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Some thoughts on the US Election

13 Nov

The US election is devastating for so many reasons – not just the results, but the whole campaign.

Beyond the US president elect, it has shown us the underbelly of what seems like half of American voters: Racism, xenophobia, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, white supremacy… But Trump didn’t cause this; he merely said out loud what many were thinking and feeling, and gave them permission to say it out loud as well. These sentiments are not new – to the US or any other country. I’m not a history scholar but I know that US history is rife with entrenched and systemic racism and sexism, and many of the other isms have a trajectory that is similar, if not as long. Other countries are not innocent to these same intolerances.

Yes, there have been advancements – some big, some not so big – in human rights, equity, civil rights. But what is clear from this election (and which should be a wake up call globally) is that these advances have not reached everyone’s hearts. We have managed, in some way, and in some places – not all and not always well – to make at least expressing the isms and phobias unacceptable. Anti discrimination laws, human rights codes and acts, hate crime laws, and movements like the Civil Rights Movement and Black Lives Matter help to raise awareness and consciousness and create a standard of how we should be together – or what we should strive for. This election race and outcome has undermined these efforts and advances by normalizing and sanctioning overt hatred and violence – specifically Blacks, Latinos, Native Americans, immigrants, Muslims, women, and people who identify as LGBT.

The horror of this election campaign and victory is that in addition to systemic racism and oppression – which is demoralizing and exhausting to live with as marginalized people, with far-reaching negative economic, social, health (and other) outcomes – there is now an even stronger threat to actual physical safety and the devastating personal experiences of racism, xenophobia (etc) and oppression.

While at least part of the US population reels from the results and the reality that the Trump victory suggest for their country for the next 4 years, there is another danger beyond the US borders: smugness.

Many of us in Canada are sighing with relief and saying how happy we are that we don’t live there as we point south towards the Canada-US border. I’m sure these sentiments are echoed in other countries as well. But consider this: it wasn’t long ago that we had a prime minister who successfully whipped up a national fear of Muslims, contributing to the rise of Islamophobia in this country. And we have legitimized racial profiling in many police departments through a practice called carding. The KKK exists in this country too. And although we have good LGB human rights, trans rights across the country are not consistent. Indigenous populations living on reserves are dealing with conditions that rival those of some developing countries. And women still don’t have adequate representation in positions of power. Although our current prime minister made sure the house of commons was 50% women “because it was 2015”; it wasn’t “2015” for Black people, or Indigenous people.

 Hatred and bigotry are not reserved for our US brothers and sisters. They may be showing theirs in fuller force and for all to see these days, but if we point our fingers at them, and think we are better, we miss the opportunity for self-reflection and our own healing – and to make the communities, cities and the countries we live in better for everyone.

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Copyright 2016 Annemarie Shrouder                                                                                          Speaker, Facilitator, and Consultant on issues of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion  www.annemarieshrouder.com

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Food for Thought about Orlando

28 Jun

It’s been just over 2 weeks since the mass shooting at PULSE nightclub in Orlando, Florida where 49 people were killed. As a member of the LGBTQ communities, and as a Diversity and Inclusion speaker, facilitator, and consultant (specializing in LGBT Inclusion) it has given me pause on many fronts. Here are a few thoughts.

The media and what we hear / don’t hear.

It was interesting to me that when I first started listening to the news on Sunday afternoon, PULSE was a nightclub frequented by a lot of LGBT patrons.
By Monday morning it was a gay nightclub.
But it wasn’t until I communicated with a friend over email on Monday afternoon, that I became aware most of the victims were Latino. Had I read the paper that morning, that would have been obvious.

I wasn’t tapped into all news sources, by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s a reminder that we hear what someone wants us to hear – which means it’s biased, reported through a particular lens, and we are potentially missing information.

Also, let’s think about which tragic events are labeled terrorism, and which perpetrators of crimes are labeled terrorists, and which are not. These words seem to be quickly and easily used when someone is not white, and if they are Muslim (or assumed to be). The media often seems to use these labels first and ask questions later in these situations – a courtesy they don’t seem to extend to white suspects or perpetrators. Hmmm…. In the world of unconscious bias, it seems that terrorism/terrorist, brown and Muslim are inextricably intertwined. Pay attention to that in the news. Notice.

 

Homophobia is alive and well.

There is more to this than you think.
The shooter has been described as homophobic, and his disgust at seeing two men kissing some time before was speculated to have fuelled the attack.
So was homophobia a motive? Since the nightclub was a gay nightclub, we can assume it was.

Here are a few things about homophobia:

  1. It’s systemic – and then we call it heterosexism.

We live in a world that assumes everyone is heterosexual or straight.
Many laws underscore this – marriage being one of the last to change in North America. The language used in policy and lawmaking can open up rights or cut people off from them.
Many countries around the world still have being LGBT as a crime – and in 10 countries it’s punishable by death. Still.

