In this blog, I talk about injustice that we struggle to recognize and/or blindly commit.
Author: Brendan Birth
Brendan is a young professional who is pursuing a career in advocacy. While much of his advocacy is in ageism, he is also passionate about other forms of discrimination and injustice. In his spare time, he likes to serve his home church, track major snowstorms and hurricanes, closely follow multiple sports, and make lots of puns.
The holidays can be a busy and stressful time for some of us. Gift shopping, meeting with family you don’t get along with, changes in schedule, and much more, in addition to trying to keep up with the usual responsibilities, can be stressful. Thankfully, Jenny at Jenny in Neverland has some tips on how to look after your well-being during the holidays. I definitely benefit from following these tips, and so would many others, which is why I’m sharing her post today.
Also, if any readers have additional tips on looking after one’s well-being during the holidays, feel free to comment below!
Over the past several months, I have written posts about stereotypes associated with some of the major identities in the LGBTQ+ community; namely, stereotypes associated with identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and asexual.
When I started this series, I planned for it to coincide with a number of big events this calendar year, such as the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in June, but I had no idea quite how much this series would coincide with some other major events related to the LGBTQ+ community. For example, in July, Olympian Caster Semenya, an athlete born with intersex traits, was barred from defending her world title in the 800-meter race; that was part of why my post on intersex stereotypes weighed in on whether Semenya was being unfairly treated. I was also unaware that, before the end of this series, the United States Supreme Court would start yet another term where LGBTQ+ issues were up for consideration. There were probably other things that came up between the beginning of this series and now, but those two developments come to my mind.
If anything, these events show that understanding yet rejecting these stereotypes associated with different groups in the LGBTQ+ community is as important as ever. The rights, livelihoods, and lives of many people in the LGBTQ+ community depend on our rejecting such stereotypes.
A few months ago, I began a series addressing stereotypes for LGBTQ+ people—talking about people who identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer, as well as people who are intersex and asexual. This is the next-to-last post in the series, as I will do a wrap-up post next week.
As I am going in order of the acronyms for LGBTQ (or LGBTQIA), it is time for me to discuss stereotypes associated with being asexual. But before going into details about those stereotypes, I should start by talking about what it means to be asexual and stereotypes that I’ve learned (and stereotypes that others should also dismantle) about being asexual.
Asexual people are people who are not sexually attracted to anyone (men or women), and/or have low or no desire for sexual activity. You may hear the term “ace” when hearing talk about asexual people; “ace” is short for “asexual” (and the asexual community is often referred to as the “ace community” or as “aces”).
Now that we’ve talked about what it means to be asexual, here are a few stereotypes associated with being asexual:
Asexual people can’t have sex. This stereotype confuses a lack of sexual desire with the lack of ability to have sex. Just because an asexual person does not have sexual desires does not mean that the person is incapable of having sex.
Asexual people can’t be in romantic relationships, let alone get married. This is a stereotype where asexuality gets confused with another identity: aromantic. To keep things straight and to the point, asexual people lack sexual desires but can have romantic desires that don’t necessarily involve sex, while aromantic people have sexual desires but not necessarily romantic ones. In addition to the confusion between asexuality and aromanticism, this stereotype also breeds the notion that sex needs to be at the center of a deep relationship or a marriage, which need not be the case. Oh, and by the way, if you still have doubts about the ability of an asexual person to be in a romantic relationship or in a marriage, I encourage you to read this Vice article on asexual people who are in very deep romantic relationships.
Asexual people just haven’t found the right person to have sex with yet. If someone is asexual, what this means is that there is nobody who an asexual person will have a deep desire to have sex with. And that is not about an inability to find the right person, but is instead just about a lack of sexual desire.
Asexual people are afraid of sex. Not necessarily—asexual people just lack sexual attraction and/or desire. Lacking the desire to do something is not necessarily the fear of something.
These, of course, are just a few of the harmful stereotypes associated with being asexual. If there are other stereotypes about asexual people that should be discussed and/or if anyone wants to expand upon the intersex stereotypes mentioned here, please feel free to post a comment below!
From a young age, I was taught that as long as I didn’t look for trouble, I wouldn’t get in trouble with the police.
Thankfully, for me, that has been the case. I’ve never looked to cause any trouble, even with something relatively harmless like marijuana, and I haven’t gotten into trouble.
But because of institutional racism, which I defined in my introductory post in the institutional racism series as “racism that is practiced and sometimes even normalized by social, economic, governmental, and other institutions,” the story is often different for those who don’t look Caucasian.
For example, some of my brother’s elementary school friends who were people of color got into troubling situations with the police, even though they weren’t looking to cause trouble (yes, you read that correctly: elementary school). For example, these friends were often searched thoroughly by police under a practice in New York known as “stop-and-frisk,” even though there was zero evidence of their carrying weapons. On the other hand, you never heard similar tales from my brother’s and my white friends or from my Caucasian family. It was therefore no coincidence that the bias against people of color in stop-and-frisk was so severe that some people called it “walking while brown.”
These stories seemed to fit with the actual statistics on stop-and-frisk. For example, a May 2012 New York Times article cited by Forbes said that “85% of those stopped were black or Hispanic even though those groups make up about half of NYC’s population.” With a statistic like this, there is validity to the claim that someone is stopped for “walking while brown.”
