Privilege Can Be Petty — and Dangerous

So, CNN White House correspondent Jim Acosta had his hard pass revoked this week after he challenged President Trump in a post-midterm election press conference.

USA Today reported that “news organizations condemned the move, calling it a threat to freedom of the press. “Such interactions, however uncomfortable they may appear to be, help define the strength of our national institutions,” a statement from the White House Correspondents Association said. “We urge the White House to immediately reverse this weak and misguided action.”

I like the Association’s statement for several reasons: They acknowledge that certain discussions between press and politicians will naturally be uncomfortable, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. Then the Association points out that — and here I’m editorializing a bit — the White House’s knee jerk response is both weak and dangerous, as it sets a careless precedent about both democracy and freedom of the press.

The killing part about it, the video the White House used to justify revoking Acosta’s credentials was reportedly doctored. The White House said Acosta was aggressive with an intern, and that’s unacceptable, hence he’s out. I’d like to posit that an intern trying to yank the mic away from a seasoned journalist is also unacceptable. In an AP story discussing the incident and the subsequent video doctoring, the intern appears more aggressive than Acosta, who remained calm and collected even in the face of her hair flipping rudeness.

That the White House would kick out a reporter for verbally challenging a person of authority — even if it is the President of the United States — using fake news as proof of wrongdoing, is an egregious abuse of power. “It is the essential function of a free press in every democracy to independently gather and report information in the public interest, a right that is enshrined in the First Amendment,” said Julie Pace, AP’s Washington bureau chief, in the aforementioned AP story. “We strongly reject the idea that any administration would block a journalist’s access to the White House.”

Privilege — the ease with which those who hold some advantage over others will circumvent rules, moral or otherwise, to bolster their own self-interests — can be extremely petty, but here’s the thing about that. Being petty can be dangerous.

CNN ran an interesting story about a group of people it described as “too woke to vote.” The article described them as black people who “follow elections. They hate racism. They talk all day about “The Man” oppressing their people.

“They’re just too hip to vote because they think America is too irredeemably racist for voting to make a difference…After Tuesday’s midterms — when one black candidate for governor narrowly lost in Florida and another trailed in a Georgia race still too close to call — I wondered what those “too woke to vote” were telling their voting friends and families now,” wrote John Blake.

I wonder that too.

These too cool for school people who think voting is a waste of time are also privileged — and petty, and lazy. If they were not privileged, they wouldn’t have that attitude. Or, shall I say, they would not be able to express it so freely. To be able to run your mouth about the problems with voting, even as you turn your nose up at the idea that you should expend some energy to contribute in the process, is a privilege.

Not so long ago black people couldn’t say shit but yes, sir, no sir, and how high do you want me to jump for absolutely no damn reason, sir? It was the ability to vote that helped to change that. But perhaps these black people have forgotten?

I imagine this “too woke” group has probably grown quite comfortable. Even if they’re not wealthy, they’re likely not struggling for life or death as they navigate a democratic system created with one particular group of its citizens comfort in mind. A system that can be changed at the whim of our elected officials, the same people they allegedly have no influence over.

And that supposed lack of influence is a stupid lie. The argument is far too easy to disprove. Consider the many firsts that came about after this midterm election. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez became the youngest woman ever elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, and there were many other newly elected black, female, LGBT and Muslim people who will now have a voice and a platform upon which to advocate for their respective groups best interests.

If voting is as worthless as they think, why would Texas District Court Judge Glenn Devlin— after he lost his bid for reelection — let all of the juvenile offenders who appeared before him go, and then allegedly say, “Hey, look, this is obviously what the voters wanted”? That’s a perfect example of someone privileged being petty AF, where that pettiness could easily translate to danger for the community at large.

Privilege is often petty, but don’t let current comforts blind you to the danger that a privileged attitude could have on your life. Voting gives you considerable power when done en masse. That’s what democracy, with all its flaws, is all about. And that’s why we need members of the media like Jim Acosta to be free to point a crooked finger at those in power and ask tough questions.

The voting process is not perfect. It can be corrupted. It can be annoying, haphazard, disorganized. You may have to stand outside in the cold or the rain in a long, ridiculous line with a bunch of crabby ass people. That was my experience on November 5th. But I consider that temporary discomfort relatively minor when faced with the idea that my pettiness could potentially be the opening sally in my destruction, or the destruction of people who look like me.

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