Inequality affects us unequally

How sexism and racism intersect and sometimes clash

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Portland, Oregon in 2020, photo by Christyl Rivers

Inequality. It might help to stop and reflect upon that word. If inequality is a problem for some and not others, then is it always a bad thing?

Yes. It is always destructive, in the quiet way that resentment builds in any injustice like a slowly inflating, infected boil. The poison is in there. At some point, it will seep out.

On the surface, however, we are socialized to act as though inequality is normal. We don’t interrupt most people — a teacher, preacher, cop, or any other senior figure — and ask why they have the authority to tell us what to do. After all, we should, by most measures, know our own needs better than anyone else, but we learn to be polite.

Many women, especially Black women, are disregarded by physicians. Breonna Taylor was guilty of nothing at all, but the system itself killed her. Most farmers, worldwide, are women and they carry the brunt of poverty and heavy toil upon their backs. Climate justice is only beginning to be seen as a path for addressing contaminated water, unemployment, slave wages, and famine driven conflict which impacts women and their communities.

Finding voice is of critical importance, then, not just for the marginalized, but for the whole world to live more harmoniously.

Certainly, there are some cases where expertise and knowledge are of value, and we should not second guess all authority. But, in other cases, such as when a cop hassles a person just because he can, or when the popular school jock expects deference, or when some random guest at the party sees fit to mansplain to you “girls,” why hip to waist ratio is so crucial for a cis man seeking a lover.

Today, a phenomenon we call cancel culture or calling out, is changing how and why we interrupt authority. However, in most cases, we are still non-confrontational smooth sailors and non-boat rockers. We are tacitly content to avoid uncomfortable currents and waves that actually do ripple through our private lives often to our own detriment.

The internet, with its ease and cruelty of anonymity, changed how we interact with strangers. But, the result of that is whole ship-wrecks of some lives, while bullies of means and influence sail on unscathed.

To rock the boat the right way, we need discipline, non-violence, reason and righteousness, We need, as John Lewis said, “to be doing the work of the Almighty.”

We think of racism and sexism, now, because their time is almost up. And, because they are very real and a part of every human experience. But, as real as they are, they are a secondary part of our human nature that stems from feeling excluded. The first part of our human nature is that we are, in fact, human beings, of one race, and in nine out of ten cases, just trying to confirm our belonging.

When we are excluded, due to sex, or race, we are truly injured. So, too, is the person who seemingly benefits from elevating himself as above us. I am not trying to say that the persons who have all the yachts and private jets are not older, whiter, richer, and more male than not. I am trying to say that they too, live in an unbalanced world where their fear is overinflated by the threat of losing all they possess.

Boo hoo. You may sarcastically cry for those poor, victimized pale penis people, but, after a good laugh, we still have work to do.

As a topic, I have noticed that racism has more than ten times more articles, (at least on Medium) then sexism.

I also noticed, that as big as the Women’s March became, it paled next to the Black Lives Matter movement. Both, (and many more) movements were founded by women.

It is simply not true that racism is a greater problem than sexism — to my mind inequality is THE problem, and not a contest — but I have often wondered why we see such discrepancy.

After years of research and reflection, too, I think it has to do with familiarity. We each are thrust, every single human life, into a relationship with someone of the opposite sex. We have a mother, a lover, a daughter, a teacher, a friend, a sister, etc. But with racism, we are segregated.

We see the “other” as a non-belonging outsider.

This unfamiliarity with the other who by all rights should be front and center in any human family — just as the word suggests — creates discomfort and discord.

Whether men and women really know one another better than whites know Blacks is debatable, but what is not debatable is that in most every life, some male loves or loved some female and the result was family belonging. In most every life, some mother gave birth to a son or daughter, and that person, however imperfectly, is included.

With white supremacy, enforced segregation is evident. When there is an exception to the rule, we make a sitcom out of it, and find all the humor we can wring out of such wacky family arrangements.

Having largely separate music, art, comedy, clothing, food, and more makes us less familiar, and therefore, much more wary, of scary new things.

The problem, of course, is just as in the rest of nature, we need diversity. We need biodiversity for planets to exist, and we need ethnic and cultural diversity for societies to thrive.

Remember before LGBTQ+ was an everyday reality? When I was a small child the word “gay” or “lesbian” was whispered, at best, and sneered at, at worst.

We teased the prissy boy, and although I didn’t know why, we disapproved of his mannerisms. What seemed like an overnight change, actually took centuries. Now, if we are conscientious at all, we feel shame for ridiculing the sensitive boy, or fat girl, or differently abled people.

Now, as a more inclusive society reveal to the world, that yes, in fact, we all know and love someone who is not cis or heterosexual. We even grant them to right to marry and have their own families.

And, it is in the family, that real familiarity is born.

This family inclusion, although happening slowly, is still rare with “interracial mixing.” We read about why even Black men are not attracted to Black women, and whether Black women are better off choosing a well-off white guy. We can see every level of internalized racism, from light to dark complexion-ism to full on white supremacy.

We suffer on every rung trying to place ourselves on these constantly unstable ladders of hierarchy.

We forget to wonder often enough, if we can’t just abandon the ladders and try ever-expanding circles of compassion, instead.

