Sunday, January 31, 2010

What's make you an expert?

So I just get done with an equity conference and as always, I'm trying to apply what I've learned to everyday life because that's what you do when you learn.  Right?  So, I'm imbued with these new equity lenses and everything around me is fair game for scrutiny.  Like the new TSA screening lines.  I usually don't pay much attention to them; I know there's a family line and another line for the "casual traveler".  It's common sense that I'm traveling alone so I get in the casual traveler line even though I am not feeling very casual at the moment.  I am feeling rather high strung because you can't check in early anymore, you have to wait for exactly two hours before your flight departs to check in and by the time you get through TSA you have no time to eat or check out the shops, which defeats the whole purpose of having a food court and an airport shopping galleria in the first place!  No, I am feeling more disheveled and hungry by the minute, but I get in the casual traveler line and wait.  Then the inequalities pop out at me.  First, the family line is a total stereotype; there's a silhouette of a dad, mom, a little girl and a little boy.   Heller!  Is this not Polynesia??  We're in the Pacific Islands here, where's uncle and aunty and grandma? Maybe we could switch it up a little or have a collage of family placards.  I'm being facetious but completely serious at the same time.  Families are made up of all kinds of people: two daddies, two mommies, one mommy and two boys, one daddy, one grandma and one get the picture.  Then I peek at the casual traveler placard and while I'm looking for bias, I notice two people getting in yet a third line, one I've never seen before.  It is the "expert traveler" line.  Woa-ho!  Wait just one minute here, what is this?  I look at my fellow casual travelers and then at the experts.  There is almost no difference in our placards except that for the casual folks there are about three more posters of what not to bring and how to pack your stuff properly.  I feel totally offended.  I start to size these guys up.  I have one laptop bag and one rolling tote, and that's because i packed my purse in my luggage so that I could travel lighter and faster.  Mr. Expert has one man purse, one rolling tote with a small duffle bag attached to it (yeah, that totally qualifies as one) and a laptop bag.  Ahem, he is totally over the carry on limit, but what does TSA do? They let him in and they let him in ahead of about ten other people who packed more conscientiously (expertly) than he did!  I am tempted for a minute to get in the other line, but I don't want to look snobbish, so I bide my time and check out expert #2.  Ms. Expert has to be reminded that she cannot bring liquids past screening.  It goes on display at the see-what-these-dummies-who-don't-pay-attention-brought-today-table. I peruse my people, because they have become my people merely through this serendipitous journey, and notice that the couple in front of me are holding a ziplock bag with a Warm Vanilla Sugar mini hand sanitizer in it.  They are so prepared, they didn't have to be reminded of the oz. limitations and yet they didn't get to zip past everyone else.  We are in line at the X-Ray belt.  Ms. Expert is two travelers ahead of me and is standing there fidgeting with her bags when I've already got my laptop under my arm, shoes in my hand and I'm totally ready to get them on the conveyor belt without having to hold anyone else up.  Yo, TSA are you watching this? Which brings me to my point about equity and these delineations, these boundaries we draw for the world.  If you're going to put people in boxes, better make sure you take a good long look at the world around you and that you have enough boxes for everyone.  It's just about impossible, but if you're going to do it, then do it fairly and justly.  Furthermore, if you're going to give some people privileges which they did not earn and probably don't deserve, make sure you have a solid criteria for doing it.  See, most of us are like me at the TSA; stuck in a line watching other people get by with stuff or get away with stuff and we just don't question it because we're either too tired or we think it won't make a difference.  We surely don't question the folks who created those opportunities because they are authority and authority is supposed to know better. point is why not?  How long did it take Rosa Parks to figure out she was going to sit any damn where she wanted and no one was going to stop her?  I know, I still have to write my MLK Jr. Post.  I will.

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