I’m having an insomniac moment, so maybe if I put my thoughts down and get them out of my head, I can get some decent rest?
I’ve been hearing some very interesting conversations about discrimination, lately. On one side, we have my black friend who posted her belief that indeed more white people face racial discrimination. On the other side, we have countless human rights activists of all races posting about how white people have absolutely no right to feel discriminated because white privilege exists and it is so ingrained within our society that white folks do not even realize it exists.
The concept of whiteness, which is embedded in a belief of racial superiority, and refers to white privilege in all it’s glory, has been thrown around quite a bit, and I am trying to understand the struggle non-white people face. But let’s be real. It is not my struggle, so I can only imagine, based on my own struggles what systemic racial oppression looks and feels like.
I have a series of statements that I’d like to post concerning my thoughts on the entire situation, I’d like to share.
First, you cannot please everyone. Invariably, pretty much every statement I make is going to piss someone off. If that is you, please know I’m truly sorry and that was never my intent.
That being said, let me say that our society does have oppression ingrained within it, and many people do not even realize they are being oppressive when they are. We are a patriarchal, white privilege, heteronormative, ableist, cisgender, binary-required society and anyone not fitting in those narrow boxes will face systemic oppression and discrimination at some point in their lives.
However, I also want to note one very important point. Many believe the oppression of these groupings is exclusive. The oppression women face has nothing to do with the oppression racial minorities face. Being a person with a disability won’t mean you can comprehend sexual or gender discrimination. This leaves individuals who fall within various groups on their own. Rather than see oppression as oppression, we individualize our own struggles and work as separate entities, so the black, queer, woman in the wheelchair has competing priorities and competing systems of oppression.
For some, there is no room for intersectionality. Why do we do this? This leads to exclusion, within the already excluded minority groups. Yes, she’s black, but she’s not able to walk, so that aspect of her oppression has no merit on what she faces as a black woman. She’s a woman, but we won’t include her because she faces different forms of oppression than us white women. She’s in a wheelchair, so just forget about all other groups. We just don’t have access for her, and she’s queer, so why would we want to include her in the disability community? Well, some of us will, but those of us who see her as a dirty sinner won’t give her the time of day! This fits the profile of one of my best friends, and I’ve seen her rejected from community upon community within her own minority groups for not fitting their molds of what she should be, for them. It’s maddening!
Granted, the oppression may be for different reasons. Case in point, the LGBT and disability communities. Both groups face similar issues of discrimination. These include issues on housing, adoption, marriage inequality, workplace discrimination, and the list goes on. However, the causation behind each is different. So instead of finding the common link (we are discriminated against) and working to eradicate all forms of ____ discrimination, we work separately ignoring the argument of strengths in numbers.
The Civil Rights movement paved the way for many other minority movements. Discrimination still exists, but blacks have won marriage rights not once, but twice (for black couples and for interracial couples). Workplace discrimination still exists, but is less rampant than it was prior to workplace protections being put in place. Kicking someone out of a home or not even letting them move in for being a racial minority is cause for a massive lawsuit and rightfully so. Our other movements could do well to learn from these examples, and those who have gained rights could be great role models for those of us still fighting for rights. Remember, there IS strength in numbers.
Keeping all of this in mind, I must say, discrimination within these communities occurs. People with disabilities can be racist. There are plenty of racist crips. There are plenty of homophobic crips. There are plenty of ableist LGBT people and racist LGBT people. There are plenty of homophobic and ableist racial minorities, too. There are ableist, racist, homophobic women and men. There are misogynistic crips, racial minorities and LGBT folks. We cannot deny there are haters in every group.
I agree with my friend who says white people can be discriminated against for being white. I see white-hating racial minorities just like I see anti-able-bodied crips, heterophobic gay people, cisgender hating trans folk, and men hating women. The biggest criticism I have against man-hating feminists (not feminists in general – please note this – there are MANY non-man hating feminists – many I call my friends) is that they do not want equality. Some women want gender superiority. They seek to humiliate, denigrate, and oppress men, the way women have been oppressed for centuries. I understand the struggle these women have faced, but must hasten to say this is not equality.
As such, I have seen some racial minorities (and I say racial minorities as I mean not just Black people but Asians, Native Americans, and Latino folk, too) who hate white people. They want white folks to pay for the ‘sins’ of their ancestors. They want white people to experience the oppression they have faced and they state white people cannot be hated because of white privilege, so it is okay to want to oppress/hate them. I refuse to say white people are oppressed. I don’t believe, in our current society, they are, but can they be hated? can they be discriminated against? I fully believe they can. I also believe this is not equality.
Equality means we are all equal. No one group is better than the other. This is what we should strive for in our quest toward ending oppression. When they cut us open we all bleed the same. We should remember this, but often, we only worry about our own struggles. We don’t think about our fellow human beings.
I do not want to oppress anyone. I strive to watch what I say. I strive to set a good example for others. I want us not to worry about the outer characteristics of our bodies (skin color, physical ability) or inner workings (sexuality, gender identity, mental capability, mental or emotional health) of our minds. Instead, we should focus on our humanity. We are all humans. We all have the ability to offer something to the world. That should count for something.
I just want to add, in conclusion, that I believe people when they say racism is systemic. Ableism is too. We have an entire belief ingrained that being disabled is bad. Look how many people seek cures for disabilities, write how people with disabilities are suffering or discount them as human beings. Women also face systemic discrimination. Every minority group does, which is why we are the minority. We need to recognize we are not alone and work together to fight all forms of discrimination and oppression. Together, we can become the majority. Apart, we fight separate battles…alone.