Pride

Language fails us. It is an imperfect way to express what is going on in our minds, but it is the best tool we have right now. I don’t know if English tends to be clearer and more nuanced than other languages (but maybe I will someday), but in English, the same word means many different things to different people. The meanings might overlap a bit, but they are inevitably influenced by both the sender and the receiver of the word.

The clarity (or lack thereof) of language comes to mind clearly when I think of the word “Pride”. When is it appropriate to be proud? Pride seems to fall roughly into one of two categories: individual and collective. Individual pride is overcoming adversity, doing what is right, working hard and accomplishing something. It is writing a book, volunteering to serve in the military, climbing a mountain, or raising a child. It is being a driving force in changing the world.

Collective pride seems to be based simply on being born and is not influenced at all by individual actions. It is luck of birth and who you were raised by, it is a privilege of sorts that is unearned. Collective pride can be a tool, a weapon against a stronger force. It is a way to stand up and say that you exist when those in power would like to pretend that you don’t or would like to criminalize your existence.

This is a valuable and necessary weapon for the oppressed and can bring about greater freedom and equality, but it is also a dual-edged blade. Warmongers and preachers will use collective pride to motivate people who are not oppressed to support of violent and immoral acts. These leaders will use race or nationality as a way to unite people by spreading propaganda that they are (or will be soon) oppressed based on race or nationality, even when there is no evidence. Certainly, some groups (white, men, Christian, American) are losing power, but not all power loss is a bad thing. Slaveowners lost power, and it was good. British Imperialists lost power, and it was good. And White, Christian, American, men have disproportionate power in the world today and a reduction of that power will be a good thing.

Certainly, some groups (white, men, Christian, American) are losing power, but not all power loss is a bad thing. Slaveowners lost power, and it was good. British Imperialists lost power, and it was good. And White, Christian, American, men have disproportionate power in the world today and a reduction of that power will be a good thing. And to me, that is where the difference between Black Pride and White Pride, Gay Pride and Straight Pride, etc comes in. One group is fighting for power and publicly proclaiming who you are and that you don’t fear the group in power is a radically individual act, a source of the first form of pride discussed. The other group may feel like they are losing power, but they are not oppressed. There is no real concern that being a Christian in public will get you killed in the United States. Straight people aren’t being bashed for being straight. Men aren’t being raped or murdered for denying sexual advances from women. White people aren’t worried about being shot by cops simply because police are “in fear for their life” simply because of their skin color. Many power hungry “leaders” may say otherwise, but it simply isn’t true.

There is no real concern that being a Christian in public will get you killed in the United States. Straight people aren’t being bashed for being straight. Men aren’t being raped or murdered for denying sexual advances from women. White people aren’t worried about being shot by cops simply because police are “in fear for their life” simply because of their skin color. Many power hungry “leaders” may say otherwise, but it simply isn’t true.

Again, language fails. As I think about it, what we call “Black Pride” (or pride in any group that faces oppression) isn’t really about pride in being Black, it is about pride in being unashamed or unafraid of being Black. It is an individual act based on a collective attribute.

At least that’s how it seems to me. Admittedly, I’m just a random cis white guy sitting at a computer drinking coffee. I’ve never faced real oppression for who I am, and as such, I have no pride in my race, nationality, or gender. I’m not proud to be American, and I don’t think anyone should be. I’m not proud to be white, and I don’t think anyone should be. I’m not proud to be a man, and I don’t think anyone should be. There is no pride in playing life on easy mode. I have pride in things, but those are individual accomplishments. I am proud of writing a book, cycling around the country for two years, and volunteering to serve in Afghanistan. I am proud of earning my degree and working to improve housing policies across the country. Pride is a weapon (like all weapons) should only be used against those in power, and someday I hope that pride (like all weapons) will no longer be necessary.

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