My Thoughts on Racism and #Blacklivesmatter

Untitled design-3Obviously, racism is a widely debated and complex conversation. I am white and I am privileged. I do not encounter racism, ever. I am not discriminated against for the colour of my skin. I am however, a woman, and because of that I am discriminated against and treated differently in certain situations. I am fearful of men in certain situations and I look for ways to protect myself, that men do not have to consider or deal with. In that example, men are privileged. So, I’m going to address some common comments used to “rebuttal” #blacklivesmatter and racism in general and I’m going to come at it from the perspective of woman’s rights. Why? Because hopefully coming at it from a different angle will get through to someone who couldn’t hear it before. I truly believe this is a time for education and learning, not for bullying or attacking. I’m disheartened by people trying to justify or make themselves feel better. I’m also disheartened by people assuming others are “jumping on the bandwagon” or “ignorant” or “racist” because of a comment they made, rather than taking it as an opportunity to teach that person WHY what they said was wrong. Of course, some people really are thick-headed and no amount of teaching with undo their racist values and beliefs. But for those you can teach, try. That is the only way to move forward and see real change. Unfortunately, it takes public murders and riots to make people take notice and it takes people “jumping on the bandwagon” for it to become mainstream and for change to happen.

I was listening to a podcast today about a completely unrelated topic, involving someone trying to teach people about the universe and astrology, etc. and how he believed people weren’t aware of the truth. His beliefs are completely beside the point but what he did say, that I feel applies to the topic at hand (among others) was; “It is easy to accept what you have been taught since childhood and what is wrong. It is difficult when you are an adult to understand that you have been taught wrongly, since you suspected that you were correct.”

  1. ALL LIVES MATTER

I’ve addressed this on my Facebook as well and I’ll share that post here, as I feel it perfectly explains why this statement is problematic. “All lives matter is offensive. Although I’m sure that if you are saying it, you’re not trying to be offensive, you’re trying to be inclusive. I get it. But it’s offensive. All lives are not discriminated against daily. If you’ve never had to think about someone being racist to you, then you are privileged. I am privileged. That is why #blacklivesmatter is important. Just as “me too” has its spotlight, as “gay pride” has its spotlight, let’s take this opportunity to spotlight #blacklivesmatter instead of making it about inclusion because, obviously, it should not be about that.”

To explain this is relation to my above example. If we look at this from woman rights, it would be like if a woman was brutally raped in public and there was public outcry and the hashtag womenslivesmatter was plastered everywhere but then people started referencing men being raped and saying hashtag menslivesmattertoo or alllivesmatter. Yes, it is true and of course all lives matter, no one says they don’t. But it is not the topic at hand and by saying it, you are diminishing the issue at the forefront. I’ll repeat that last part, because I think it is the most important take away “let’s take this opportunity to spotlight #blacklivesmatter instead of making it about inclusion because, obviously, it should not be about that.”

  1. THE RIOTS ARE HURTING THE CAUSE

While destruction of property, businesses and harming of innocent people is obviously horrible and I do not support it. The need to march and riot is crucial to making change. It should also be pointed out that many who are looting, setting fire and destroying properties are not the protestors themselves but people who instigate in order to perpetuate violence and turn the attention away from the issue at hand. This is pretty self-explanatory, I feel, but let’s look at this from the woman’s right view again. This would be like the marches that took place from the suffragists group beginning the 1870’s in Canada to fight for a woman’s right to vote. Marches, rallies, riots, parades; these are all necessary means to fight for rights. We should instead ask why there needs to be riots at all? Why in 2020 people STILL need to fight for their rights and their lives? The outrage at the riots is misdirected in my opinion. Outrage should be at those using the riots to tarnish the message and the need for a riot in the first place.

Going back to the women’s vote example again, let’s now look at how racism impacted that same movement.  White women had the right to vote in the 1921 elections. But those in some minority groups — including Asian and Indigenous women — were excluded from being able to vote in elections across Canada.

Minorities were not given the right to vote until 29 years later, in 1948. And it took until 1960 for Indigenous women to be granted the right to vote in national elections.”

In the U.S. black men were not granted the vote until after the American Civil War in 1870 and black woman were not granted the right to vote until 1965. It took 44 years from when a white woman could vote in Canada, to when a black woman could vote in the U.S. and NEVER did a white male have to fight for his right to vote.

