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Bigotry Doesn’t Discriminate

April 23, 2020

I am a privileged person in my society.  I am white, cisgender, present able-bodied unless using mobility aids, and do not live in poverty. I am also discriminated against; I am disabled, I am a woman, and one who definitely does not meet the normalised beauty standards of the dominant culture in my society.  I have experienced discrimination as a result.  Sometimes I can be triggered into anxiety, fear and exacerbation of my clinical depression when reminded of such experiences.

me at 21

Me when I was fired from a bar job for being “too unattractive”

When I am triggered it is difficult to address what has catalysed the throwback to the trauma, because being discriminated against is a traumatic event, never think it isn’t.  That’s what being triggered describes; someone who has been retraumatised by being reminded of a part of their history that was very painful.  So, in addressing what triggered me, be it a comment, a video/photo on social media, a letter or email, I am already emotional.  This is often used against a person in confronting discrimination, especially in sexism as emotional reactions are seen as feminine and therefore devalued.  The false logic is that an emotional reaction is not a rational reaction.  Voice, silenced.

I do try to address whatever has triggered me, try to point out and explain what may have been discriminatory about the comment, video, joke, whatever (hereafter CVJW because that is just too long to keep typing). I do this because I am acutely aware how privilege blinds a person to inferences if they don’t match the intention behind the CVJW.

This is often called ‘calling out’.  I believe we should address bigotry whenever and wherever we see it, no matter who it is we will have to be calling out.  It is harder to call out family or friends whom we care deeply for.  Calling out is a loving act as it is an attempt to address a CVJW which is discriminatory that privilege may have blinded the commenter to.

You can post something racist without being an outspoken racist.  You can fat-shame without being fatphobic.  You can make transphobic comments without transphobia being a part of your core belief system.  You can be a bigot whilst simultaneously trying to stamp out the bigotry your privileged position benefits you from.  That is how privilege blinds us, even the best of allies.  Ally should be a verb by the way.  I’ve been called out on using the term as a noun to apply to myself, and have thought deeply about this, and have changed my thinking.  I used to call myself an ally.  Now I say I strive to be an ally.  My thinking has shifted since this blog, written in 2016.  I am grateful to those who took the time to call me out on this.

The thing is, bigotry doesn’t discriminate, but it does intersect.  A black politician is still racially discriminated against (Diane Abbott MP in particular suffers vile misogynoir and has been abused for her speech impediment also).

me at 26

Me, when I had abuse hurled at me from a passing car for being fat and in a public space.

As a disabled person I’ve been included in ableist CVJW’s and told when I call it out that “You’re not really disabled”, “well, I didn’t mean you!”, or my favourite, “don’t be so sensitive!”  A fat (a word I use as a description, not an insult, and as a fat person I am owning that word) woman will still experience the pain sexist fatphobic  CVJW cause no matter what her profession may be; for example a police officer eating donuts or a baker eating all the pies.  A settled traveller is still discriminated against and hurt by the bigotry expressed toward the traveller community.

A person’s profession, perceived identity or social standing does not make it okay to be bigoted towards them.  Discrimination does not become a distant horrible memory within the future society that I’d quite like to live in if we continue to allow ‘some’ discrimination to occur.

When called out, I’ve given myself a few rules to follow:

  1. Feel however I feel about the initially calling out (shock, horror, denial, anger, confusion).
  2. Once calmer process why I’m feeling that way.
  3. Reflect on the CVJW removing what my intention was in making it from the equation.
  4. If still confused, ask for clarification from those who called out (if more than one person has it is a very strong sign the calling out is very much needed); ask politely, and with gratitude if they respond.
  5. Try to remember the person who called out was hurt or angered by the CVJW.
  6. Reflect again.
  7. Keep in mind that implied bigotry is the same as inferred bigotry to the person who is perceiving it.
  8. Listen, learn, do better.

What is intended or meant by the CVJW is not always clear, and what is inferred may be outside experience.  At the risk of banging on about it (ha, since when do I not bang on?) bigotry does not discriminate.  If it is not called out, the bigotry is perpetuated.  Many may be horrified at the unintended hurt they caused.  I have been when I’ve been called out, and I remember that feeling always.  It helps to ensure I don’t make that error again.  It helps me grow as a person.  I am grateful for it.  I expect to be called out for the rest of my life, because I want to grow and not stagnate, and I have privilege and until that disappears I will make mistakes.  Whilst my intention may not be what others have inferred, there are no excuses.

Bigotry doesn’t discriminate so be open and when you know better, do better.



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