Friday, June 23, 2017

2X 3 Things

Three things:

1) Ignorance is not bliss

2) Ignorance is never an excuse.

3) Ignorance is almost never the problem.

Recently there was an incident in Canada, that I will not link to, where a woman went on a racist rant at a walk in clinic wanting a white doctor who spoke English. Thankfully there were people there that stood up to her, which always gives me hope, but the video of the event and her outburst was everywhere for a while. I was appalled at the time but became even more so when I heard the discussion about her behaviour.

The general consensus was that she was "ignorant." People talked about her as if she was in desperate need of some kind of sensitivity training or diversity training or anger management training.

Because, of course, white people aren't ever racist, or sexist, or homophobic, or ableist, or disphobic, or prejudiced in any way. We are just a little misguided. We just need a glass of juice, a cookie, and a 20 minute class and we're back to being good, well behaved white folk. "Poor dear," we seem to say as we acknowledge that what she did was racist and then we explain that while her behaviour might be considered racist, she certainly isn't, "she's just ignorant and needs some in class time with a teacher and a power point presentation."

I'm tired of ignorance getting the blame for blatant prejudice and bigotry.

Call a bigot a bigot.

Call our prejudice where prejudice exists.

Explaining way someone's behaviour brings into question your own behaviour. Why do you have a need for this to be 'ignorance' and 'poor dear' behaviour?

Remember when teens were coming to the gay area of Toronto and throwing slushies into the faces of people they tagged as members of the lgbtq+ community? The result of all the television discussion was that these teens need training.

No one needs training to know that you don't throw slushies into the face of strangers.



It was blatant prejudice and those teens were wilfully and purposely homophobic.

That woman was wilfully and purposely racist.

Get it.


Accountability begins with naming the problem. It is entirely possible that a woman who yells and complains in a racist manner is simply and maybe even irredeemably racist. It is entirely possible that she believed that everyone else felt like her but was afraid to say it. It is entirely possible that she meant ever racist thing that she said. And if it's possible then that possibility needs to be discussed. We need to own racism and sexism and homophobia and transphobia and ableism and disphobia and all the other forms of prejudice, we need to recognize that these exist independently from ignorance or a need for training. That these things are even resistant to cookies and classes.

She was racist therefore she is racist. Isn't that an easy step.

Isn't then the question how do we deal with racism or how do we prevent racism or how do we support her victims? Yes, she had victims. Not one word has been said about the impact of her words on the doctors and nurses who were there, on the people of colour all over the country who watched that video, the kids of the people of colour who asked their parents questions about what happened.

That racist woman hurt people and that's not okay and what needs to happen next? For her, for her victims, what needs to happen next?

Three points:

1) racism is a deeply embedded attitude it is not ignorance

2) bigotry needs to be called out for what it is

3) giving excuses to prejudice reveals even deeper prejudice


Utter Randomness said...

She wasn't ignorant, she knew exactly what she was doing.

Glee said...

Spot on!

Unknown said...

Words hurt, harming another person should bring consequences onto you, and anyone over the age of 10 needs a clear message that hurting another person with your words is NOT EVER OK, and that change is essential.

The recovery movement language of 'taking a fearless moral inventory" and 'making amends to those you have harmed" is old fashioned language but it clearly captures what a person must do to make permanent changes in their own behavior. Part of the 'inventory' is reviewing the list of those you have harmed and the plan you have for making amends is to review it with your sponsor (guide) and talk about the amends as you are making them.
The Catholic phrase 'an examination of conscience" and the sacrament of reconciliation are similar - self examination and speaking your faults aloud to another person, and accepting guidance in how to change.
The self help industry provides lots of information on how to change your behaviors.
There is no excuse to say that an adult 'can't help' their bad behavior that violates moral standards...and there is no reason the rest of us should allow 'ignorance' to be an excuse for bad behavior in public places.

A passive participation in one powerpoint hour, a lecture on right and wrong, examples of what to do differently do not require the student to actively respond to the 'education' no real change is likely.

Once again, Dave, your words get it exactly right!

wheeliecrone said...

Thank you, Dave. I absolutely agree with you.

Ettina said...

I hope I don't sound racist saying this, but I can sort of see where she might have a valid complaint.

Sometimes people who speak English as a second language can have strong accents that make them more difficult to understand, use nonstandard grammar, or can sometimes have trouble understanding native English speakers. Native English speakers also vary in how easily they can understand accents and nonstandard grammar.

Personally, as someone with auditory processing issues, I've had several situations where a doctor or other service provider's accent or difficulty with English grammar made it really difficult for me to understand them, to the point where I had to get them to repeat themselves, or mentally repeat their words in my head and consciously puzzle out what they said. I've also had situations where I've been misunderstood by someone with a non-English language accent, or had to repeat myself or simplify my statements to be understood by them.

In a medical situation, miscommunication due to a language barrier could be dangerous. What if I don't understand what's wrong with me or what I should do? What if they don't understand my descriptions of my symptoms? Those problems simply don't arise if the doctor has a good enough command of English.

I have no problem with a doctor who has a bit of accent but is clearly understandable and understands me easily. My current GP is a Nigerian woman, and is one of the best doctors I've had. And if this woman described her wishes in an offensive manner, or didn't have communication problems leading her to want a native English speaker, then there's no excuse.

But I do think that we have a problem, in Canada, with immigrants being given jobs when their English proficiency really isn't good enough to do the job properly. It's annoying when my order gets screwed up in a drive-through, but when it comes to medical situations, miscommunication is dangerous.