  1. IMMIGRANTS/ P.O.C. ARE COMING IN AND STEALING OUR JOBS

Feel free to alter this statement to fit any racist comment you’ve encountered, because let’s be real, there is A LOT!

Hear me out. Yes, occasionally, a less qualified male person of colour is given a job instead of a white male in order to “meet a quota”. Same is true for a woman being hired to fill another quota. The issue is not the person of colour or woman being hired, it is that the quota had to be instituted in the first place. I hate this because it opens up the possibility of someone being hired (or awarded an Oscar, etc.) to make right an injustice, rather than simply knowing that person was superior; even when it is glaringly obvious that they were a better fit. It allows for questioning and excuses, thereby negating their achievements. In a perfect world, the best person for a job would be hired and no one would question it, regardless of sex or race. Unfortunately, we do not live in that society.

  1. NOT ALL COPS ARE BAD COPS

Obviously. But let’s go back to my women’s right example again. As a woman, I grew up being taught to be aware of my surroundings, to not get myself into certain situations, to watch what I wore, to not look like you are asking for it. This is taught through stories of murderers and sexual violence (Paul Bernardo), school educators (no tank tops or midriffs showing in school), my mother’s warning and other women’s stories and encounters, as well as my own. This is engrained in the fibers of my being, so much so that I do it instinctively. I don’t listen to my headphones while walking in the dark (even early in the evening), I watch my drink while out at the bar, I cross the street if a male is walking towards me at night, I lock my car doors when I get in and there is probably even more I do subconsciously. No, not all men will attack me, but why would I take the risk? Why would I willing put myself in a situation where I could be harmed, just to prove that not all men are rapists?

More importantly, you wouldn’t ask me to. So no, not all cops are bad cops. But when it is engrained in your upbringing, how can you not be afraid?

  1. WHITE PRIVILEGE

Oh my… this is a hotly debated topic. The thing is, no one wants to be told they are privileged. Especially, when you don’t perceive any “privilege” in your life. No one wants to feel put down or accused, our defenses go up. I’ll admit, initially my defenses went up, the term felt offensive. I wasn’t racist, so how could you come at me like that? But guess what? That was my privilege. I touched on this in my first section and on my Facebook posts too. If you never had to think about being discriminated based on the colour of your skin, then you are privileged. Let’s look again at my women’s rights example, just to really send this point home. I travelled alone for four months all through Europe, I was cautious and careful of my surroundings. I made a couple dumb mistakes but thankfully was unharmed. I did not hesitate to go on the trip, but I was nervous, vigilant and aware. My privilege was not also having to look up racism in those countries I visited and not having to be worried my skin colour would further impact my safety or experience. Privilege is not a word to attack you, it is to make you aware. The human ego is a fragile thing, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it time and time again. Stop trying to justify, correct, explain and just listen. You are not a bad person, you didn’t understand and you didn’t know…

But now you do.

#blacklivesmatter

 

*note: I did not include other hashtags during my examples as to not distract from the #blacklivesmatter hashtag and movement.

**note: I tried to be clear and explain without putting anyone down. This is hopefully taken in the way it was intended, as a learning opportunity.

***note: My example of women’s rights could be a number of different issues and is not to say women’s right and #blm are the same thing, of course they are separate topics. It is simply a way for me to further explain why these above #blm statements should be reconsidered and how they are coming across for those that didn’t understand.

*** note: It should go without saying that #blm is not more important than any other race or group. BUT this is their time to have the spotlight and to make a much needed change and we as the human race should support their efforts!

