This post is no longer available. (The comments below reflect the original post)
I can’t emphasis this enough but I am learning a little bit about you all as you are learning about me! Since I loved the comments for the original post so much, I didn’t have the heart to throw the whole thing in the trash, so I’m keeping them here as is. 
This blog is like a sandcastle for me, I am honing my skills at writing, constantly correcting and shifting the sands as I learn more and more. It is a never-ending process. This particular post conveys a central theme that I would like the opportunity to explain and illuminate further in a longer, more nuanced piece. I hope to share it with you when it is ready! A big thanks to all who have read this difficult post, which was has been a very valuable one for me!

alightcirclelenses1mpbaecker

Text and images by M.P. Baecker

4 thoughts on “The Unknown American

  1. As painful as your youth may have been, it was probably a great catalyst for who you are now, your worldliness, and your intellectual curiosity. Great post! Glad you stopped back for one…

    p.s.

    I too had a hatred for the Jennifers and Lindsays, all the Brents, Tylers and Jeremys of yore. Just saying some of those names makes me wanna puke. haha. Americans are really good at giving their kids stupid names.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I sort of come from the opposite side of the equation, although not quite. My parents grew up in working class towns. And I too was born in a working class town. But my dad moved up the career ladder and we were middle class, which combined with whiteness does offer a certain amount of privilege. Still, much of my childhood was spent in very moderate means, such as when my dad went back to school and we were living off of my mother’s salary as a public school teacher.

    I did take a certain kind of privilege for granted when younger. And I spent some formative years in a progressive college town in the Midwest, although those were the poorest years for my family. That college town is where I moved back to, after spending time in public schools in the Deep South (an entirely different kind of experience). I recall having minority friends as a child: Asians, Hispanics, and African-Americans. But maybe in my privileged obtuseness, I didn’t realize what these differences signified or meant in terms of lived experience. I was mostly oblivious to racial and cultural differences until my family moved to South Carolina. It would be interesting to be able to talk to those kids I used to know now that they’re adults. Sadly, the only one of them I had a close relationship to died in college.

    I became more aware of social differences in South Carolina, of course. It wasn’t only the racial divide which was obvious in a public school equally divided in percentage of black and white students. The rest of Southern society was far more segregated than the schools, as the two populations tended to live in different parts of the city and attend different churches. It was different in school, though, since I never felt like I fit into normal Southern society. I hung out with both white and black kids, even though outside of school it was far different. I recall one time when my best friend and I picked up a black friend from the projects and a black woman approached our vehicle to tell us she knew we were undercover cops because apparently, in her experience, white kids like us don’t come to the projects for normal reasons and admittedly that was the only time I visited the projects.

    The bigger divide in the Deep South is class. The neighbor kids who were no richer than us went to private schools. Almost no one seeking to be part of the respectable classes would send their kids to public schools. But as Midwesterners, my parents took it as a point of pride to send me and my brothers to public schools. My closest friend was a working class redneck. In many ways, I was as or more disconnected from the wealthier white kids than from the poor black kids. I was culturally out of place and, combined with other reasons (maybe undiagnosed Asperger’s), I didn’t know how to fit in. My mother raised me with working class values, but in the Deep South being respectable meant acting the complete opposite of working class. A sign that we were of low class, for example, is that we did our own lawn work.

    Mostly, though, I was simply clueless as my earlier Midwestern upbringing didn’t prepare me for it. I didn’t understand that, at that point, my family had become upper middle class. What changed is my dad had gotten his PhD and became a tenured professor. In high school, I worked at a McDonald’s and my brother worked at a Hardee’s. That made us strange because only minorities and poor whites worked at fast food. I’d sometimes drive my dad’s brand new Buick LeSabre to my job and I’m pretty sure my boss was amused as she drove an old clunker.

    Looking back on it, I now realize how much casual and careless racism there was in the Deep South. It’s not that there isn’t racism in the Midwest as well. It’s just not so blatant. My best friend’s mom would say the ‘N’ word and seemingly not mean anything bad by it. My friend would even bring black kids home and his parents would treat them perfectly fine, at least according to my probably inaccurate memory. Moving back to the Midwest has made me hyper-aware of culture. I feel at home here because my sense of normal matches the social norms. There is privilege in that, considering that this progressive town has one of the highest racial disparities in drug arrests in the country. To me, that is only a statistic. But to blacks, it would be a daily reality of how the police treat them.

    There has been some increasing overt racism in this town, I must point out. That is because, as with many other places in this country, the variety and number of minorities is increasing. Blacks get most of the negative attention, as they are perceived as being from Chicago, whether or not that is true. Nonetheless, the largest increase is from other minorities, specifically Asians and Hispanics (many of the former being foreign students who know limited English). It is creating a sense of tension, if only slight as middle-to-upper class progressives try to keep up their pretenses of inclusion. Signifying change, the police force intentionally have hired minorities and the city council now includes minorities. But all of that is rather superficial and creates the false impression that all the bigotry and division is only coming from the political right and from poor whites.

    Midwesterners, especially in the rural farm states, prefer to hide social and economic differences. It’s part of the culture of what is normal. There is a lot of pressure in the Midwest to be normal. But this also sometimes works toward progressivism. As a proud Eagle Scout, Zach Wahls’ interestingly made a conervative-minded argument of Protestant work ethic for why his (white) family with gay mothers should have the same rights as anyone else, since they were respectable contributing members of the community. It was definitely an argument from white privilege — a poor minority couldn’t have made the same argument. It shows how social progressivism can at times mesh with social conservatism. There are often subtle ways about who is considered of value and how they are allowed to defend their right to being valued.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Most people don’t think. Period.

    Your vulnerability is what makes you more human. Looking back, you can see you were the privileged one for you had to go through it all to become the kind of person you are today. I bet they are more miserable and shallow than ever.

    (btw my blog is now private. To read me, just click on my blog to ask for access. Hope to see you at my place.)

    Liked by 2 people

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