Remember the prissy boy my cohorts and I teased when I was a stupid kid? I know now that the reason a “girly boy” was disapproved of is based in misogyny. A boy who acted like a girl, non-tough, or non-violent, is often bitterly shamed.

Even as adults, women are told to be more manly. Rather than having men who rule the world learning to become more womanly, and thereby, well rounded, diplomatic, and versatile, we still have sexists who worship the “strongman” style of dictatorship. World leaders like Jacinda Ardern and Angela Merkel who may competently oversee a pandemic are not emulated enough.

Authoritarian dictators like Putin, Bolsonaro, Kim Jong Un and more, are still held in high regard in nations where patriarchy still has far to fall.

When looked at in terms of human death and suffering, leaders who use pandemics or other crisis to expand their powers, abolish term limits, and lift safety measures, are a danger to an entire globe. We see this when such a bully tries to enrich his cronies and lift regulations that ensure our clean air and water, or when he denies climate injustice to the point where he endangers more people through inaction or outright polluting.

Sex and race, or rather, the injustices burdening people of color, women and children, are multiplied and heaped upon the most vulnerable people who least contribute to emissions, profiteering, and abuse.

When such an authoritarian is questioned, a temper tantrum worthy of a man-child could result, and historically, the village may be razed before people realize what’s happened. Thankfully, Nero, Leopold II, and Hitler, et al, were not real men when real power — righteousness — arose.

In more egalitarian nations, it has been shown, women and girls with education and choice contribute more wholly, and more effectively than those under the thumb of patriarchy. It is no accident that most women and girls restricted by such sexism, are females of color.

In authoritarian locales, people who raise voices decrying classism, caste, sexism, homophobia, and racism tend to be silenced. Which makes it all the more critical that in those places where freedom is still found, good people stand up. When a righteous cause is overwhelmed by might crushing what is right, it does not matter your sex, or color, you need to be present.

The autonomy of a human being is often restricted due to faith, or religion. It is as if the entire canon of faith-based love thy neighbor literature is ignored.

People asked not to judge, judge constantly. They are concerned that God is concerned about the intimate details of where a penis is placed, and whether a woman should choose her own life and fate. All of these views, and even the horror of enslavement can be traced to patriarchal attitudes about how someone “better” must be in mastery over those “lesser” than he.

Although all of science, literature, arts and culture have found such attitudes to be destructive and counterproductive, they persist.

Why? They persist, because although every human being wants freedom for the self, they are convinced freedom for others is dangerous. Sometimes, such freedom is seen as unholy, or by the natural occurrence of our human confirmation bias, we are easily duped into believing that superior authority comes from some higher, supernatural creator.

But the mere existence of our present 4,200 world religions suggests that the higher power is not intervening at all to correct misconceptions. Nor is He, or She, (I bet they’re a They) revealing any of the fate of the tens of thousands of dead religion adherents. Did Odin or Zeus curse anyone this week? Modern wiccans and witches are no longer burned at the stake in Europe, (although they still are in some parts of the world), why did God change Her mind about that?

Once one subscribes to a theory of an ultimate authority, it is an easy leap for those enthralled with the “truth” to find every vile excuse for their atrocities. Racism and sexism continue, then, to be justified on religious grounds which probably pisses off any and all deities to no end.

Do you think it makes God mad when you ignore a gorgeous field of purple flowers? Me too, but in addition to the color purple, I also think God hates it when we don’t see the colors of people.

And people, includes female people of each and every nuance.

Religion, does, however, condemn the arrogance of human authority, and we should credit it for this. In the Christian Bible, such hubris is condemned, most succinctly in Proverb 16:18, “Pride leads to destruction and arrogance to downfall.” In every case of such scripture they are not talking about gay pride, or grrrl power, but an assumed certainty — authority in other words — about knowing better than anyone else does.

What I take from this seeming contradiction is that religion is not the problem. How people wield religion is a problem. Religion, far from being the cause of all human suffering, is like sex, money, or drugs, it can be used for good purpose, or for destructive goals.

That which connects us is sacred. This is the air, the water, the trees, the oceans, the molecules that we are, the DNA that we share, the systems that support and sustain all life, and the emergent quality we call love.

That said, I would emphasize that love is not an extension of our conscious intellect. It is more basic, original, and primitive than that. Charles Darwin, for example, recognized and studied animal emotions and behavior in depth.

Despite the facts and despite our modern knowledge of biology, we still treat the natural world, and the beasts and plants within it, as possessions.

Our broken relationships with nature, and our neglect of our sacred stewardship unleashes everything from zoonotic pandemics to climate injustice, and even the climate crisis itself. Much has been written on this already, but the link between how we treat or mistreat one another is very much aligned with our greatest miseries, and their resolution.

As we become anti-racists and anti-sexists, our inner resilience and planetary resurrection is possible in our firmly established belonging. The more we detect our connections, the more we thrive.

Once we all agree that human beings are animals capable of love just like mother grizzlies or baby cheetahs, we can better understand our complete belonging to one another. Once we see that humankind, far from being superior to other life forms, is wholly dependent upon a higher, natural wisdom, we can begin to see one another as family.

Written by

Ecopsychologist, Writer, Farmer, Defender of reality, and Cat Castle Custodian.

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