Resting Beach Face

F19A2E61-B953-4A9C-99FA-61CE94DA0A53Something happened this past week that has just amplified an issue I’ve had for some time. I went to the beach on Wednesday to relax and spend some time by myself. I really needed this day to just shut my brain off for a bit because for the last while I’ve been so go-go-go, I haven’t felt relaxed in quite awhile. I was sitting on my towel, under my umbrella, reading a book when I noticed a few texts and emails from work. This annoyed me slightly and reminded me why a Wednesday as a day off was too difficult to be able to turn off, as most other people are working still. During this 30 second interaction with my phone, I happened to look up and notice a family with 2 small children were beginning to set up camp in front of me. Now, admittedly this is not my favourite sight as children tend to be louder in general (but so do teenager groups) and as I’m on a public beach I’m not upset by this development, just simply noticed and then proceed to contemplate my work situation again. A few moments later I was pulled from my thoughts by the father of this family, who proceeded to question me if I had just rolled my eyes at his family. I was so caught off guard it took me a moment to realize he was even talking to me and then I held up my phone and politely said “no, sir. I’m thinking about the work situation.” That was not good enough, he became aggressive and raised his voice, continuing to berate me in front of the whole beach, claiming to have seen me “roll my eyes” even though I was wearing sunglasses that you cannot see my eyes through (part of why I bought them). I kept repeating I was just sitting here, that it was a work message and that it was not directed at him until finally, he uttered the infamous sentence “well, you have a resting bitch face then” before he finally moved off down the beach with his family. Now, why did this experience bother me so much? Not for the reasons you might think.
1. His family did not appear to be upset over this interaction. His wife merely started gathering up their belongings as it started and the children just stood there. No one cried or reacted or tried to approach him to calm him down. Which tells me they are used to his temper and that really made me sad for them. I also felt sad that his children would grow up thinking that was appropriate behaviour.
2. No one said anything until after he left. People all around witnessed the interaction and how he was acting and no one said anything. Granted most are with their families and don’t want that anger directed at them but had someone simply said “Hey man, there are kids here, just walk away” it would have shown him (even slightly) that his behaviour was not okay and to yell at a stranger like that was not how to handle the problem. Even if I was upset by them sitting in front of me (which I truly wasn’t) or had “rolled my eyes”, did that really affect them? If I were sitting there huffing audibly or commented to them directly about it, then sure his response would have been more valid but an eye roll should not warrant a public shaming.
3. I don’t like to be accused of doing something I didn’t do. Like most people my ego was hurt a bit by him publicly claiming I was being rude to a family with small children. The one family beside me said after they couldn’t believe how he acted and they knew I didn’t do it but still… did they or were they just trying to get out of more awkwardness? What about the other people around? Then I had to remind myself that I know the true me and so what if others believe me or not, I know my truth. I also reminded myself that I cannot control others or their perceptions of me. This has been a constant battle my whole life and a lesson I need to remind myself of over and over. I’ve always been a people pleaser and wanted to be well-liked and often have tried too hard because of it. Thankfully as I’ve grown, I’ve become aware of this and have made steps to become more self-assured and care less about what people think of me. Travelling has helped a great deal!
4. Finally, the thing that bothered me the most and is probably the most problematic is the comment “resting bitch face”. Since my server days I have been plagued by that sentence in varying forms, because when I am thinking (like counting change for instance) I have a “look” on my face that either made my bosses think I was stressed out or overwhelmed by my section or customers claim I was rude or giving bad service. It actually took me years to realize it was my face doing something “wrong” and I had to work hard to try and relax it and appear nicer. My job made the instances more frequent but it was not restricted to work, I was often getting comments simply walking down the street or out at a club or bar with friends. The worst part is that I am not alone, women constantly have random men saying things like “Why aren’t you smiling?”, “What, are you upset?”, “Bad mood today?” if they aren’t smiling, acting how they except or (the most appalling) aren’t interested in flirting with them. I’ve heard it many times over the years but since this incident, I’ve had more woman say how it happens to them all the time! This should not be a regular occurrence and I am frustrated that it unfortunately is. I am also upset that as women we feel we need to justify our face, our feelings or our “bitchiness”. Some women actually own it saying things like “Ya, so what, I am a bitch”. Yes, sometimes I am rude, mean, annoyed, frustrated but I’m also happy, sad, joyful, angry and everything in between because I am HUMAN. I will own it if I am in a bad mood or if I’m deliberately being rude to someone but I am not defined by my mood or by my perceived mood. We have to stop commenting to women for not being what we expect them to be. We have to stop expecting women to be a certain way in general. We have to stop making it okay to say things like “smile” to a woman because you wouldn’t say that to a man walking down the street. We need it to be okay for a woman to be mad or upset. We need to stop justifying our feelings. Period.
I know this happens to men in other ways too, but for the sake of this article, I’m only talking about women.
Let’s start a discussion below. Has this happened to you? What are your thoughts? Do you think I’m overreacting?
xo Shawn