The hardest thing about being an ‘other’ in a society is that sometimes we lack the language to even explain what is going on.
Science has taught us that if we are able to put a name on something we face, our brain can literally reorder itself to understand a once nameless blob of a situation. Like saying the name “Voldermort” out loud, examining a situation deeply, taking the time to understand it, and even naming it allows us to tackle the issue head on.
I have always been slow to jump on what I call ‘The Isim Express.’ I don’t want to assume that everything bad that happens to me is because I’m a women. Or an immigrant. Or because I’m disabled. Sometimes I utterly screw up, and other times people just aren’t thinking.
But just as racism doesn’t always look like the KKK knocking on your door, sometimes ‘isms’ can be hard to recognize. Equality and freedom are two things that are very slippery, and they can be taken out of your hands with a few words.
We have yet to get to the bottom of just how much privilege and power screw things up. Words like “ableism” didn’t even enter into our conscious a few years ago. We are still all blinded by so many presumptions of what is ‘normal’ that nobody is aware of just how many ways we can screw up reality.
Prejudice is endlessly creative and confounding.
Worse, it usually falls on the victim to work out what has happened and, if she wants to get any action on it, how to then tell the story so it makes sense to those in power as being an injustice. This is not fair and more importantly, it’s exhausting.
And yet if we don’t do the work to name an injustice, it forever stays an insurmountable blob in our heads. The injustice remains unnamed in our society. People keep acting ignorantly.
If a situation keeps getting stuck in your head as being ‘bad’ and you can’t figure out why, it could very well be that you came face to face will something malevolent and unjust. Talk to people who are willing to take the time and figure out, with you, what exactly happened. Do not brush it under the rug. Even if you start by expressing things badly, know that this rudimentary work of figuring out what is actually happening, is crucial in giving power back to yourself.
Always remember: Just because you can’t put your finger on exactly what happened, doesn’t mean it can’t affect you. And if something is affecting you, it is always important to figure out what it is.