So my friend G was introduced to someone in management. She pronounced her name, spelled it, told him that she was not Hispanic. He looked at her and without even a thought replied, “I’ll call you Beth.” He made no attempt at her name. He diminished her importance by ignoring her name. She doesn’t have my sense of humor (fortunately) because I would have replied, “Then I will call you Ghodi Kee Chot,” or some outrageously long Indian name. If Mark Grudzielanek had walked in and been signed to play baseball with this jerk, would he have called him Smith? The thing is, I don’t know many jerks like this guy that G was dealing with.
Most people will at least try to make the person feel good by massacring his/her name. It’s still a form of address that we all agree is essential to keeping the lines of communication open. There are many jerks that don’t consider themselves jerks because they have overestimated their own importance in the world, their own intelligence and insight, their own social acumen. You’ve met these people. They are the cool people wannabes. They are the advisers that no one listens to. They write the rants that you read on Facebook and say to yourself, “Did he actually read what he was writing?”
Then there are the wise, the insightful, the actually cool people. They seek wisdom; they seek insight; and are cool because they are real and not posers…they don’t take themselves too seriously. A jerk will see a wise man looking for wisdom and call him a fool because everybody already knows the answers that elude this wise man. Of course the world is FLAT otherwise everyone would fall off! Of Course there are cyclops! They found the skulls in Greece. Of Course people of color are inferior–they don’t even speak English. Doh. The jerk sees the insightful man looking for the meaning of life and scoffs. “Really? The meaning of Life is beer and Football!” The jerk believes that the man who treats his spouse with deference and respect is Hen pecked. And of course you can come up with lots of examples of female jerkmanship.
The fact is, most people that believe there is a white privilege are buying into the dream that of course white people have more of everything than everyone else. That is patently not true. The statement makes them feel superior. Then when they are made to feel guilty for having this privilege, it actually reinforces the idea that they DO have more value than anyone else, and should give up some of their privilege to even things out. News flash…things are pretty much even. The privileged class are the ones with money. It has nothing to do with country of origin or skin color.
Leadership application? The corner office will give you a false sense of entitlement. Moving with the big wigs gives you a false sense of superiority. Don’t get blind sided by your own assumptions because, as I said above, jerks don’t think they’re jerks. If you consider yourself wise, seek wisdom. If you consider yourself competent, continue to improve. If you consider yourself “cool” take a step back and just be yourself. There is no hierarchy of value because there is not a consistent, worldwide definition of the value of a person.