There is no such thing as colour

When you’ve worn the coat of oppression or superiority as an identity, how can you simply shake it off: the suit makes the man doesn’t it?

What does Black History Month mean in the modern, Western world? People don’t practice racism. The colour of your skin doesn’t affect your career opportunities. Interracial marriage is universally acceptable. People, regardless of their skin, have access to education. It sounds so easy, forcing the image of democracy and freedom over inequality in the world. It is a comforting image; it allows us to function without guilt, but sometimes reality reminds us of the falseness of this image. The idea of democracy, freedom, and equality, now function as ideologies that don’t allow us to question the actual state of people. Sure I’m free, yes everyone is equal and colour doesn’t matter. If we think there is no racism, we’ll be blinded by blatant acts of it. Black History Month, among other things, reminds us that some features of our society (people, institutions, law), are still coloured by prejudices. I believe there is racism is the world, not because I go looking for it, but because the media lays the pickings at my feet.

Is race never an issue? To that I answer by asking: when you’ve worn the coat of oppression or superiority as an identity, how can you simply shake it off: the suit makes the man doesn’t it? Changing dominant views, societal conditions and prejudices towards people of colour isn’t something that occurred alongside freedom. Being a free black person did not mean that you were a living human being. Human recognition had to be earned by devoted people like Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Malcolm X and others who took up the cause against racism. Freedom doesn’t equal equality, respect and love.

Great black people fought, made art and invented things so we commemorate them in February. A single month, out of the entire year dedicated to their achievements. People don’t have to think about racism, slavery and lynching in any other month, only in February. Are you witnessing something racist in your culture? Wait until February, that’s the appropriate time to bring it up. Just like there’s an app for that, there’s a month for thinking empathetically.

On Martin Luther King Day I read posts and heard rants from people saying that it doesn’t make sense for them to go to work. However, the argument I heard these people make was that Martin Luther King Jr. was a great man therefore it doesn’t make sense for them to go to work on a day dedicated to his greatness. Those two things – work and Martin Luther King – are unrelated. If you want a day off from work, that’s fine, but don’t use the pretense of a great man to get that. That’s not what the day should be about. What if we all demanded the day off because racism against people of colour is still prevalent; black men are stereotyped as stupid, dead beet fathers; black women are painted as loud, obnoxious, uneducated, ghetto characters; black people are asked to tailor their hair to Eurocentric ideals; inner-racism exists in cultures of colour; and sexism, homophobia and racism still exist even though they are rooted in biological occurrences that are under no one’s control? What if we demanded that we will neither participate in nor contribute to a society in which not all members are treated equally? Why don’t we talk about that, instead of using the sufferance of people for our own benefit?

I’m waiting for the right “opportunity” to change

Here’s a video celebrating 25 great African American women.

This is NOT directed specifically towards Cristen, but to the greater issues of Black History Month. I’m just taking offense to the idea of Black History Month as an “opportunity”. The video was very informative (and hilarious, as Cristen always is) and I learned a lot about the contributions of black women. Cristen explicitly says in the comments that her intents are not to capitalize on the opportunity, but to show some really cool women that most people otherwise wouldn’t pay attention to. Check out her other videos, she has a fresh and analytical take on women and stereotypes, norms and roles. She also has some down-right-choke- yourself-laughing videos that are just fun to watch.

So it’s Black History Month, as many of you know by the posts, videos, interviews and essays springing up everywhere on people of colour. Some choose to celebrate the accomplishments of black women and men, and others highlight how far we still need to go as people. However, with all the awareness and attention given not only to issues of prejudice and racism, injustices in sex, sexual orientation, mental health, disabilities and religious discrimination are discussed as well. A lot get’s done in these 28 days, yet I find fault with February’s identity as “an opportunity for change.” Black History Month is a means for discussion and change, but it is not the only month to discuss what’s wrong with the world. Did someone call you a racial slur in passing? Were you discriminated against at work for your colour? Are people giving you hell and their unwanted thoughts for being in an interracial relationship? Wait until February, that’s the appropriate time to discuss it!

Though Black History month isn’t blatantly advertised as the sole time to bring up issues of colour, we shouldn’t use the existence of the month as the only opportunity to be pissed off. Autism Awareness Month should be a year long event. Mental Health Month should be discussed everyday. If you are dealing with sexual assault, depression, racism, or anything else of that nature, your voice should be heard everyday of the year. And that’s the thing, people do voice their concerns, but we don’t hear them until their voices are amplified by their assigned time, and then we have no choice but to listen. These concerns don’t expire with the end of their allocated month, day or week, so why should we act as if they do?

