In the wake of the protests and violence in Charlottesville, I’ve heard a lot of people talking about how racism (and other ‘isms’) in America are “worse than they ever have been.” This sentiment has been echoed in the Washington Post, Slate, Reuters, CNN, and Gallup.
But is it? Let’s look at one piece of the puzzle:
The Washington Post, and Slate pieces were written by white males, CNN’s article was authored by the relative of a victim, and both the Reuters and Gallup polls were done in “middle America” with mostly white respondents. Thus, is it really surprising that the trend seems to be alarm and foreboding when it comes to race relations?
What do people of color, women, and the LGBTQ communities have to say about the climate in America?
While women overwhelmingly lost confidence in America and where it was headed after Trump’s election (Pew Research), I’ve yet to find a slew of articles talking about sexism getting worse than it was decades ago. At most I found write-ups on how men seem to feel free to be more verbal about it; but if society’s actions say anything (the firing of James Damore from Google, for instance), it isn’t tolerated very well.
While the LGBTQ community is under constant scrutiny, GLAAD and other prominent organizations have said simply, “It hasn’t gotten better.” There is very little in the way of news about things getting worse.
Lastly, when you look at ethnically diverse communities, perhaps actor Will Smith summed it up best when he said, “Hearing people say that race relations are worse than they’ve ever been – it doesn’t feel like that to me. Racism isn’t getting worse, it’s getting filmed.”
This brings me to my final point: While things are certainly grim, it seems that all of the “isms” seem to look a lot bigger and scarier from the Top of the Food Chain (TFC). Essentially, when you’re at the TFC and you’re faced with news of protests, violence, backlash, and political jostling every time you turn on the tv or open social media, it probably looks as though America is imploding!
But perhaps this is because TFC’ers have never had to take a personal look at it before.
If a person has been able to go through life without confronting constant covert slights, or wondering if – despite what the boss said – you didn’t get the promotion because of your gender, sexual orientation, or the color of your skin, it might appear as though everything is suddenly worse. But if you have experienced those things – and you’ve experienced them your entire life – you know that the attitudes that are being shouted at the recent protests by the alt-right have always existed. The hatred spewing forth from these individuals has been ever-present, just beneath the surface, waiting for permission to spring forth.
And, like it or not, Trump was that release.
But are things actually WORSE?
I won’t speak to race or the LGBTQ community, as I’m not affected in a way that would qualify me to do so. But I can speak for women’s rights and sexism. Specifically, I can do this as a woman who holds a job in a predominantly male environment, in male prisons. Do I think things are worse?
A little over a decade ago when I started the job, it was definitely worse. Back then it wasn’t uncommon to not be granted access to the tiers without an escort because officers were “worried” about me (thus, no confidentiality for me and my patient). The sexual harassment was fairly constant, and since I was one of very few women on staff, I was expected to just take it with a smile. There was disrespect about what I did and how male staff were convinced that it “made things more dangerous,” just due to my being a woman. Since then, there has been a demonstrable shift in how the prisons operate, and how female staff are treated. Is there still room for improvement? Of course. But it’s far better than it was, and it continues to get better every day.
Might there be a bit of a backlash from the neanderthals who feel emboldened to speak out? Yes. I’ve already seen that too.
But – shocker – I already knew these men felt this way. Their recent hateful speech was nothing new. They’d been covertly sexist the entire time I’ve known them.
In short, hate bleeds.
When you’re on the receiving end of an “ism,” you’re always cued in to the little things that could spell danger. Behaviors, “jokes,” and stares don’t go unnoticed. You’re always tuning in to find out if you’re truly safe and accepted because it could literally be the difference between life and death.
So bring on the protestors and silly social media posting trolls. Let them spill their vicious words all over the streets. It helps us identify you faster.
After all – other than the TFC’ers – we already knew you were here.