This is going to end up being a long entry, so please bear with me.

Not long ago, I got pretty pissed off when somebody told me that because I was white, I couldn't understand issues of racism. Because I was white and had grown up in North America, I was one of the privileged elite. And one sign of being part of the privileged elite is the belief that people are equal. Only the privileged get to think that.

I was incensed. It seemed like such a ridiculous thing to accuse me of. I believe in equal rights, therefore I'm too privileged to actually know what's going on in the world. Bullshit.

I finally understand where all these people were coming from.

First of all, I want to clarify something in my statement that I don't think I previously clarified. I believe in equal rights. I don't believe that equal rights are currently being given. I believe that minorities still suffer an undue amount of shit. But I believe that their rights, the things they are entitled to just by being alive and being human, are the same. Education, employment, the chance at happiness, clean drinking water, respect. These things are not things only for Whitey McWhiteson. These are things that everyone should be entitled to. Things that everybody deserves, regardless of race, sexuality, gender identity, and a hundred and one other factors. That's what I mean when I say that I believe everyone's equal. That we all have the same rights.

People aren't being given those rights. That's another story.

But it occured to me the other day that I have, actually, been sheltered from the world behind a shiny wall of privilege. I'm not going to say that I've never suffered from inequality. I was mercilessly tormented, harassed, physically abused, because when I was younger, I was different. I moved from another country, and even though my skin was as pale as anyone else's in my school, I was marked as different. Foreign. A target. Let it never be said that I do not know what it feels like to be Othered, to be cast out and treated like scum to be scraped from the bottom of one's shoe, because I talked differently by dint of my birthplace.

However, that doesn't mean that I didn't see the world through naive eyes.

What I've realized this past little while is that the world is shit. Not just in the cynical "being negative makes me cool" way, but really, we haven't progressed as a society nearly as much as I thought we had.

This was driven home to me when I watched an episode of Edwardian Farm. For those who don't know, this is basically a reality show crossed with a documentary that has two archaeologists and a historian spend a year living like Edwardian farmers. Pretty interesting show, actually. But one part involved the re-enactment of a fair, and suffragettes speaking out against the patriarchy and giving their arguments as to why women should have the vote.

The women who was doing the re-enactment was railing about how unfair it was that only men were the ones who got to have a say in the laws specifically governing women.

This show was filmed before the most recent outcry of American laws, the one that people have termed, "The War on Women."

And it struck me then that we really have not moved very far as a society, when people today still have cause to speak out against the very things that people were speaking out against a full century ago. The very same call, that women are not being allowed a say in what happens to their lives, their bodies, is being heard across North America this very day, thanks to a bunch of men who act as though it's their right to tell women when they can and cannot have an abortion, when and when they cannot take contraceptives.

How can we say that we're an enlightened society when this is still happening?

And it's taken me a long time to really understand this. For a large chunk of my life, I lived in a white world (it's really only been in the past decade that this city has any notable population of non-white citizens, thanks to an unflux of Chinese and Middle Eastern students). I lived with the idea that racism wasn't as wide-spread as it is, because I didn't see it. That women were treated better than they were, because I didn't see anything else.

Really, we're a bare step up from the 1950s. We've got better technology, better medicine, and better education, but we're still fighting for things that we should not have to fight for. And I've been having this revelation slowly sink into me over the course of a few months. Looking at the news. Learning about politics and laws and regulations. Putting all the little injusticies together instead of seeing them as isolated incidents.

There are only so many isolated incidents you can tolerate before you start to see patterns forming. People can only tell you that "there's a good reason for it" so many times before you understand that it really isn't an answer so much as a lousy attempt to get you to shut up and go away.

I don't want to live with the blinders on any more. I don't want to live in a crapsack world, either. The best I can do is to try to be aware, and to help where I can, even if I can't do much. But people tell me that fighting ignorance is one of the hardest battles, and I'd like to think that I'm a little less ignorant than before. I may not agree with all those people who said I'd lived too privileged a life to understand, but I can see now why they would have thought that about me. They weren't as wrong as I first thought.

That doesn't mean they're completely right. Assuming that because I'm white I couldn't possibly have suffered any racial issues is, well, kind of racist in itself. Or culturalist, I guess might be the better word, since people didn't make fun of me for my race so much as the culture I can from and thr accent it gave me. But it was a prejudice nevertheless, and it made me a target. A big target.

But that's not today's story. Today's story is my eye-opener, the one that told me that as a society, we're not as awesome as we think. That we haven't come as far as we like to brag. Things have gotten better, most assuredly, but there's a long way to go, and many of the battles are ones that have been fought for over 100 years.

Shouldn't that be shameful? I mean, the politicians who are making up these laws and regulations, shouldn't they be ashamed of themselves for still being part of a problem that was a problem back in the days when people thought morphine was a create cure for a cough? Shouldn't they be ashamed of moving backward instead of foreward? I can't imagine how these people are so proud of themselves for doing what they do.

But then, you look at what politicians really are. Mouthpieces for the public. Politicians get nowhere without a large public backing, and the more they say what people want to hear, the further ahead they get. So shouldn't so many others be ashamed, too, for keeping this battle raging? It shouldn't be an issue anymore. And yet it is. It, and so many others.

I wish the world was the way I used to think it was. I wish it had its problems, but all of those problems were caused by people clearly doing the wrong thing, the illegal thing, and sooner or later the good guys would ride up and smack some sense into idiots, and then everything would be right again. I really wish that was the case.

But it isn't. And this is the world I have to live in. And so many other people have to live in it with me. And because of that, I'm going to work harder at keeping my eyes open, and understanding more of what's actually happening and recognizing it for what it is. It may be a crapsack world, but it doesn't have to be. And nothing changes when people do nothing.

September 2015

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