Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Gay/Black/Female ... and Performance Tuning

Had a long discussion with Steve Barnes about privleged classes, who's got it harder and why ... grew out of the disagreement we had over Clint Eastwood's "Unforgiven."

Steve is black -- by American social standards, anyway, he's about a third white by his estimate -- and his take is that in terms of social impedence, blacks have it hardest, followed by gays, followed by women. My take ran women, blacks, gays -- and why I think that, or he thinks that, isn't really the point: what do you think?

Do you cross more than one of those categories? If you're male, black and gay which part of your life's been harder to manage? If you're female, black, and gay, ditto?

If you, like me, are a straight American white guy and among the blessed of the earth -- and there's not a shred of sarcasm in that description -- I'm mildly interested in your opinion, but I'm more interested in your reports of people you know -- find someone who crosses two of those lines, and ask them -- which part of your identity has been harder to manage and caused you the most static in your life?

... and yes, I know the world isn't white people and black people, but the relationship between whites and blacks in this country is different from the relationships between any other groups of people, for obvious historical reasons. 70% of this country is still white, and the people "we as a group across time" have sinned against most thoroughly is that of "blacks as a group across time" -- I'm not asking anyone to shoulder the burden of past generations here, just to be aware of context.

That said ... if you're Latin or Asian or whatever and also gay or female, I'd certainly be interested in where your difficulties have arisen.

Summing up: which part of your identity, or that of the people you know and can question, has been hardest for you/them to manage, making your way through life?

I'd love to know.


One of my clients wants me to teach his DBAs how to do performance tuning -- I'm thinking about booking a hotel conference room and offering a 2 day course to any interested DBAs or architects.

Examples will be in T-SQL, though, magnetic media being magnetic media, the general principles will be broadly applicable across platforms -- I'm currently doing an evaluation/recommendation for a Fortune 500 finance company that uses Oracle, for example. I'm nowhere near as hardcore Oracle as I am SQL Server, but -- I managed a mission-critical Oracle environment for a $2Bn a year multinational for a year and ahalf, and end of day data is data, tables are tables, indexes are indexes, and disks are disks -- and SQL is mostly SQL despite flavors: most of it comes across.

If you're interested or know someone who is, drop me a line. The course will be taught in the Los Angeles area, if it's taught at all.


Anonymous said...

For myself, the hardest label is autistic, and that's why I fight it so hard. If an HR department hears that, your application gets deep-sixed. The UC-Davis MIND institute for autism research has ads like "Autism is a complex neurological disease that breaks the brain of a child and shatters the lives of every person in the family." Tons of well-meaning people will clamor to "help" you in ways that you really find intolerable.

I have one friend who got turned into an amphetamine junkie by the State. As a kid he was misdiagnosed as ADD. In those days you couldn't be autistic unless you were also mentally retarded. So he got misdiagnosed as ADD instead, and put on dexedrine (Adderall). Dexedrine helps some autists a little bit, doesn't help others at all. My friend was in the latter category. So the docs upped the dosage on him year after year ("we just haven't found the right dose") until he was stoned out of his mind for the rest of his childhood. At that point "we haven't found the right dose yet" became "we're sorry, but this is the best we can do."

Today he's a recovering amphetamine junkie. Dexedrine's a hell of a drug. The long-term effects are genuinely scary.

Posted anonymously because I don't want the public at large to hang the autist label around my neck. I'm pretty sure you can figure out who this is, though.

Dan Moran said...

Yes, I can. Someone arguing guns with me a few posts back assumed I knew who he was, and I didn't (unless that was you too) ... this time I do know.

Just for the record, thanks for turning me onto Leonard Cohen. I was always a fan of "Everybody Knows," though I didn't know that was Cohen singing it -- but Suzanne, Famous Blue Raincoat ... shit, Hallelujah? I must have listened to that song 50 times.

Reminds me of Kris Kristofferson -- very good singer, but a great songwriter. I'm in your debt on that one.

Anonymous said...

You aren't the only one to have seen a connection between Kristofferson and Cohen; Kristofferson himself is a big fan. He's said multiple times that the opening stanza from "Bird on a Wire" will be his epitaph.

Like a bird on a wire
Like a drunk in a midnight choir
I have tried, in my way
To be free.

As for me, my will states that anybody who wants anything from my estate needs to sing "Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life" by the graveside. Different strokes.

If you haven't picked up Cohen's Ten New Songs yet, you really need to--I think it's his best album since I'm Your Man. It may be his best album ever. I'm in the minority here, but I think that time has made his voice better and not worse. In the beginning he had this thin, reedy, high-pitched, almost effeminate wail. Today it's all smoke and whiskey and gravel. By this time next week he's going to be audible only to dogs.

His Book of Longing also has some very good things in it, too.

Out of the thousands
who are known,
or who want to be known
as poets,
maybe one or two
are genuine
and the rest are fakes,
hanging around the sacred precincts
trying to look like the real thing.
Needless to say
I am one of the fakes,
and this is my story.

Shawn said...

My wife says that being a second-generation immigrant (parents from India) has been much more of a hurdle in her life than being a woman. Mostly due to a tendency to be ignored in "big picture" discussions, and other stereotyping.

Oddly enough, most of the artists I really like have covered Cohen songs. Maybe I only hear the covers from the ones I like, though.

I intend to have Jonathan Coulton perform at my funeral if at all possible.

Pagan Topologist said...

I am a straight white male. I have two close friends who are gay black women. Both of them have suggested to me that being female is actually an advantage if one is gay and black, and that being black is more of a disadvantage than being either gay or female.

I have also observed that black women students, in addition to being more numerous at the university where I teach, are most often academically more successful than black men. To me this suggests that they have an easier time coping with the environment than do black men, for whatever reason.

David Bellamy

Steve Perry said...

Being a white guy, I'm usually not dealing with that look-down-the-
nose attitude, but sometimes, it depends on context.

Back when I was young and looking for a skill to take to the communal farm upon which our hippie crowd was gonna go live on, I thought maybe medical skills would be useful. Cheapest way to get into that was a vo-tech nursing school that the state would pay for.

I applied and got in. Probably because I was a minority.

And as one of two men who made it to the end -- three others flunked out -- I was very often resented greatly by women who did not think it appropriate that men should be nurses.

That I had the best grades didn't help. When we got into clinical practice at the hospital, I had one teacher who gave me a "C" in pediatric nursing. I aced every written test. I had two children, and loved working with kids. As far as I could tell, I never made a mis-step in dealing with kids on the pediatric floor. But this instructor was not happy to see a man in her profession, and that was a problem I couldn't fix.

It was so ... unfair!

Not often the white guy gets to feel the impact of sexism that way. It was most illuminating. It gave me a small measure of what it must feel like to be the Outsider. Only a small one, but it did help me understand how terrible it must feel to deal with that all the time, almost everywhere you go.