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Author Topic: Resources for Explaining Social Privilege  (Read 1364 times)

Aster Breo

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Resources for Explaining Social Privilege
« on: July 21, 2014, 06:07:10 pm »
Hi, Friends.

I need "beginner" level resources on the concept of social privilege in general, and specifically the issue of words that are in common usage but have a history of being used to support privilege, even though most people probably have no idea of that aspect.

Background (since that might help clarify what I need):  I work with a youth tap dance ensemble.  We perform primarily in the style of tap known as rhythm tap or jazz tap, as oppposed to the style often called Broadway tap (which is what most local dance studios teach).  

Tap is an art form that was born in the US, rooted largely in African dance brought here by people captured and sold as slaves, and in Irish step dance.  It was popularized primarily by African American dancers until it was transplanted to Broadway and the movies, where white dancers modified the style a bit -- hence the current distinction between the rhythm and Broadway forms.  For rhythm tap, think Bill Bojangles Robinson, the Nicholas Brothers, Gregory Hines, Savion Glover.  For Broadway tap, think Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Tommy Tune.  (Note also the preponderance of male names on both lists.  Of course there were and are fantastic female tap dancers.  They just don't tend to be as well known outside the tap world.  Hmmmm.  Wonder why.)

At this point, while rhythm tap will always be rooted in the African American community, it's much more diverse now.  f'ex, it's currently enjoying a huge popularity surge in Japan and other Asian countries. However, tap has never had the kind of acceptance or legitimacy as ballet and contemporary dance.  There are FAR more studios in the US that teach ballet than studios that teach tap.  In the studios that do teach tap, it's usually an add-on, and almost always Broadway tap.  You really have to hunt to find a studio that teaches genuine rhythm tap, and those are almost exclusively in larger cities.

OK. That's the background.

An issue has recently come up among the (mostly young teen) dancers in our ensemble and their parents about the use of the word "tapper" to refer to tap dancers.  That word has been around as long as I can remember (I've been involved in tap for over 30 years), but I don't know where, when, or how it originated -- although I have my suspicions, given the applicable racial dynamics.  Some people in the tap community like "tapper", others don't.  I, personally, do not like it because it feels to me like a way of making tap less than other forms of dance.  I feel like removing the word "dance" from my title as a tap dancer is a (probably completely unconscious) way of de-legitimizing me as a dancer.

I'm sure you can all see where I'm going with this.

Since this issue was brought up (not by me), I feel like it's an opportunity to illustrate social privilege, and I find myself in the position of having to explain the concept to people who are not familiar with it, and to explain how it applies in this case.  I'd be very grateful for some help!

I think I specifically need links to basic explanatory resources, and example of other words  that are used in similar ways.  I'm also thinking that it might be helpful to cite examples of other things that are rooted in the African American community but not valued as highly as similar things from other home cultures (like manners of speech, styles of dress, and kinds of cuisine).  But I'm totally open to suggestions about the most effective way to discuss this issue, especially since I'm not African American.

Thank you for any pointers!

~ Aster
"The status is not quo."  ~ Dr. Horrible

Lysana

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Re: Resources for Explaining Social Privilege
« Reply #1 on: July 21, 2014, 08:13:59 pm »
Quote from: Aster Breo;153547
Hi, Friends.

I need "beginner" level resources on the concept of social privilege in general, and specifically the issue of words that are in common usage but have a history of being used to support privilege, even though most people probably have no idea of that aspect.

 
For the concept of privilege in general, there's John Scalzi's use of a video game metaphor that has opened quite a few eyes. I could go Google-crazy and find other things on specific kinds of privilege (the phrase "invisible knapsack" will get you lots, as will "privilege checklist"). As for the issue of words in common usage that have supported privilege, I'm afraid I'm not sure where you'd even start. Maybe someone's done an essay that's online about "tapper" in specific?

Aster Breo

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Re: Resources for Explaining Social Privilege
« Reply #2 on: July 21, 2014, 08:31:12 pm »
Quote from: Lysana;153566
For the concept of privilege in general, there's John Scalzi's use of a video game metaphor that has opened quite a few eyes. I could go Google-crazy and find other things on specific kinds of privilege (the phrase "invisible knapsack" will get you lots, as will "privilege checklist"). As for the issue of words in common usage that have supported privilege, I'm afraid I'm not sure where you'd even start. Maybe someone's done an essay that's online about "tapper" in specific?

 
Thanks!  I didn't know about "invisible knapsack".  I'll check that out.

Just to clarify:  I'm pretty sure there's nothing out there about "tapper" specifically.  I'm looking for examples of other words that had roots as slurs of some kind but are in common usage to the point that most people don't realize they were ever insults.
"The status is not quo."  ~ Dr. Horrible

Sage

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Re: Resources for Explaining Social Privilege
« Reply #3 on: July 21, 2014, 08:38:56 pm »
Quote from: Aster Breo;153568
Thanks!  I didn't know about "invisible knapsack".  I'll check that out.

Just to clarify:  I'm pretty sure there's nothing out there about "tapper" specifically.  I'm looking for examples of other words that had roots as slurs of some kind but are in common usage to the point that most people don't realize they were ever insults.

