Introducing guest blogger, Eric David, my brother and my friend. Eric is working to earn his Masters of Social Work at IUPUI downtown Indy and works as a valet at the Columbia Club on the circle. Let’s put our hands together for Eric!
I bet I can make most of you exceedingly infuriated in just one sentence.
You are racist.
Not mad? How about this one?
You are sexist.
You are homophobic.
These are things that no one wants to be identified as (if you are a person that does want to identify as one of these things, I suggest that you stop reading). And yet, in our western world, we are confronted with racism, sexism and homophobia (henceforth referred to as ‘-isms’) on a daily basis. I am writing this to make a simple case: if you are not anti-racist then you are racist, if you are not anti-sexist then you are sexist and if you are not anti-homophobic then you are homophobic. It is impossible to remain neutral on a moving train.
And the moving train is called…. institutionalized oppression. I am a person who cares a lot about these issues and I frequently get into long arguments with people because I talk about -isms a lot. By far, one of the most contentious matters of discussion is the idea of reverse -isms. For example, another white person might say, “How come there are scholarships available exclusively for black people or people of color but not white people, that’s reverse racism!” But I contend that reverse racism, or reverse isms of any kind do not exist. I contend that many people misunderstand what an ism actually is.
What we need to understand about oppression is that it is a large scale pattern that unfairly disadvantages a specific group of people consistently over time at the hands of another group of people. Sure, a black person could assault a white person because he is white and that is wrong, but the white person still has advantage (dare I say privilege) in almost every conceivable way over the black person apart from that incident. The same for LGBT folks. Of course, we have made progress, great progress, but society is still set up to favor white, straight males in innumerable ways.
I will not list them or make an attempt to actually categorize privilege and discrimination, but I will challenge you to a consideration.
If you are a man, spend a day contemplating what it would be like to be a woman in this world. How would the consequences of your sexual/relational actions be different? Are there things that you wouldn’t do because of the reactions you might get? Would you feel differently in certain environments that could hinge on physical or perceived physical strength?
If you are a white person, consider the daily life of a minority person or a person of color. Will people assume bad things about you the minute they see you? Why are you so poorly represented in the media? Only 43 of the 535 members of congress are people of color, what does that mean for you?
And if you are straight, reflect on life as a queer person. Can you hold hands with the person you like/love in public without being afraid? Can you marry that person? Can you talk casually with your friends about sexual or romantic attraction? How are you represented in the media and government? What church will you attend?
We learn to be considerate as a toddler, we are forced to share and apologize and behave mindfully of others throughout childhood, and then we unlearn it. We dehumanize people different than us and are never held accountable for what that means for the victims of these erroneous -isms.