I’m sorry that you stole my bike – #ThoughtfulThursday

This evening I met with a constable from the Belfast Harbour Police; he took my statement regarding an incident in late April when 3 young teenagers made off with the Belfast Bike that I had returned to a station in Titanic Quarter.

I had returned the bike according to protocol, reported the incident immediately to the company and the police, and because of that I was not going to be held liable for the lost bike. Yay.

A few days later, the bike was found, badly battered and beaten (missing the light, handle covers and bell, with cut wires, slashed tires, and dents) but the case seemed closed; now they just wanted my official statement for the record.

However, those boys were never caught and that’s what makes me feel awful.

No, I don’t want to see them “punished”, I want to take this chance to apologize to them.

Children and youth are not inherently bad. I was just one myself, less than a decade ago, and I know that they’re (mostly) actually quite alright; but they struggle with impulse control – they see a tall ledge and feel the need to jump. They see a loose sign and just have to hit or kick it. Someone offers them a swig of a drink they shouldn’t have? Sure, why not.

Most teenagers don’t go looking for trouble, trouble finds them and I inadvertently presented their ids with a challenge to juicy to pass up – a chance at a cheeky joy ride.

As I said, it wasn’t my fault that the bike didn’t lock properly, but they watched me struggle to get it to lock properly in the first place, and as soon as I stepped away they tried to yank it back out.

I am sorry that you were tempted to do this and I am even more sorry that you got away with it. Because you got away with it, you will not have learned how much stress this caused me, or just how much it would have cost me (a total stranger to you) to replace the bike if they had held me liable (£250 btw) and you didn’t learn what  the consequence for stealing is to you personally… You had a jolly joy ride, feeling like the macho men society pressures you to be, like Rebels and cool dudes.

But what scares me the most is that, just like any “gateway”, if you’re unlucky, this might lead you to worse crimes – because that is what that was – a crime.

Next time, you might try to knick something off of someone way more dangerous than me and get hurt by them, or worse, it might be someone weaker than me and you hurt them in the process!

Will it stop at a bicycle? Or will it be a moped? Maybe a motorbike? What about a car?

That’s what keeps me up at night. Worrying about where you are and whether my not stopping you quick enough, my hesitation to chase you and scare you out of what you were doing, might have allowed you to slip onto this very dangerous path.

I really hope I’m wrong. I really hope I’m over exaggerating and I really hope that you were just excited because it was a warm spring day, that you got your fill from it and that you’ll never do it again.

But if my worst fears are true, and this this leads to worse things (that I will probably never know about) – I am truly and deeply sorry that you weren’t caught that day, and that we, as a society, may have missed our chance to teach you all a lesson, and maybe help you become better people.

#ThoughtfulThursday

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Discrimination is always discrimination.

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:

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.)

  1. 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.) 
  2. 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.) 
  3. 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.)
  4. 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.) 
  5. 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.) 
  6. 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.

#ThoughtfulThursday