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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

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Prejudice is Taught Early

14 Jan

It’s not new concepts that prejudice (pre-judging) is learned (sometimes taught) and that unconscious bias is insidious. Here is a stellar example of both (and the impact on my 3 year old) that made me particularly furious.

Recently I was watching an episode of My Little Pony with my daughter. It’s about friendship and there is usually a decent message. But one episode caught my attention.

The ponies were trying to make friends with the yaks (yes, actual yaks, the animal). The yaks were from Yakistan. Red flag #1. Where in the world do countries end with “stan” and who lives there?
But wait, there’s more: The yaks were very hard to please and they were dangerous – when they got mad they went on a rampage and ruined everything in their immediate surroundings. BIG red flag #2. So yaks, from Yakistan are not reasonable, are dangerous and are not particularly nice.

See the problem?  (Here’s a hint: Islamophobia and Orientalism)
By the way I’m not suggesting this was intentional. Unconscious bias affects us all and is unconscious. It’s also everywhere.

Shortly thereafter my daughter was playing with some animal stickers. One of them was a yak. She promptly told me yaks were yucky.

And there you have it. It’s not unreasonable to assume that countries ending in “stan” may also be on her radar as yucky somewhere in the corners of her 3 year old mind only to surface later when she learns about geography.

So we had a talk about how you can’t judge people (or yaks) until you meet them. But the thought was already there, and I had to mitigate it. And it came from a cartoon that my three year old watches. Thankfully, she doesn’t watch alone!

We swim in the soup of unconscious bias every day.
When we acknowledge it, and examine what we are seeing, reading, hearing, we can at least practice catching it and mitigating the effects (i.e. discrimination, exclusion, etc) instead of passively taking it in and having it impact our thoughts and actions unconsciously.

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Copyright 2015 Annemarie Shrouder
Speaker, Author and Facilitator on issues of Diversity & Inclusion

Radio Show Host – Creating Families





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