Saturday, August 16, 2014

Don't get lost in your "ism".

I was just accused of being racially insensitive for opining that we all need to listen to each other, no matter what our race or creed. This was regarding a strict list of rules written by a person of color about when, if and how to discuss anything related to race if you're white.

Is this what we've come down to?

Truth be told, we live in an age of "isms"; racism, ableism, sexism, ageism... and a hundred more.

If I chose, I could live my life as a sufferer of weight-ism.  Every slight, every sidelong glance, every rejection could be because I'm obese. I could rail at my thin friend that I've been stared at all day because I'M FAT. I could go on and on about how each and every slight is adipose tissue-related and shush her every time she opens her mouth and tell her not to even DARE tell me I'm wrong because she doesn't understand the struggle.

What if she was just trying to tell me I sat in some mustard and have a huge yellow stain on my pants that looks like it's been there all day?

Sometimes the perspective of an "outsider" is worth considering, even if you really HAVE experienced all the bad things because of your "ism", it doesn't mean you can't occasionally be wrong or overreact. To shout down and disregard anyone who tries to point out what you may be missing only hurts YOU in the end.

What if I organized a protest that involved looting Sandy's Donuts to show all those skinny ones that they'd better stop stereotyping us chubsters? Could anyone smaller than I am point out the irony, or should they shut up and eat lettuce because they can't know? Would it help to highlight the very real ways people of girth are discounted in society? I think not. It would end up looking like a bad punch line. (Punch? Will there be cake? :)  )

When I see footage of large groups composed primarily of young black men destroying property and stealing every night, it seems to ooze dissonance. I feel it has nothing to do with the young man who allegedly got shot for being black at the wrong time. IMO, it's because there's an element in society that seems to lie in wait for a spark to justify their rage. It's not "a black thing", necessarily racist to point out or you wouldn't have seen the riots over hockey games, would you?

Was that racist, anti-Canadian or elitist to say?

I don't know what it's like to be black, this is true.  I can't say I know how it feels to walk down the street seeing white people react by clutching their purses a little tighter just because my skin is darker than their fake spray tan.

I also would never dream of trying to tell someone who has experienced racism that I know just how they feel because I too have been excluded for being a fat, white, middle-aged woman. Our experiences are apples and oranges.

I only have a brief sting of being the racial minority under my belt. I got picked on and attacked on the playground for being white the year my Daddy worked at the reservation school. That gives me a peek, but not the full picture.

I don't know what it would be like to live my whole life like that any more than the young mother who told me she knew JUST how I felt about my son's disabilities and health issues because she was so scared that time when her son had to have tubes put in his ears.

I could have accused her of having an ableist outlook that discounted my son's medical issues and trivialized his disability and my own struggles as his sole parent. I have, on occasion, rolled my eyes later on. That's true.  I just have to keep working on seeing the attempt at identifying as what it most likely was... an attempt to connect and open up a conversation.

Working to avoid getting tied up in our respective "isms" is the only way we can hope to feel connected enough to be able to point out the mustard and learn about each other.

End of Ramble.

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