  1. Disregarding the homophobic nature of this attack is also an example of homophobia.Some people didn’t/don’t want to recognize this as a hate-motivated crime. That disregard is a further example of homophobia because it again seeks to make LGBTQ people invisible. It’s a perfect head-in-the-sand example: if I don’t see it or talk about it, it doesn’t exist.

Imagine what’s it’s like to be so hated that someone doesn’t even want to think that you exist. Imagine what that will do to your sense of self, your self-esteem, your ability to love yourself.

Homophobia can be internalized

Here comes the loop – if the message someone is getting from society and the people around them (including those they love and who love them) is that they are bad, evil, wrong, disgusting or that they don’t even exist, how can they possibly love themselves and be all of who they are? It’s impossible.

So then one has to make a choice: to be who you are and become all of those terrible things in the eyes of the people who care about you (and others – often many others depending on where you live) or to deny who you are. Both are painful.

It is no surprise then, to find out that the shooter was at the very least questioning his sexual orientation or was bisexual, that he had relationships and encounters with men. If you hate who you are (strong word and I’m using it on purpose), then it isn’t a far walk to hate others who are like you. And if you can’t be who you are, it can be difficult to watch others who can and are. And that pain, I imagine, might result in inflicting severe pain on others who make this pain more real for you by living and loving life in a way you cannot.

 

The more we create LGBT inclusive spaces, the more (and the earlier) we talk about sexual orientation and gender identity in schools and create classrooms and schools that are LGBT inclusive, the more opportunities we will have, as societies, to grow, accept, and love everyone. The more opportunities LGBT people will have to feel safe, loved, accepted for who we are. This will help to reduce loneliness, fear, anger, frustration, desperation because we won’t have to choose being invisible over being who we are.

If you’re an ally – we need you to speak up, and speak out. It’s not enough to quietly be supportive of us, we need you to share your commitment out there in the world as you walk through your day. Respond to homophobic comments and ideas. Challenge people to think differently, think again, see more. Allies are crucial to creating safer spaces for LGBT people – you are heard and seen differently; in a way LGBT people may not be, because it’s not personal; it’s not about you.

Sending prayers for Orlando, and everywhere as we work to increase awareness, acceptance and love.

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Copyright 2016 Annemarie Shrouder
Speaker, Facilitator, and Consultant on issues of Diversity & Inclusion
www.annemarieshrouder.com

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Happy Endings when we Challenge Bias

16 Nov

An update on the story about the lesbian couple in Utah who were to have their foster child taken away because they are gay:

The ruling has been rescinded.

Hooray!
I’m happy that public pressure and criticism caused a change of ruling.
The judge crossed out “belief” that children in same-sex (same gender) couples are at some sort of risk and replaced it with “concern”. His concern. Not based on research. Does the word make a difference? Yes. Does he still get to share his biased and homophobic beliefs? Yes.

One other thing stands out for me in the CNN report I read:

“It is unconscionable that any judge would let bias interfere with determining the true best interest of a child and we strongly encourage the commission to take appropriate action to hold this judge accountable and to affirm that personal bias has no place in judicial decisions in Utah.” You can read more here.

I have to laugh – in an ironic way.
While there are thousands of children who “age out” of the child welfare system, same-gender couples are not permitted to adopt in many US states, and countries around the world, and there are a disproportionate number of Black and Aboriginal kids in the child welfare system (I could go on). How can we believe that bias isn’t interfering in determining a child’s best interests? Why are we just holding this judge accountable?

Here’s another thing that stands out for me:

“Callan said the change suggests that the judge was worried about his order “being viewed as an application of religious belief rather than an application of the law.”” (Complete article here)

Religious views aside, this is homophobia. Plain and simple. You don’t have to be religious to be homophobic. And we have to name things appropriately so we can stand up against them. Homophobia manifests itself in many ways – physical violence, exclusion, emotional and verbal abuse, micro-inequities, and in biased decisions, policies, and procedures that devalue the lives of LGBTQ people, and cause pain.

Bias inserts itself into law, media, policy, structures and systems in innocuous ways – ways that we often don’t notice unless (or until) they impact us (or someone we care about).  The difference is that this judge’s bias was blatant, and it was caught and challenged.

I’m happy for this couple.
And I encourage us all to consider the many other couples that are quietly facing and enduring discrimination.
Who will be their voice?

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Copyright 2015 Annemarie Shrouder
Speaker, Author and Facilitator on issues of Diversity & Inclusion
www.annemarieshrouder.com

Radio Show Host – Creating Families
www.creatingfamiliesradio.com

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