“It was mildly racist…” I laughed while narrating an incident I had been subjected to, to a friend.
‘It was a mildly racist incident‘. This sentence had been overused by me in the past. Until recently when realization dawned on me that there is no valid analogy of something being ‘Mildly Racist‘. It could be either racist or not. Ignorant or not. Prejudiced or not. Colorist or not. Sexist or not. There is no scale, or at least one that I have had the fortune of discovering, that could measure the amount of an -ism projected on someone by another.
The same way a joke is not ‘slightly sexist’. It is either one or not.
People aren’t ‘just a little Islamophobic’. Either they are or they are not.
Isn’t that over-simplifying everything? Aren’t you just painting everything into black and white?
Ummm…no. Allow me to explain.
When we tend to mildi-fy experiences which reek of an ignorant mind or individual, to put it nicely, we actually provide a free pass to the perpetrator to wiggle away from being held accountable, or a chance for them to correct the misogyny. If the labeler happens to also be the victim, it then brings in an excuse which diminishes the credibility and the right of other victims to be taken seriously, ultimately hindering justice. Might such talks affect us individually? Maybe not. But it does affect people on a larger scale.
Why then did I term it as such?
When I termed my personal experience as such, the thought behind it was to not diminish it. Rather, I felt it didn’t require the same amount of concern as the far more devastating experiences of a lot of people around the world. I felt it didn’t, shouldn’t, be put in the same league as those of traumatic experiences. Also, I tend to ignore things up till a certain stage. After that, I am Medusa and Te Ka combined in one. Ask those whom have had the fortune of seeing me lose it. There aren’t many victims, but I did threaten someone, in absolute rage, that I would chop them into pieces and make them disappear so that their family wouldn’t even find them for any final rites. I was 17. A high schooler. I had no means to make this happen. The drama (another story for another time), stopped after that. Plus my friends who had pushed an extremely reluctant me into this whole godforsaken situation, learned to keep to their boundaries. Well…none of them are directing any further soap-operas in my life, so I guess things worked out for the best.
Gosh! Do I hate drama! Figuratively and literally.
Anyway, to give a better and safer analogy, think of a large monster. It’s made up of countless living cells. Can each individual cell harm us? Perhaps not. But when each non-consequential cell come together, they produce a monster that will cause immeasurable amount of damage.
Don’t think that one friend who constantly cracks misogynistic jokes should be corrected? Or its easier to ignore that one relative who finds it normal to dismiss another’s plight in peals of laughter? Or not to stand up for someone when jokes are being hurled at them for their appearance or speech?
Think again. What goes around, does come around. Do make sure that what does come around is something you’d be proud of. Even if no one notices the contributions you make, the fact still remains that you are contributing to the lessening of what’s wrong with us as a society, essentially trying your best to strengthen it, makes all the difference. How do you think we got till here? There have been countless, nameless people behind every step of a civilization’s progress. Not being celebrated does not negate your efforts. It does feel good to be recognized and appreciated, I will admit to that. Yet, that is not the end all, know all. In a world where everything is encouraged to be on display, do some things that might be unsung, yet not lesser in any way.
Trust me, everything is not a hand-blown glass vase to be kept on display.
Anyhow, after this whole write-up, I might as well tell you a part of the scenario which inspired this whole rant.
Let’s go back to the year 2017.
I was in active labor. Already admitted but was purposely delaying the thick needle of an epidural. (My body has a complicated relationship with epidural). I was looked after by two nurses. One was good. The other, well…quite judgmental. After a lot of snide remarks here and there (not going into those details), and making things unnecessary complicated, while I was speaking to her in perfect English, she then proceeds to ask me if I required a translator.
If you haven’t gone through labor, I can’t explain. But those of you who have, you know the situation I would be in. I am also not a screamer, so most of my energy went in keeping myself from yelling my lungs out. I merely shook my head accompanied by a simple ‘No’. I was asked again if I were sure.
Honestly, I was quite tempted to say ‘Yes’ and talk to the translator in English when they’d arrive. If asked, I could have just said that my nurse was having difficulty understanding me. However, I simply repeated my former answer. Thankfully, soon after, either she was replaced or chose not to come back. The rest of the birth story is for another time.
To sum it up, don’t be scared to call a spade, a spade. Unless you’re in labor. Because in labor, you don’t want to call anything as anything. On the other hand, you might want to hit someone who annoys you, with a spade.
Either way, it’s always a giant mess later, which you would then wish that you hadn’t created.