Monday, June 18

Get Along

As I was living in Cleveland, Ohio attending high school I remember the Rodney King beating and subsequent riots in Los Angeles as one of my first racial, social justice and political lessons as I saw that life was far more complicated than I understood.  Many of us, from a distance, saw that there had been progress throughout the decades with regards to relationships between races, but we were reminded during this time that the institutionalized, systemic racism and violence towards black people (as well as towards many races and between races) continued.

Recently I was in a conversation during which two people told me that racism happens, sexism happens, homophobia happens, classism happens, it will always happen and there is nothing that can be done.  It is part of life.  Of course I completely disagree.  Racism is a choice.  Sexism is a choice.  Homophobia is a choice.  Classism is a choice.  Agism is a choice.  Colonial ideas are a choice.  An inappropriate comment, a joke meant to demean, and a conversation during which we blame people for their experiences the subsequent traumatic fallout.  It is important to look for, watch and name instances during which we see people making excuses for intolerant behaviour.  Some ideas, words, and comments are so often repeated within a group, society or culture, that they become institutionalized and we believe them to be truths (called doxa by sociologists and anthropologists), but when looked at critically, they have merely been repeated so often that we assume these ideas to be truths.

Most recently I had an individual direct several accusations towards me.  Thank you to some strong and intelligent individuals, we were able to limit his destructive and bizarre behaviour.  Several people told me that this was a case of sexism.  At first I balked at the idea and rejected this notion.  After a few weeks, and in hearing the word domineering directed at me from this person, I conceded.  Upon closer observation I realized that this individual has rarely seen women in positions of leadership, and most certainly is not used to and does not agree with a women reminding him of his responsibilities.  Part of his doxa has been men are leaders, women are not.  It was difficult for me to admit that this was a sexist experience because part of my doxa is women (although few) as leaders, women in authority, and women from whom I have received and accepted advice.   His inane and immature response to me, being in a position of leadership above him, has been an interesting experience.  Doxa's clashing I suppose.      

My experience is nothing close to the trauma and far-reaching aftermath of Rodney King's, but having seen, heard and talked about the LA riots twenty years ago, I am able to identify, as many are, that experiences that parallel his still occur and we each have a choice to contribute to racism, sexism, homophobia, classism, agism, etc.; make excuses for these types of behaviours; ignore these types of behaviours; or have the courage to name them as intolerant and work to remove these inequitable ideas from our societies as doxa which we will no longer believe.

"Long after I am gone, people will remember me saying, can't we all just get along."

Rodney King

Taken from Google images

I shall add his book to the words I want to take the time from which to learn.

Taken from

1 comment:

  1. Hi Tonia,

    Loved reading your thoughts today. Yes, no matter how vigilant I am with the "isms", I find they can creep up on me, almost unbeknown.