Abilities

Otherisation and discrimination also affect people whose bodies work differently.

I used to feel reserve when I saw someone in a wheelchair possibly running into a practical problem, but that’s been a long time ago.

I know that asking if I can help can offend, but it’s matter of measure, of knowing where someone’s boundaries are, and I haven’t encountered any friction with that in decades.

Sometimes, I merely observe and conclude “Nah, she is fine.” At other times, I ask something like “Can I help?” or “Need a hand?” and as soon as the person makes clear that he or she does not need any help, I move on.

The last thing I want to do is declare someone helpless. Because it isn’t about abilities. It’s about hindrances created by society and a lack of a willingness to accommodate for this type of diversity.

That one time when I saw that someone’s mobility scooter was threatening to topple because obstacles on the pavement forced the person to go onto the street, I didn’t ask whether he needed help. Plain logic tells you what to do. Grab the thing before it falls over. But don’t make an ass of yourself next.

Similarly, I once accompanied a woman who I saw hesitate outside a drug store. I asked if I could help. She said she wanted to get a few items but was worried it might take her too long as the shops would close soon and manoeuvring the aisles can be tricky because the displays are usually not positioned with wheelchairs and mobility scooters in mind. That time, I was really glad that I had decided to ask if I could help and that I didn’t let a fear of being rebuked or being experienced as intrusive stop me.

All these issues – of skin colour, ethnicity, abilities, gender, hair colour, sexuality etc – overlap.

Of course it is all simply about seeing each other as fellow human beings. That shouldn’t be so hard.

Why is that so hard? Because we are all merely human and all have our personal weaknesses and strengths and histories. We all do. But we can’t know what is the right thing to do unless we have conversations, no matter how awkward.

We all have baggage…

Peace in oneself = Peace in the world

Yesterday, I made a quick video in response to the Derek Chauvin verdicts and got tangled up in all sorts of otherisation and discrimination traps. These issues are not straightforward and they are not separate, but occur across the entire human spectrum and as such are intertwined.

Issues of otherisation and discrimination are complex and that it isn’t merely only about skin colour.

Far too often, when white police officers kill black people, it is.

But their issues with fear, insularity, conditioning and guns need to be addressed too. In the video, I mention civilian gun ownership but, of course, whether police officers are armed or not goes hand in hand with that.

Proportionality has gone missing, too, in policing and a lot of that also has to do with racism and socioeconomic inequality. 

I’ve talked about that in the past here in the UK. When I see that a poor sod is prosecuted because he stole a sandwich, while I know that rich and famous folks can get away with just about anything (think only Savile if you want a striking example ), I know that this is just about policing targets (numbers of arrests and numbers of successful prosecutions).

Successful prosecutions are much easier to obtain when you are dealing with poor sods, people who are not expected to be able to mount a useful defence in any kind of situation.

I used to work in tourism and hospitality. Counterfeit bills are a fact of life. Even if George Floyd did happen to pay for his groceries with a bill that happened to be a counterfeit bill, it did not warrant this utterly over-the-top response from the police. He was treated as if he had just murdered his wife or his child!

So that, too needs to be addressed. Proportionality in policing because it’s directly related to inequality, to otherisation and discrimination.

Otherisation begets otherisation and discrimination begets discrimination and erodes trust.

Otherisation and discrimination also lead to marginalisation and socioeconomic inequality, including the now so frequently mentioned health disparities.

I wish I had a magic solution. I don’t. But I can also see how we all learn from these struggles if we somehow manage to cross all the many chasms. Easier said than done.

Ever since the verdict, I’ve been wondering how this makes black people feel, not just in the US but also elsewhere. This afternoon, as I returned some library books, I walked by a bunch of black youngsters and I wondered if they were feeling any different. More at ease, more respected as human beings, perhaps. And safer? How about people in the US?

I think that we need to talk to one another, across the various artificial lines that we’ve drawn on the basis of ONE ASPECT of another person’s appearance.