Punching down or punching up?

“Why do we have to have a Black History Month?” whined one of my less favorite Weston students in February of 2016. “Why don’t we have a White History Month?”

“Because,” I replied without taking time to think, “every month is White History Month.”

A good answer? Actually, it was okay for a spontaneous unrehearsed reply. But now, if I can wind back the clock, I have an even better reply as a result of recent events here in Boston. I also have today’s follow-up to an incident that I posted about on Facebook on March 29 of this year—but first some remarks about false equivalences, like the one espoused by my former Weston student. As a socioeconomically privileged straight white male, he felt (and probably still feels) aggrieved by any assistance to targeted groups. He claims “not to see color”; as long as he’s on top, everyone else should accept their place as well. So he claimed to believe that substituting one color for another in the name of a celebrated month is only fair. He has never learned the difference between punching up and punching down. As he’s on top, he’s always punching down whenever he attacks. By refraining from doing that (or by refraining from getting caught), he can establish a false equivalence with the unprivileged classmate who is the the target of racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. and who should please refrain from complaining about it. He doesn’t complain about his status, so why should they? This was 2016, remember. When we returned to school in the fall, this student was wearing a MAGA hat. No surprise there.

So what is this “recent event” of which I speak? It’s the forced resignation of two members of the Boston School Committee because of texts they shouldn’t have sent referring to privileged white residents of the suburban part of the city, namely West Roxbury. OK, yes, elected/appointed officials shouldn’t be condemning any identifiable groups of citizens, but those who claim that it’s equivalent to generalizations about Roxbury and Dorchester are simply missing the point. It’s the same false equivalence. These two School Committee members were punching up, not punching down, so you can’t compare it to the opposite situation.

And what about the recent March 29 incident? Many of you who read this blog don’t follow me on Facebook (and vice versa), so let me repeat what I had posted that day on Facebook:

I really don’t need anti-Semitic comments from neighbors at this point. I just went outside to greet the Roche Bros delivery person, and who should also be there but my obnoxious neighbor, who says “Happy Passover! You know, I have nothing against the Jewish faith, but remember that only Jesus guarantees. God promises, but Jesus guarantees, and which would you rather have? The Jewish faith is nothing but promises.”

I was speechless.

Today this same neighbor proceeds to announce that “we” (clearly meaning “White people”) will all be gone from the neighborhood in five years, because so many of “them” (clearly meaning Asians, Blacks, and Latinos) are moving in. So, he’s not only anti-Semitic but also racist. Again, I suppose, no surprise here.

And there endeth the lesson.

Categories: Dorchester/Boston, Life, Weston