Sunday, June 01, 2008

The Joys of Privilege

PS: (I know, it's at the beginning, so more of a pre-script, but still...) A small disclaimer: I wrote this post in direct response to fairly raw and fresh anger, and this may well not be the experience of many folks out there. It's more about my reaction and learning... so not a generalization. Well, you'll see.


This weekend was spent with booze, cards, friends, barbecues and mucho dancing in the Hamptons. I met lots of new people and generally had a bonza time.

The Hamptons, however... not so impressed. We were going there as a privileged group, all highly educated people, professionals - doctors, bankers, lawyers. Ugh, that makes us sound horrible. Anyway, we're experiencing this privileged lifestyle, but then last night, trying to go out dancing, something occurred which left me with a deeply unpleasant taste in my mouth and made me again realise how fragile that privilege is. It was one of those awakening moments, where one genuinely learns something new, experiences what it's like to walk in another's shoes. We decided to try a club for dancing, and our first attempt was unsuccessful, as the place was only taking those with reservations. It didn't look that great, but it was annoying, as we had to get in another cab. Still, no worries - we'd go to the place a group had gone to the night before.

And that is where the bad thing happened. We did not have a reservation, 'tis true. We were a very big group, that cannot be denied. Still, while members of our group were... discussing the merits of our case with the bouncers, groups of people walked past, strolled in. And there was something clearly distinguishing us from them - lack of white denim, we came by cab, not needing valet... but, mostly, in a group of about 25, there were 2 white folks and everyone else not. Whereas everyone who sauntered in past us was white (other than two extraordinarily beautiful, tall skinny black girls).

It seemed so obviously racially motivated that it was utterly ridiculous last night, and reflecting on it today, it just seems surreal. Now, as I say, maybe it was because we really didn't have a reservation, but that wasn't a problem for the other people, many of whom didn't even seem to be asked about it. It may have been that we were a very large group but, then, well over our number walked in just while we were there. Or, it may have been about race in that not many people of colour live in Southampton, and that would explain why 99% of those who went there were white. The is also no other way to say Eff You than spend a fortune in there, to show you're good enough and you have the cash, but giving them money was the last thing I or any others wanted to do.

Maybe it was, maybe it wasn't. But this sort of slight happens often enough to the people who were there that it almost doesn't matter - it's just one more thing in a long line of insults and exclusion. It was a horrible window into a world about which I don't have a clue, just glimpses. It's not just the discrimination, the lack of being able to do exactly what you want to do wherever you want to do it, but the suspicion, the mistrust. And so, a reminder of the privilege I experience by just not having to think about these things on a daily basis.


person in chair said...

Yuk--Not being there, I can't tell you whether you experienced a racial incident or not. However I can say that the hamptons are known for being a "who knows who" environment in which very insecure people flaunt their (often ill-deserved) money and attitude. The dance clubs out there are the epicenter of such cheese. Most likely the people who cut you in line knew, greased the palms of, or otherwise intimidated the bouncers. Try the east end again when it is not a summer weekend. Or better yet, come visit the north fork :) so you won't think that long island is completely awful!

pumpkin said...

Given how I generally dislike clubs on Manhattan (which is a shame, what with my love of the dancing), it shouldn't have been that surprising that the clubbing experience was horrible. It was just... stark.

I'm not averse to more chilling in that part of the world. Now I know better, to avoid $25 cover / reservation only horrors. So long as we have dance parties. I loved the dance parties. And the deck. And the barbecue. Sigh.