Taking Offense

I’ve never been offended in my life so I’m always amused when I meet smart successful people who take offense at the noting of obvious truths.

If I say, “Wow, blacks run really fast!”, people I’ve known will get angry and accuse me of stereotyping because “Not all blacks run really fast.”

If I say, “Blacks tend to be more out-going and more in the moment and more skilled at improvisation than other groups”, people I’ve known will warn me that that kind of talk leads to genocide.

At college, I said to this asian girl next to me on the first day of class, “You look smart”, she got offended. “So you think all asians are smart, do you?” she replied and wouldn’t talk to me the rest of the semester.

Other times, I’ve said, “Seventh-Day Adventists waste a lot of energy and burn up a lot of friendships arguing about theology”, and that offends Christians who regard theology as the most important calling on earth.

I had a Jewish girlfriend who told me she encountered anti-Semitism constantly.

“Could you give me an example?” I asked.
“Yes,” she said. “I worked for this woman and one day she said to me, ‘You people are good at business.'”
“So this person saying that Jews tend to be good at business felt anti-Semitic?”
“Yes.”

Perhaps the thing I’m happiest about over the past five years is that I have entirely avoided feuds. I am no longer at war with anyone I know. I live at peace with people. I stand up for my values, but somehow I’ve learned to do this while getting along with others. I carry no resentment. It will flare up for an hour or two, or occasionally as long as a day, but it never lasts longer than that.

I think it is obvious that different groups have different gifts. I see nothing wrong with noting that high verbal IQ and a propensity for verbal aggression makes Jews great lawyers. Jews, on average, don’t tend to be as good as blacks at basketball and football and rap and other things that put a premium on improvisation. Yet, for many smart people I know, people far more highly accomplished than myself, these remarks are highly offensive and anti-Semitic.

The first time I went to synagogue, I was struck by how most of the Ashkenazi Jews there were shorter than the people I knew and heavier. That first experience corresponds with my general experience in this regard. I’ve read that diminished height among many Ashkenazi Jews is a result of centuries of living in the ghetto. When I say this aloud, however, I’m told that the observation is anti-Semitic.

No group only has beautiful traits. No group has members who are not below average in some things. No group dominates every category. No group is objectively marked out by the universe as superior. These points to me are elementary and yet they offend.

I also don’t get how behaving differently in different contexts makes one a “liar.” Such a charged term and yet so freely thrown around. I feel like a different person with everyone I talk to at any depth. I’m affected by those around me. They bring out different sides of me, they encourage different perspectives and opinions and behaviors. Perhaps I lack a core?

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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