't blue lives matter?
Samia: They do.
Doug: Do black lives matter more?
Samia: Nobody's saying that black lives matter more than other lives. They are just saying that black lives matter as much as other lives, which has not been the case in our country.
Doug: But when I've seen people go out on YouTube, thank you, go out and they're counterprotesting and they have signs that say All Lives Matter. They're getting beat down, they're getting shouted down, they're-
Samia: And the reason for that is, because in our country that hasn't been the case.
Doug: So, why not celebrate that all lives matter?
Samia: I mean, everybody can agree that all lives matter, but the reason that people on the progressive side get upset when someone says that, is because it's not taking historical context into account. Black Lives Matter is a movement that is saying, "Black lives also matter guys, you can't just kill us and leave our bodies in the streets." Which still is a thing that happens. I mean, Michael Brown's body was left in the street for a really long time before anyone came and got it. Do you think that ever would've happened in a white neighborhood, a white teenager?
Doug: Yeah, I've seen it, because the crime scene was still being actively investigated and the white sheet was over the body and they're waiting on the coroner and everything to be set before they can do anything. So I've seen it happen the other way, but black lives also matter. B-L-A-M, BLAM, would've made a much better acronym than BLM and I think it would've gotten a lot more support globally.
Samia: I'm with you that progressive messaging needs to get better. Every time I have a conversation with a conservative, there's more commonalities than not. Both of us want people to have equality. We want men and women to have equality. We want all the races to have equality. We want people to have the same opportunities as everybody else. We don't like the idea of you know, the rich and powerful controlling everything at the expense of the poor masses. Right? Like, we're on board with this stuff.
Doug: Yeah. Absolutely.
Samia: It's the messaging that's alienating people on both sides.
Doug: And I think my gripe about white privilege is, I think the argument really needs to be about rich privilege than white privilege, because that's really what it is. I can find as many not well off individuals who are white, they were not getting any of this so called white privilege that supposedly everyone says that whites have. I'm not seeing it. I can find a lot of black individuals and Asian individuals who undo, just by existing, the argument for white privilege. Not because they exist, but their circumstances that got them in that position, counter the arguments for white privilege. It's an economic issue and it's not sexy. It doesn't sell in the news. I hate when I pick up my phone and I see local news back in my home state and they say, "There was an officer involved shooting," because I see two headlines. I see some that say, "Officer involved shooting" and then I see, "Officer involved shooting with a black male." Well, I don't care that this person was black or white, automatically that makes it a racial issue. It's an officer involved shooting. Okay. What happened? Why did it happen? Was the officer justified? If he was not justified, was it a racial issue? If he was justified in doing what he did, it doesn't matter. Race should never be brought into the situation, but that's not what gets headlines. That's not what gets attention. It doesn't get traction, calling it white privilege or black entitlement or anything else you wanna call it, that's what gets a lot of attention. Having this conversation, you make me think I'm a lot more progressive than I thought I was conservative.
Samia: Maybe. Maybe.
Doug: Maybe so. So you had said that you wanted to better understand a right leaning and male points of view and stuff. The trade off is as you are doing that, you have a white male who thought he was very right leaning on some things, finding that I'm actually a little more progressive than I thought I was.
Samia: You know, I think that most people want a good life for the people in the world, the people in their country, the people around them. Most people, if they had their way, would like to see everybody leading a happy good life, where their basic needs are being met and that's something that unites the vast majority of us. Sure, there're extremists everywhere that want crazy, awful things to happen, but the majority of people are good, and if we can talk through our differences, instead of calling each other names and judging each others characters as being bad because of one opinion or one misused word or you know... I have a lot of liberal friends who, the second you said, "reverse racism," would have been like, "He's an asshole. He's an idiot. I'm not going to talk to him." And that's just not the case and that is damaging to our country.
Doug: Yeah, it is.
Samia: So thank you, Doug. Thank you so much for agreeing to have this conversation with me. I feel like I got a lot out of it.
Doug: I did too. A lot more than I thought I would.
Samia: Awesome. All right. Great. Thank you so much.
Samia: Well, that wasn’t so bad, was it? I’m endlessly surprised at how easy it is to have a productive conversation with someone you disagree with if you’re just willing to see them as a person instead of the physical embodiment of ideas you hate. If you’re just willing to listen rather than label, to understand rather than condemn outright. If we can create constructive dialogues across the political aisle, we might be able find solutions that make sense for everyone.
You’ll find a transcript of this episode at makeamericarelatepodcast.com, as well as a few links on feminism and white privilege I think are worth exploring - especially if, like Doug, you just haven’t seen evidence of these things in your own experiences.
If you like the show, please leave us a 5-star review on iTunes or whatever podcast app you use. Those reviews are vital for helping new listeners find the show, and I read and appreciate every single one.
Many thanks to Garan Fitzgerald for recording this episode, Chris Gilroy for mixing and editing it together, and the team at Better Angels Media for all their support.
Thank you so much for tuning in. We’ll be back next week with a conversation between a conservative Christian and a liberal Muslim...who just happen to be best friends. You’ll definitely want to hear what those two have to say - I found their conversation immensely inspiring, and even learned a few things about how to have these sometimes difficult conversations.
This has been Make America Relate again. We’ll see you next week.