Given the current situation you can see where this topic came from. However, I am not going to get into events, people or rights and wrongs. What I do wish to cover is the totality of society when it comes to prejudice and oppression. Not just racism, sexism, transphobia and any other things that have been highlighted / exacerbated by news coverage and social media lately.
The fact there will be some people out there that believe because I am a white male I have no right to speak or have my own thoughts on these topics, is an indication of the problems we are facing.
First let us cover what “qualifies” me to talk on these topics, what gives me the right to put my opinion out there. Firstly, and most importantly, I am a human being too living in the same society as the rest of you. By itself that should allow me to speak on issues of what is wrong with this society. If you don’t believe it “qualifies” me then you need to think about the word oppression. Because if you are saying I cannot speak on a topic because of a characteristic I have, be it my skin colour or my gender, the you are adding to oppression.
So I will break myself down into characteristics. Keep in mind this is not a totality of who I am.
- I have white skin
- As a teenager my favourite music was by Marilyn Manson
- I am visually impaired (registered blind)
- I am autistic
- I am a single father to a gorgeous boy.
I can’t think of any particular time where the top three characteristics have been the cause of prejudice or oppression. The rest, however, have all resulted in some form of prejudice or oppression. The point with the most positive connotations there, I believe, is being a father. However, that is also the same characteristic where I have faced the most prejudice and oppression.
How in the world can being a dad mean you face oppression or prejudice?! Well, I am not in a relationship with my son’s mum and we have a shared custody order in place from the courts. Surely a shared custody order would help cut down any prejudice, right?! Wrong. Doctors, Hospitals, Social Services, the police, Schools, Courts, Teachers, strangers, other parents, that’s just a quick list of people and places where I have faced prejudice or oppression. Why do they treat fathers different?! Well because we are not mothers. A simple quick example would be, despite having shared custody which means hospitals also have to send letters to myself, they don’t. I’ve phoned up hospitals before and asked them to send me the letters too. There response “Our system only allows us to send letters to one address.” Urm excuse me legally you have to, there is zero difference between his mothers address and my address. “She is his mother and unfortunately it is not possible to add your address to also send letters to.”
A quick guide I like to follow in these circumstances is “if it was the other way around, would it be wrong”.
I have many examples, some where people won’t listen to me because I am his father and not his mother. Others, where people look down on me and are disrespectful because they see me as an absent father. And I can guarantee you, the only times I haven’t seen my son is when his mum wouldn’t let me. Imagine if at the beginning of a contact dispute a father disallowed the mother to see the child, if the father kept the child. Courts and the police would have been quickly involved. It took over 2 years for my court dispute to be concluded. As I was working at the time and my ex was on maternity leave when it started, it cost me between £35,000 – £40,000. It cost her £0.
Even now I must weigh up any concerns I have and my son’s welfare against potential fallouts and potential legal costs. How is that right? You should never have to weigh up a child’s welfare against anything. And that is still relevant to prejudice and oppression because if my ex wanted to, she could disallow me to see my son and the only thing I could do (despite a court order being in place) is take her back to court. If it was the other way around and I kept my son, you better believe the police would be knocking at my door in no time. That is prejudice.
Now I have loads of examples of oppression and prejudice from being a father but let’s move on.
I think one of the biggest problems now is we are labelling so many people so many different things and putting everyone in boxes. I know more people that have faced prejudice and oppression than I do people who have the mythical “white male privilege”. I know it will be controversial calling it mythical but let me explain. Everyone is more than the colour of their skin and their gender, sex or sexuality. I believe this privilege people talk about is more about being born into money. Or at least from my perspective in Britain.
I guess what I’m trying to say is not that prejudice or oppression doesn’t exist, because it absolutely does, but that many people from many walks of life, no matter how you categorise yourself have faced them both.
The truth is, the more you live your life by a characteristic, the more you are going to feel that it is that characteristic that people judge you by. You see it all the time in the world of disabilities.
An abstracted example of how it works is imagine your partner broke up with you and you were devastated by it. You didn’t want to be single and you missed your partner. You’d walk down the street and all you would feel like you sore were happy couples walking past. Kind of like life is rubbing it in your face. When you live your life by a specific characteristic this happens all the time. If lived my life by the fact I’m visually impaired, I’d walk down the street, want to cross the road and think ho9w unjust and unfair that such a long busy road has zero crossings where I can safely cross. Truth is, the fact that there are no crossings there isn’t against me as a visually impaired person, there’s no crossings for anyone there.
I think the conclusion is stop putting yourselves in a box defined by a particular characteristic, and if the topic is too emotional for you abstract the logic and apply it to another example.
We are not living in a society of a white community and a black community, or a society that is made up of groups of men and groups of women, we are living in a society with other people, don’t forget that. And don’t forget that it is fine to have a conversation about a different point of view. It will help either strengthen your resolve or further your understanding of the situation.
“I love those who can smile in trouble, who can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. ‘Tis the business of little minds to shrink, but they whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves their conduct, will pursue their principles unto death.” – Leonardo Da Vinci