There are certain things that I’ve always struggled to put into words for fear that I will hurt others when I speak them. Topics of equity and equality seem to be at the forefront of the list of things I want to talk about, but never know where – or how – to even start. So I’m just going to start, and hope that my ramblings make some coherent sense and don’t offend.
Black history month is a beautiful thing. I truly, truly love it. I love that the often unheard history of a marginalized group is brought to the forefront for once; I love that the triumphs and beauty of black folks are heard alongside the struggle that they too often bear. I think it is extremely crucial to celebrate diversity and encourage pride in every facet of our identities, whether it we’re talking about sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, genre of music, or anything in between.
During the University of Ottawa’s 101 Week, there was an amazing event called Take Back the Night (TBTN). TBTN is a rally/educational opportunity where women “take back the night” for themselves. It is an event to raise awareness about the pervasive danger that women face, and the threat that we feel, whenever we walk at night. This is something very near and dear to my heart, and it’s so applicable to so many. Who among us females have never been followed by a sketchy guy in a car? Who hasn’t had a random man on the streets come up to us and persist that we allow them to take us home? It is an event that occurs far too often, and TBTN works to call perpetrators out and support individuals who have experienced/will experience/fear experiencing this sort of incident. Furthermore, the event additionally is a way to support women in all aspects of gender-based violence. I was very excited to attend.
I was even more excited when, at the beginning of the ceremony, the audience was informed that there would be a focus on marginalized groups of people whose voices often went unheard. (Intersectionality – yay!) There were a few pieces on gender-based violence as a whole, and then members of the black community spoke about their instances of gender-based violence and explained how racial discrimination against them often interacted with the sexism that they endured. These pieces were eye-opening and moving, and I felt myself (as an Oriental-Canadian) relating to the concept that racial stereotypes and gender stereotypes are often experienced hand-in-hand.
And then the event was over.
The problem for me is that, in trying to be intersectional, there is a tendency to perpetuate a hierarchy, and certain groups of people are left feeling even more marginalized than they previously did. This is where it gets tricky, because I want to stress that I am deeply happy that the voices of marginalized groups, like the black community, are being heard. I do not feel resentment towards events that focus on issues faced by black folks, nor do I wish they would stop. In fact, I believe much more needs to be done to eradicate systematic racism. However, I really wish that it wouldn’t stop there.
I have seen so many posts about stereotypes and discrimination that affects certain oppressed groups, but I’m concerned about the rest of us. We all know about Black History Month because it is taught in our schools and there are galas and assemblies, but did you know that Asian Heritage Month exists too? I didn’t until yesterday, and I think that’s a problem. Japanese people were historically oppressed and enslaved here in Canada, and so many people don’t even know that! And what about Aboriginal rights, because (holy crap) this still have a very long way to go. We’ve all heard of the Gay Pride Parade (yes, I’m aware that in this case ‘gay’ represents the wider LGBTQA* spectrum), but what about bisexual pride, and asexual pride, and everything and anything else?
Again, I want to stress that I am not advocating that these events stop taking place, but rather that more events for different groups start. I acknowledge that it’s so difficult to find the space and time to advocate for all of these groups, and there are so many intricacies involved. It’s hard to care about people who you do not identify with, but I’m tired of not seeing people trying.