 
I can't think of anything specifically about words, but I did run across a wonderful metaphor about privilege and raisins. Specifically this is about representation of PoC in entertainment and why "racebending" a character from white to a PoC is not a problem while whitewashing a character from PoC to white is.

This is a bowl of major characters.

Which... I think is only glancingly relevant to your situation but maybe it can help you put the concept of privilege into other words?
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SunflowerP

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Re: Resources for Explaining Social Privilege
« Reply #4 on: July 21, 2014, 08:50:56 pm »
Quote from: Aster Breo;153568
Thanks!  I didn't know about "invisible knapsack".  I'll check that out.

 
You once did; it was one of the resources linked to in your earlier thread with a somewhat-similar request. (That will be your brain being uncooperative again, I imagine.)

Most of the resources people suggested in that thread should be applicable here too. I'll check my bookmarks and see what else I have to add - the two requests are just different enough that I'm pretty sure I'll have additional ones for you.

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mlr52

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Re: Resources for Explaining Social Privilege
« Reply #5 on: July 21, 2014, 10:38:04 pm »
Quote from: Aster Breo;153568
Thanks!  I didn't know about "invisible knapsack".  I'll check that out.

Just to clarify:  I'm pretty sure there's nothing out there about "tapper" specifically.  I'm looking for examples of other words that had roots as slurs of some kind but are in common usage to the point that most people don't realize they were ever insults.

 
Cowboy, it started as a term to identify black men who herded cows.

Gypped, referred to those of Roma (Gypsies) as a less than honest people.

Indian giver, referred to those we call Native Americans, who while drunk would be persuaded to trade things.  Then when they sobered up would not remember the trade, and want them back.
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Aster Breo

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Re: Resources for Explaining Social Privilege
« Reply #6 on: July 21, 2014, 10:40:41 pm »
Quote from: SunflowerP;153570
You once did; it was one of the resources linked to in your earlier thread with a somewhat-similar request. (That will be your brain being uncooperative again, I imagine.)

Dang it.  I hate when that happens. I actually have no memory of making an earlier request. :-(

Sigh.

I'll check the link.

I feel like a complete idiot.

Quote from: SunflowerP;153570
Most of the resources people suggested in that thread should be applicable here too. I'll check my bookmarks and see what else I have to add - the two requests are just different enough that I'm pretty sure I'll have additional ones for you.

Sunflower

Thank you.
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sailor

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Re: Resources for Explaining Social Privilege
« Reply #7 on: July 23, 2014, 12:10:33 am »
Quote from: mlr52;153596
Cowboy, it started as a term to identify black men who herded cows.


 
Huh, never knew that.  Presumably there was a term for white men?  Was drover for whites only or is that a now odd hard word that has replaced cowboy?

MadZealot

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Re: Resources for Explaining Social Privilege
« Reply #8 on: July 23, 2014, 01:13:48 am »
Quote from: sailor;153666
Huh, never knew that.  Presumably there was a term for white men?  Was drover for whites only or is that a now odd hard word that has replaced cowboy?

I checked one dictionary that said "cowboy" originated in 1623; another said 1725.  
Which is weird, because I understood it to be a direct translation of vaquero; also that cattle-ranching in general came to the Americas via the Spaniards.  
Tried googling 'cowboy is racist term'; that didn't yield much.  Bummer.
« Last Edit: July 23, 2014, 01:15:46 am by MadZealot »
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Aster Breo

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Re: Resources for Explaining Social Privilege
« Reply #9 on: July 23, 2014, 01:58:05 am »
Quote from: mlr52;153596
Cowboy, it started as a term to identify black men who herded cows.

Gypped, referred to those of Roma (Gypsies) as a less than honest people.

Indian giver, referred to those we call Native Americans, who while drunk would be persuaded to trade things.  Then when they sobered up would not remember the trade, and want them back.

Sorry -- I managed to miss this post the first time.

Thank you for these examples!  This is exactly the kind of thing I was looking for. I think "gypped" is a good fit for the point I'm trying to make.

The email conversation I'm involved in that inspired this request has actually been pretty fascinating.  The particular issue -- the word "tapper" -- isn't really a big deal. (Until you factor in the possible racial aspect, which I can't prove.)  But in just a couple of days, I've already had people using classic silencing and minimizing techniques, saying we shouldn't make an issue of this because it's "divisive" (although nobody has explained to me yet exactly who would be divided or how) and that we're being "too sensitive" about a "perceived slight."  Then there's the appeal to authority -- saying the studio's director emeritus uses the word so there's obviously nothing wrong with it.

I haven't started calling those techniques out yet, because I think doing so will add an argumentative tone that we've managed to avoid so far. I've been concentrating on providing the history and context of the issue, pointing out the likely inherent racism, and explaining the whole idea of privilege using the vast difference in popularity and availability of ballet compared to tap as a case in point. Oh, and trying to get people to see that one person being ok with a word doesn't negate another person finding it hurtful. Or that wanting more recognition and legitimacy for tap doesn't mean I think there's anything wrong with ballet.

It's like a tiny microcosm of classic social justice playing out in my inbox.  ;-)
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