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Note: When this diary was published Galtisalie was still a separate pseudonym from Francisco Nejdanov Solomin. Here's an explanation for the prior separate pseudonyms and the decision to discard the separation:

Jonathan Martin
Fitting in is not just about expensive clothes and other "luxury goods," but also can be about subjecting yourself to workplace prejudice with "a smile on your face." When Jonathan Martin is forced to listen to the "N" word as the price of "success," we see abundantly that we have a major league, or in this case, NFL, problem. But this is not really about big-time professional sports, or indeed about sports at all. It is on a social continuum with those routine human diminishments that, everyday and everyplace, the poor have to endure, especially if they are minority and female.

Trying to play the part can be expensive, in more ways than one. Tressie Mcmillan Cottom did an excellent piece the other day at Talking Points Memo on "Why Do Poor People 'Waste' Money On Luxury Goods?". The day before, at Daily Kos, chaunceydevega documented the economic costs of this forced "signaling" behavior in "'Shopping While Black': Is Conspicuous Consumption Related to the Black/White Wealth Gap?".  

Both are important pieces, helpful to me as I attempt to sort out the challenges faced by my brothers and sisters, not all of which I have to bear. They also help me to sort out the challenges that we face as a progressive movement in the U.S. For ours is not just a quest for individual success stories but for the advancement and cherishing of every human being, including those who can be left behind by the successful:

The high marginal costs of “fitting in” are by intention of those who design and most benefit from our consumer society. Prejudice plays an important role for the monetary elite, and it works its ugly way down the economic ladder.

Human beings face extreme pressure to fit into the dominant culture that often reflects pressure to overcome not only class barriers but also race and sex barriers. Impediments and complexities to being among ”the winners” in the bread wars can take many forms. The necessity to reject “invisibility” to fit into a workplace can require adoption of alienating measures that are themselves demeaning or even dangerous in one way or another.

I thought of this recently as I watched a young adult Stanford-educated biracial football player on the professional team I have loved since childhood driven to emotional illness and leaving his team through harassment in the workplace that often was racial in nature. In essence, he was forced to choose between (a) continuing to subject himself to the use of the “N” word and other outrageous bullying conduct, which can lead to dangerous depression as we learn from the many suicides that result; and (b) getting the hell out of there. He chose the latter. Fortunately, under his circumstances, with two Harvard law school-educated parents, he has the tools to finally begin to protect himself and either regain his promising career on the football field or receive significant financial compensation for what he has lost.

But what about those who have to fit into more mundane, but sometimes equally emotionally harsh, workplaces? Fitting in, often by purchasing luxury goods to provide ready-made “status,” can come at the price of losing needed savings–but it also can come at the societal price of losing needed agents of transformation. The “best and the brightest” can sometimes pick themselves up by their bootstraps and find their piece of the rock–but nothing changes to the system designed by the elite.

Would that it were limited to those who have a fighting chance to fight back legally. The quest for peaceful system change to deep democracy is constantly undermined by the expenditure-based "self-improvement" forced up poor people struggling to be noticed in a consumer society:
Peaceful democratic evolution of society to meet everyone’s basic needs is difficult enough already, but if the potential participants are constantly forced to pay high diverting prices to play roles in capitalism to obtain their own means of survival, the needed evolution is less likely to take place. This is yet another subtle “divide-and-conquer” ploy of capitalism.

It is all quite complicated for the individuals involved. To ”judge,” rather than empathize with, “All the Lonely and Invisible People” ... is unfair and counter-productive to helping anyone. Ralph Ellison was keen to observe the tension between being an agent of societal change and remaining true to oneself. ...

“Dressing up” in an expensive and desperate attempt to “leave the hood” prevents full mobilization in the work for freedom, but it also allows the “successful” participants to survive and in some cases amass enough capital to “give something back” to their families left behind. On the other hand, if we are forced to break our own hearts and abandon those we love in the process of “succeeding,” this is too big a price to pay–escape through abandonment is a soul-destroying façade.

Hopefully love can find a way through this morass of oppression.

When a Jonathan Martin stands up for himself, and walks away, yet fights proudly and peacefully, demanding his dignity, he is demanding dignity for everyone. He is doing his part to help "love ... find a way through this morass of oppression." As a species being (and a lifelong Miami Dolphins fan), my prayers and thoughts go with you, Mr. Martin, and also with all those more anonymous people just like you.

(Block quotes above are from "Invisible Men and Women: Pressure to Pay the High Price of Visibility".)

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