This particular topic has become rather important to me, so I elected to invest a considerable amount of time to write this lengthy post.
It’d be nice if I could say I always understood, but that’d be lying. It’d also be lying if I said in the past I didn’t actively take up many of the counter-arguments that are prevalent within in the online sphere. Over time, fortunately, there was a change to my mindset, my words, and my actions
It started when something outside of my control happened; my body began having an anaphylactic reaction to light. Ultraviolet in particular is quite harmful, which meant I had to cover my whole body during the daylight hours. I tried to go about my every day business, except I was finding it difficult to not overhear different comments like “terrorist”. A particular case happened in another city where someone said loudly “go back to where you came from” – to which I responded by ripping off my my face mask yelling “I’m from Ottawa, you asshole!” Still, I’ve been insulted before, nothing extraordinary.
Until the first time the police pulled me aside and asked for my ID due to how I was dressed.
Until the first time OC Transpo drivers refused to let me get on the bus because they couldn’t see my whole face.
Until the first time taxi drivers refused to pick me up.
Until the first time ordinary citizens would pull over and almost hit me with their car, and then confront me loudly about why I looked the way that I did.
Until I didn’t have a contract renewed because I had a doctor’s note saying I couldn’t commute 3+ hours a day on the bus.
I’m sure most of you can piece together by that phrase “the first time” that several of those situations didn’t happen just once.
That gave me a window and understanding regarding the plight of those who have had to fight against systematic racism, where the very system and institutions of North America works against them. yet even then, I didn’t speak up all that much about it, only every so often. Looking back, in all likelihood it had to do with my mindset at the time; I felt “part time disabled” because I could go outside at night without issue, and later on ha medication to help mediate things. Being a “self-thought part-timer”, it didn’t feel right to use photosensivity as a parallel. Of course some will point out “Rickard, you don’t have to use parallels and analogies to get a point across”, and your points would be quite correct – I don’t have to do that! However I now know I do this both to express understanding and empathy, and also to conceptualize things for my own brain; I’m a visual problem solver, and within the abstract chaos of my mind using analogous constructs helps sort things out.
Fast forward to a few months ago, where I was introduced to the power of something I’ll call (for now) “Introspective Hindsight”, which is what finally made everything click about what systematic oppression is, and why institutional failures lead to having the deck of cards inherently being stacked against you.
1) The deck being inherently stacked against you is when the entire *system* is set up for something to be essential, and for reasons outside your control, you were never born with that that “something” – and it’s not “something” that could be obtained.
2) The deck being inherently stacked against you is when your mother moves mountains for you, but you’re socially conditioned by peers and teachers that you have to do things the “right way”.
3) The deck being inherently stacked against you is when you think of yourself as sub-human because you don’t reach the same levels your peers.
4) The deck being inherently stacked against you is when you grow in anger and resentment because you have to work five times as hard, while others catch “all of the breaks” yet still call themselves “self-made”.
5) The deck being inherently stacked against you is when you lose a job or don’t get a job for reasons based on inherent things about you that were there since you were born.
What caused this shift of thought in my mind, this clarity?
1) The entire school system is setup for dyslexics and autistics to fail, and failure to measure up in certain categories like reading leads to disastrous results. One is born with dyslexia and autism, those are genetic, and not reversible. For black people, they are born black, they cannot become “un-black”., and must deal with systems that inherently punish them because they are black.
2) My mom was a force of nature when I was younger, and for years I took for granted what she did for me. My final year of high school I declined certain things because of how my peers and teachers treated me. I was conditioned to thinking it was wrong to go “against the norm”. When the “norm” is being white and you are not, you have inherent obstacles, even if your mom is a powerhouse.
3) When your peers seem to be lapping you in the “rat race” because you weren’t born with a “normal brain” or because you weren’t born white.
4) Know that being “self-made” is a fallacy does not discount any hard work you may have done, it’s an acknowledgement that you had less inherent obstacles starting from birth than others.
5) Employment Equity exists for a reason, to fight against the inherent discrimination certain groups face.
The tldr version; the realization that I’ve been the victim of systematic oppression and institutional failure my entire life. That even so, being a white male has granted me certain inherent rights others don’t have.
And above all else, there’s the realization that the time has come to stand in solidarity with those who are in a parallel situation.
So with recent news regarding of yet another black man having died for no good reason, of the recent news black protesters clearly being treated differently than white protesters. With the recent news coming out of Hong Kong. With the recent news governments making changes to education funding. With the ongoing knowledge that despite Employment Equity existing, people who fall within EE categories are still being marginalized. With all those things and more in mind, I call upon those reading this to not wait.
Don’t wait until life altering events force you to think about uncomfortable implications.
Don’t wait until you find out you’ve been marginalized your whole life without consciously knowing.
Don’t wait until you learn the true meaning of oppression.
Learn now. Speak now. Act now.
Until next time, courage.