Discrimination, by definition, “is the treatment or consideration of, or making a distinction in favour of or against, a person or thing based on the group, class, or category to which that person or thing is perceived to belong to rather than on individual merit.”
Discrimination can be made on anything from race and gender to more subtle things such as whether someone has piercings or tattoos, what their hair colour is, or what brand of technology they prefer.
Some of the most visible/talked about and systemic types of discrimination are:
- Sexism (Including, but not limited to, Misogyny, Misandry, Transphobia, and Discrimination towards non-binary gender persons)
- Sexual Orientation (Including, but not limited to, Heterosexism, Heteronormativity, Biphobia, and Homophobia)
- Religious Discrimination
And there are many more…. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Discrimination
However, I have come to notice something quite disturbing and I wanted to take a moment to ponder this.
As a caucasian, mid 20’s, employed, (seemingly) cis-gendered/sexual individual, it seems that if and when any of these are applied to myself, people tell me that it’s not “really” discrimination at all and that I am to “check my privilege” and shut up. Trust me when I say my brothers, as males, can fare even worse.)
(Yes, I am aware of the fact that in comparison to many many other people on the planet, I have lead a very privileged life, and I know that I am lucky. No, I have not ever been denied a job, an education or even a table at a restaurant based upon the colour of my skin, a perceived religion or sexual orientation and, while I am capable of great empathy, I would never claim to even begin to truly understand what people who have faced and are facing this sort of struggle, have truly been though.)
However, I have experienced (personally and through friends) clear cases of discrimination that I thought were unfair and yet, we have been told that it’s “not really discrimination at all” for one reason or another. (6 examples below.)
- A friend got publicly called a “dirty racist” because he couldn’t offer service in a language he didn’t speak and when he tried to defend himself, he also got the sexist card, because he’s a man. He’s a caucasian, anglophone and was told to “suck it up” once it was over. (This is linguistic discrimination, often considered a subset of racism, paired with misandry/sexism.)
- Someone very close to me got called names like “halfie” and “twinky” by the ethnic student body with whom they identified, in their high school, because they are “only” half of that culture but also have the “privilege” of being half white. They were expected to take it on the chin, and to not be “so uptight” about it. (This is racism.)
- I married my husband at age 23. Permanently we get asked “Aren’t you too young to be married?” and “What if you made a mistake?”. When we have, in such cases, refused to be forced into defending our life choices, we have been told to respect the knowledge of our elders and accept that we’re wrong (even when these are complete strangers!). (This is ageism.)
- Another person who is very close to me, passed all the required exams, physical tests and qualifications for their dream job, but were turned away because the company had taken “their quota” of their religion for that year. It was considered “normal” due to the divide among varying Christian factions at the time and since this person is white, and Christian and thus “privileged”, they were expected to just wait another year. (This is religious discrimination.)
- I am half Irish, half German; this makes me very pale. When I go to the beach, it seems to be unavoidable for both people I know, and complete strangers to exclaim thing like “Oh my god, you’re so white, you’d get lost in a sandbank!”. This is then usually followed up with unsolicited advice on how to best protect my skin and that I “best go back inside”. When I protest to this type of conversation, I am told that “I don’t really know what racism is”, and that I need to learn to “take a joke”. (Like it or not, this is racism.)
- When I went to my new doctor for a routine check up, I was told that I may have diabetes, fatty liver or even heart disease. The diagnostic tool? A BMI calculator and looking at me, because according to her “in 99% of cases, any problem a ‘fat’ person has, comes from being fat and lazy, and nothing else.” The blood tests that she ordered, all came back clean, other than being heavy I am perfectly healthy and yet, she was not expected to apologize and my malpractice complaint was thrown out even by my circle of peers before it ever made it to an official office. “She was just doing her job”. (This is “body-shaming”, a very prominent sub set of ableism.)
I am very very tired of all these double standards.
- Discriminating on skin colour? No matter the colour, it’s racism.
- Discrimination on gender/sex/sexual orientation? No matter the identification, it’s sexism.
- Discriminating on age/experience? No matter whether old or young, it’s ageism.
- Discriminating on body type, shape or ability? No matter the body, it’s ableism.
Just because an individual does not come from a systemically oppressed or marginalized group, does not mean that it is impossible to discriminate against them individually.
Thanks for reading.