When the PC culture goes too far…

I read the post and then reread it… twice, unable to believe my eyes. A teenager in the States had poured out his heart explaining how he understood how marginalized a teenager in Canada felt. He was gay, his family would not accept that and treated him badly. His peers at school thought he was disgusting. He had no friends. He pretty much lived his life online, waiting for a chance to grow up and get out. The Canadian teenager was horrified. How dare he compare their lives! He wasn’t trans and would never understand how marginalized he, as a middle class trans Canadian, felt.

Instantly the Canadian teen’s friends jumped in, name calling and mocking. I waded in and explained that, while being gay wasn’t a big issue in urban Ontario, where equal marriage had been around for a decade, it was still a huge issue in the States where, at the time, equal marriage didn’t exist. I pointed out that the gay teen likely was even more marginalized where he was and got back a simple, “I didn’t know.”

No, he didn’t but he never stopped to listen either. And, by then the damage had already been done.

A couple of days ago a friend of mine posted a screen shot with the name blanked out. It was discussing Harry Potter and whether he was marginalized because of previous child abuse. My friend felt he didn’t, that he was an ass all on his own. The person in the screen shot had a different opinion. All was going fine until this comment.

“She’s a POC though so I don’t really appreciate you doing this.”

The fact that POC have precedent to speak about their own issues does not translate to everything they say is sacrosanct. My friend can disagree with someone of colour over Harry Potter without being racist.

We are all people with unique views and opinions and we need to work together to support each other. If we all devolve into “you can’t understand me because I’m black and you’re Chinese” then we’ve lost. If your entire focus on a conversation about child abuse is someone commented “that’s crazy” and that’s ableist, what does that say about you? No, it’s not right but, seriously, shouldn’t your focus be on the child abuse? I’m crazy. Trust me, work on the abused kids first.

We live in a world filled with differences and that’s what has divided us through history. Dividing right into war. If your zeal for human rights blinds you to actual human suffering, you’ve lost what you’re fighting for. Aren’t we fighting for equality and acceptance… not dissonance and separation?

I’m watching as a drive to unite is slowly turning into picking at differences. Can we please acknowledge our differences and celebrate our similarities? I can listen to your struggles with being black and celebrate our kids playing in the living room together. I can listen to your fears of being trans and celebrate a mutual love of Doctor Who. You can listen to my struggles with insanity and celebrate our love of nature.

We need to work on being a tapestry; different threads all woven into one beautiful whole. And we need to stop picking at the threads and deciding which ones have more worth. We all have worth. Our tapestry wouldn’t exist without us.

Signed  ~a life long snowflake~

 

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Celebrating differences…

“He’s that black kid, isn’t he?”

My mouth snapped shut. I looked at my Mom and had no idea what to say. He was my friend. He swore to me that the spiders in his front garden sang to him every morning as the sun rose. My sister and I mostly didn’t believe him but one morning we got up really early and crept into his yard just to see. Maybe we showed up too early. Maybe the spiders were still sleeping.

“He has a yellow coat,” I insisted stubbornly. Mine was a quiet stubborn; I didn’t throw flashy tantrums, I simply did not budge. Yes, he was black but no one pointed me out as the white kid. I couldn’t understand why he was known as “the black kid” even above his own name. That didn’t seem right.

Mom went out and took a look, returning a few moments later.

“Yes, he’s the black kid. Apparently Michelle just doesn’t notice colour.”

The last was said with a mixture of exasperation and pride. Was it a good thing not to notice colour? To ignore differences? I wasn’t sure. This was something I struggled with for years.

I had a friend in high school. We weren’t close, despite knowing each other for years, we simply walked to school together in the morning and chatted if we shared a class. Our drama teacher was late one day and a large number of classmates decided to share jokes. This was the mid 1980’s and the popular jokes at the time were the “Paki jokes”.

I hated those jokes. They made me feel dirty just listening to them; they made me want to vomit them right back out again. I was the only one in my family who felt like that.

“Dad! I learned a new joke in school today,” my sister announced at the dinner table the night before. “What do you do if you see a Paki drowning? Throw him his wife and kids.”

Everyone laughed while my stomach twisted.

“I’ve got one too,” my Dad replied. “What do you do if you think you’ve run over a Paki? Back up to make sure.”

Once again the whole family laughed hysterically, like these were the funniest jokes ever. I felt like throwing up or crying… or possibly both.

“I’m not hungry,” I murmured. “May I be excused?”

My Mom sighed. “Michelle, don’t be so sensitive.”

“Yeah Michelle, they’re just jokes. They don’t hurt anyone,” my youngest sister added, parroting phrases from previous conversations.

My Mom gave a gesture granting me permission to leave and, as I pushed back my chair, my sister (the one who told the joke) rolled her eyes. “Well, we all know Michelle has no sense of humour.”

Everyone nodded agreement. The so-called jokes continued before I’d even left the room. Once again I headed upstairs in tears. Were they right? I didn’t think I had no sense of humour, although I’d been told that multiple times. I enjoyed jokes as long as they didn’t make fun of anyone but those were generally aimed at children. Maybe those didn’t count. And maybe my family was right. If I was the only one being offended then I was the only one being hurt, which made it my problem. I listened to my family laugh downstairs and felt incredibly alone.

Now I was in class and listening to those jokes again. I lurked at the back, not wanting to be mocked for being oversensitive and ruining everyone’s fun but not wanting to listen either. Then I noticed my friend leaving the group. He went to the other side of the room. I quickly followed.

We slipped in between an assortment of room dividers then my friend turned. I was surprised to see tears in his eyes.

“I hate those jokes,” he hissed. He swiped the backs of his hands across his face.

“I hate them too,” I said and he nodded.

“I was born in India, right on the border between India and Pakistan. If I was born just a few miles further then I’d be from Pakistan and those jokes would be about me. Would they really find it funny if I died?”

“I don’t find them funny,” I replied. I patted his shoulder then we stood in silence, surrounded by grey dividers, until the teacher arrived and broke up the jokes.

It was a weird moment. I had proof standing right in front of me that I was right, those horrible jokes did hurt people. The flip side was being right meant people were being hurt. Talk about a hollow victory.

I could keep tossing out examples but that would bring my word count up to a billion and nobody’s got time for that. Even I can’t procrastinate on my real writing for that long. But each experience brought about a little bit of change.

Over the years I’ve realized that we’re all like stained glass windows, each little piece connecting together to form a picture. You can’t ignore parts of someone and still see who they are; you can’t focus on one or two parts and see their entire picture; and if you spend all your time looking for how their glass is different from yours, not only will you never find their similarities but you’ll miss their beauty.

“Michelle? Which outfit do you think looks better?” A friend of mine held up two dresses. She was heading out somewhere and wanted to look good.

I shrugged. “They both should look good,” I pointed out.

“A friend of mine said she likes this one better because it makes me look white.”

“That would be an interesting trick,” I said dryly and she laughed.

“What do you think of this one?” she asked, as she held the other dress up.

I looked at her appraisingly. “It’s a good colour on you. It brings out highlights in your hair and face.”

She nodded. “I like it too,” she agreed. “My other friend didn’t like it, she said it makes me look black.”

“And this would be a problem because…” I let my voice trail off as I stared at her in bewilderment.

“You’re right,” she replied, grinning, “It’s not a problem.”