With that said, I’m not going to ignore February and pay attention to racism only during the other eleven months. That would be no better, really, than paying attention only in February. Let’s force people to focus on what’s wrong with the world 365. Let’s see them constantly uncomfortable, squirmish and self-reflective so that the only way to make us stop blabbering about our issues is to actually listen to them. Everyday is a good day to disrupt societal norms and effect change.

Do you feel Black History Month, and others months and days dedicated to change, work towards change while simultaneously undermining their efforts? Do you focus on issues of race, sex, sexual orientation, environmental destruction, poverty, mental health and physical health on a daily basis? If yes, what are you doing to stir things up? What are your thoughts on the video and “opportunity?”

A Woman’s Place

When is discussing the rights of women going to be off the table?

Women shouldn’t be in universities. School, education and knowledge are rights reserved for males. Men should be in classrooms, they should have the right to exercise this superiority over women in any educational setting. Universities and colleges, up until the early 1900, were exclusively for men. Allowing women to enter school hasn’t had positive results for society. What contributions have women made in medicine, education, the arts and society? What women of note are making a substantial change in the world today? Clearly, women should know their place – in the home – where they can contribute most. Leave education to men who are obviously more capable and competent in the matter. Women should return to their rightful places, and situations like these are encouraging the return of women to their natural place.

Who are women to demand equal pay in a work setting?

Who are women to demand respect from their peers and colleagues?

Who are women to take it upon themselves to be educated?

Who are women to rise above the limiting circumstances they are placed in?

Who are women to dare to be more intelligent, successful and aware than men?

Who are women to choose not to bear children?

Who are women to think and make decisions themselves, not seeking approval from others?

Who are women to be “Strong”?

Who are women to be weak?

Who are women to demand society pay for the injustices done to their race?

Who are women to be comfortable in their skin, their uniquely large, skinny, curvy, boney, pale, dark, bumpy, smooth bodies?

Who are women to demand the right as humans to simply exist?

Who are women to be?

These are just some of the conventional, misogynistic values being reinforced by cases like this. A student taking an online course at York University claims that for religious reasons he cannot meet up with his group (which contains females) in public to do a group project. He asked to be exempt from the project, but the professor J. Paul Grayson, denied his request. When the case was brought to York’s administration, they overruled the Professor Grayson, granting the student exemption from the assignment.

Now, everyone has their own religious beliefs and is entitled to them. Religion is a personal, private matter and no one should have to reconcile or compromise their beliefs. In Canada, everyone has the freedom to express and practice the religion of their choice. However, in a public setting such as a university in which it is explicitly understood to be a public institution, you cannot expect personal, private beliefs that infringe upon the rights of others to be upheld.

I’m sorry for some men who are unaware of this inconvenient truth, but any job you are likely get, in almost any country, will involve you working with, over or under women. I’m sorry. I don’t know why, but women don’t seem to be satisfied with marginalization anymore. For some odd, unimaginable reason, they want to be treated as humans.

Making exceptions for this one student doesn’t promote religious respect; it perpetuates ignorance and allows women to be forever discriminated against in society, work and school. If the injustice were racist or homophobic in nature, I doubt the Dean would have been so quick to hand out sanctions. If anything, the university should have looked into the religious belief that inhibited the student’s participation in the assignment. The religion of the student wasn’t disclosed, but any religious belief that undermines the value of another human being should be scrutinized. As I said, religion is a private, personal matter. People will believe what they want to believe, whether it is in their best interest or not. However, nobody, regardless of their sex, religion, race, sexual orientation, education or birth has the right to demand others comply with these beliefs.

This unfortunate event has offended people internationally. The professor who stood his ground is being commended, and the university that has for decades proclaimed equality and female education has been condemned. Discussion is good; outrage an appropriate response to this injustice. But when is discussing the rights of women going to be off the table?

This is not an attack on religion or men in general. If this injustice is to be rectified, we need to overlook cosmetic differences between men and women and see that we are fundamentally the same. We are human.

Substitute “Jew” with women, homosexuals or any group of people that have experienced discrimination and the injustices felt by Shylock as a human are the same.

I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions; fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer as a Christian is? If you prick us do we not bleed? If you tickle us do we not laugh? If you poison us do we not die? And if you wrong us shall we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that.

(3.1. 56–61)

Should York have granted these sanctions? Is this discriminatory against the female students in the group? Are women still secondary citizens though make up half the world’s population? Lastly, have you experienced any discrimination or injustice yourself?