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Why we must reframe how we discuss racism

It’s not race that determines how people are treated. It’s racism.

I think some of the rhetoric we use when it comes to biases and prejudices isn’t quite accurate.

Take racism for example. We know that racism exists in Canada. We see it in all sorts of places—in higher incarceration rates for Indigenous people, in how people of colour are followed around in stores, in how White people are more likely to get a job or rent a home than non-White people.

And when we talk about these things, we often make a direct connection to race and ethnicity. White people are more likely to get that job because they’re white, or Black people are more likely to get carded because they’re Black, or Indigenous people are more likely to get poorer care in hospitals because they’re Indigenous.

But this isn’t quite true. It’s not the race or ethnicity of the persons that gives them more privilege or results in more marginalization. It’s how others react to their race or ethnicity.

White people aren’t more likely to get a job because they’re White, but because of how those hiring for the position view White people. Black people aren’t more likely to get carded because they’re Black, but because of how cops view Black people. Indigenous people aren’t more likely to get poorer care in hospitals because they’re Indigenous, but because of how health care providers view Indigenous people.

It’s not race that determines how people are treated. It’s racism.

And the same thing goes for other types of biases.

Women aren’t paid less than men because they’re women, but because of the sexist prejudices bosses have towards women. Trans people aren’t limited to what washrooms they can use because they’re trans, but because of the transphobic prejudices administrators and politicians have towards trans people.

And so on.

Being a woman, or gay, or Asian, or disabled, or whatever isn’t the cause of the disadvantages and marginalizations that these people experience. It’s the prejudices and biases of the dominant classes that causes them.

People aren’t afraid to go downtown because of the Indigenous people; they’re afraid to go downtown because of how they view Indigenous people.

It’s time to reframe how we speak about bias and prejudice.

By Kim Siever

I live in Lethbridge with my spouse and 4 of our 6 children. I’m a writer, focusing on political news, social issues, and the occasional poem. My politics are radically left.

I’m also dichotomally Mormon. And I’m a functional vegetarian: I have a blog post about that somewhere around here. My pronouns are he/him, and I’m queer.

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