Wednesday, March 20, 2013

You're right. I AM a person. But...

Whenever race, gender/gender identity, sexuality, or any other personal trait that puts a person in a minority group is brought to light, I hear the same thing over and over: "I don't see <insert personal trait here>. I see everyone as equal."
I get the sentiment, but it's wrong. Let me explain.

If equality meant we were all the same, we would be the Borg. But, we're not.

We are all unique individuals with unique experiences and perspectives on life. This isn't the "everyone's a special snowflake, so everyone gets a trophy!" kind of unique. It means that even twins see things different from each other.

By saying that someone's unique experience, which more often than not requires that they have whatever trait puts them in a suppressed group of people, is null because we're all equal, you are honestly saying that their experiences aren't worth your time. You are essentially saying that they are less than, which perpetuates "otherness" rather than ridding the world of it.

I am a 32-year old, married, white, non-Christian female. I have 3 children. I have never had a miscarriage, and never had a reason to need an abortion. I've never had a traditional college experience, I grew up with a strong religious experience and background, and I was a virgin by choice until I was 18. I've lived in the country, in the city, in the desert, and in swampland. Most of my childhood was spent on a farm, while most of my adulthood has been spent in cities. I lived in Canada for 5 years. I've divorced once, married twice, have 3 children spread across 12 years. I have OCD with General Anxiety Disorder, and question everything rather than take everything at face value. I am a survivor of childhood disease, bullying, molestation, abuse, rape, asthma, poor immune system and (hopefully) dubstep.

All of everything I listed was not an attempt to impress, simply a list of my traits. All of these traits lead to life experiences that are changed by each new trait that presents itself.
I will also never know what it's like to live without those traits. I don't know what it's like to be 33 yet, regardless of how many of my friends and family members have been there. I won't ever know what it's like to be a man. No matter how many Hispanic or Black friends I have, I will never have their life experiences.

I can only speak to my experiences.

This does not mean that I can't be empathetic.

So, when I read someone write "I don't see color", I cringe. My friends of color are beautiful, and their skin color, while not being the whole of who they are, certainly gave them life experiences that lead to them becoming who they are. The same with "I don't see gender". Or, "Gay, straight, it's all the same".

When you negate a person's race, gender, sexuality, disability, or any other part of them, you dismiss them on the whole. That part of who they are is necessary to create the whole person.

Equality is not everyone BEING the same.

Equality is respecting differences without using them against those who are different. Equality is not using people's differences to vault yourself ahead. Equality is not keeping people who are different from you down so they have to work harder to get where you are.

Equality is the purest morality, period. Treat others as you would be treated.