Readers might be looking at these statistics and thinking, “Fine…you have stories and statistics, but where does the institutional racism come in?” To find the answer, it’s important to look at how stop-and-frisk was justified—it was justified by saying that people who are deemed a threat need to be stopped. Hence, by using stop-and-frisk disproportionately on people of color, an institution (the police) was sending the racist message that a disproportionate number of people of color were a threat.
In contrast, similar stories are never heard of from light-skinned people like me. You see a white person sleeping in the common room at college? The thought is that, “Oh…the person has studied a ton. No big deal.” You see two white people at a Starbucks waiting to meet with someone? You don’t think anything of it, probably. But people of color doing these things are viewed as a threat by many people, law enforcement or not.
As I said in the beginning of this piece, I was taught from a young age that I would not get into trouble if I didn’t seek trouble. As it turns out, though, I might not have gotten into trouble even if I had sought some trouble.
At the same time, I recognize that it is a different story for friends of mine who are people of color. It is a different story because of the startling disparities between the way whites are policed and the way people of color are policed. Indeed, institutional racism exists in the way that I, and others, are policed.
Update as of November 24, 2019: While this series on institutional racism ended long ago, the issues I addressed in this post have become relevant again due to the renewed scrutiny on Michael Bloomberg’s stop-and-frisk policy while he was Mayor of New York City. In case you were wondering, the stories and statistics I have of stop-and-frisk in this post are from Mayor Bloomberg’s tenure in New York. The current scrutiny over this tactic exists because he declared his candidacy for President of the United States today, just one week after he apologized for his use of the tactic while he was mayor.
I am hoping that this post serves as a reminder that, regardless of his apology and regardless of whether you believe in his apology, the institutional racism that led to Bloomberg’s stop-and-frisk is still relevant.
As for readers who didn’t expect a post from me until after Thanksgiving, sorry about that. I figured that this post is too relevant not to re-publish right now.
One day recently, I was reading through Facebook posts from
my friends on my personal Facebook account. Usually, when I’m doing this, “blog
post” is not one of the first things I have in mind.
But then, I saw a post where a friend of mine shared an
image of a tweet from someone I didn’t even know…
It does sound absurd, that someone could be so poor they
can’t afford to get a job. But, as ridiculous as this tweet may sound, it’s true—the
expenses involved in getting and keeping a job can be prohibitively expensive.
Here are a few expenses that are required to get or keep a
job, that can also be just too expensive for some people:
Money to keep your car running
Corbin’s tweet talks about “gas money,” and she’s right that
gas money is one of the costs that makes someone so poor that they can’t get to
a job interview or to a job. But, there’s also the cost of making sure the car
remains in good shape, of getting repairs when something breaks, and of
inevitably getting a new car when your old car struggles to run as it should.
After all, there are many jobs that require you to have a car, so if you can’t
afford to have a functional car, you can’t afford to have a job.
Or, if you don’t drive to and from work, money for mass
I’m blessed to live in a place where you can take mass
transit to and from work. However, mass transit fares can add up over the
course of a year. For example, if one were to get a monthly mass transit pass
in New York City, that’s over $1,500 a year in mass transit expenses alone (at
$127 a month). For someone who’s earning a lot of money, $1,500 may not sound
like a ton. But for someone on the edge financially, that $1,500 may be the
difference between being able to afford to get to a job—or not.
If you have a child and you are looking to work a job for 40
hours a week, your child needs to somehow be taken care of until you get home
from work. Hence, the need for child care. But it costs many thousands of
dollars a year, in many cases, to make sure your child is getting proper child
care. In New York City, it costs, on average, over $16,000 a year for an infant
to be in child care!
Even with a $15 an hour minimum wage—something that many progressives advocate
for—that’s half a year’s worth of your salary spent on child care alone.
Corbin’s tweet also talks about people not being able to afford the money to adhere to the dress code for a job interview, let alone the multiple appropriate outfits necessary for a job. On a personal note, there was one time months ago when I ran into someone begging for money on the subway…so that he could get nice clothes for his job interview. I hope he got his money, and his clothes. In the meantime, this story exemplifies how it costs money—lots of it—to have the dress code you need for a job interview and a job. If you don’t have the money to buy professional clothing, then it puts you in a difficult situation professionally.
So, next time there’s a temptation to judge a poor person for not working hard enough to get back on their feet, I really wish that we were less judgmental, and remembered that the obstacles to “getting back on their feet” (in other words, getting a job) are, in some cases, too enormous to overcome at times. Instead, it would be best to find solutions that would allow for a poor person to not spend as much on car maintenance, for someone in economic need to get reduced-fare or free mass transit, for reduced-price or free child care to exist for those who need it, and for more reduced-price or free professional clothing to exist for those who need it. There are many economic barriers that lie between many people and jobs, and instead of calling someone lazy for encountering those barriers, it would be best to figure out how to remove the barriers.
 Some individual programs, such as Dress for Success (for women) or the Men’s Wearhouse Suit Drive (for men) can help. However, individual programs like these are not enough. Click here for more information on Dress for Success and click here for more information on the Men’s Wearhouse Suit Drive.