It is hard to ignore the state of the world right now.
I’m not talking about the Coronavirus pandemic, though that is a big part of life, I’m talking about the other pandemics that have been around long before we even knew what a virus was.
Racism. Homophobia. Transphobia.
It is so easy to step back and say ‘well it’s better than it was’ – but really, in many places and many ways, it isn’t particularly.
Okay, so we have stopped the whole shipping of entire boat lots of black people to new countries to treat them like animals on farms being a legal thing to do. We have said that murdering someone just because they love someone of the same gender as themselves or because they were born in a body that did not physically match their gender is not an acceptable thing to do.
But we haven’t got to a point where everyone accepts everyone else regardless of these things.
But there are an awful lot of people out there who still seem to think that people of colour don’t feel pain like white people, ‘like animals’.
For a start, we have proved that animals feel pain, fear, and a whole host of other emotions, so the ‘like animals’ argument falls down at that point.
But most importantly, we know for a fact that the colour of somebody’s skin has exactly zero effect on their ability to feel pain, and is zero indication of their intelligence or anything else.
We KNOW that a person is a person is a person.
So why then, as a white skinned human, is my life easier than that of someone with dark skin born just up the road from me?
That makes no sense. And for years I thought it was okay that I didn’t treat them differently, I thought that by not being racist, I was doing enough to be on their side.
But it isn’t really. That makes me a part of the problem, only a tiny part, but a part all the same.
Racism isn’t a Black Person Problem that I need to help them with, it is a White Person Problem that I need to help fix.
I don’t have a big or important voice – I am not a huge influencer by any means – but I have one, and because I am pasty and go strawberry colour in the sunshine, people who are also more susceptible to sunburn are statistically more likely to listen to what I say.
So I need to speak out when I can, to share and amplify the words of the black community to try and get them heard by more people. To try and help others to understand that just not being racist isn’t enough any more and that by being actively anti-rascist is the best way to help.
The same goes for the LGBT community.
I am a part of that, as I identify as bisexual, however because I am not obviously anything other than straight – I have a male partner and two children – I haven’t often been the target of direct persecution. There have been a few incidents, but they have been minor and I have never had any cause to fear for my life because of my sexuality.
This is not the case for many other people, not the case for people I call friends – they have been taunted, threatened, physically abused – all because of their sexuality or their gender.
Not being one of the bullies, not joining in with the jokes and the cat-calling doesn’t make me not a part of the problem though. I need to stand up and fight back with my friends, and for my friends.
I need to point out when jokes are inappropriate, or tell people when they say something hurtful, even when it is in a private conversation. Because one day they might say it to somebody else and they might not even realise that what they are saying is a problem because some things are so ingrained in our language, culture and every day life that they have almost lost meaning. To the people they aren’t about.
These are small things, but if we all started doing it, if we all paid more attention and thought about what we say and how we act, then lots of people making small changes will make an enormous change that will make life better for everybody.
Making life better for gay people, black people, transgender people, ‘other’ people of any sort, doesn’t make life any worse for white/straight/cis gender people.
It makes it better for them because it gets rid of anger, fear, inequality and bitterness.
It would make a richer world – and I don’t mean monetarily – I mean in terms of quality of life.
I have an easy life. I do.
Not as easy as if I were a straight white man, but an easy one all the same. That is a privilege – I have never had to fight for my right to exist somewhere, to work, to have things that I want, or go to places.
My choice of who to love is not branded ‘illegal’ and I don’t get told I’m a threat or less of a person just because of my gender or skin colour or chosen partner.
I want everyone else to have an easy life as well, and for that to be reality I need to step out of my comfortable little bubble and stand beside the people who don’t have the comfort of such a bubble. I need to help them illuminate the bubbles of people who don’t even know they are in a bubble and teach them how to share, I need to help them burst the bubbles of the people who know full well they have a bubble and don’t want anybody near them who is in any way different to them and teach them that actually all humans are just that – human – and deserve to be treated as such.
I can’t do much, but I can do something.
And so can you. Even a little thing can make a big difference. Use your voice, even if it’s only small – someone might hear you and it might make a huge difference to their life.
I’m not perfect, I have a lot to learn and a long way to go, and I am going to make mistakes – I’m going to use language that offends, I’m not going to say something when I should because I’m scared of what people might think to say, I’m going to walk on by when I should stop – because I am human.
But I am going to TRY and I am going to do my best to keep learning and keep trying for the rest of forever. Whatever that means.