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Discrimination

Discrimination is when people treat others badly because they are different from them. Oppression refers to discrimination on a larger or systemic level. This is often used to take power away from an individual or a group of people.

The important thing to remember about the different types of discrimination is that they are all unfair, hurtful, and often connected. If you are against one type of discrimination, then it makes sense to be against them all!

All students have the right to go to school in an environment where they feel safe. If you feel like you are being harassed, bullied, or made to feel unsafe at school talk to a teacher or guidance counsellor about what is happening. It’s not your fault if you are being mistreated at school, and the staff have a responsibility to try to make the school a safer place for all students.

Challenging Discrimination

What if I'm experiencing discrimination?
Know that it is never your fault if you’ve experienced discrimination and you’re not alone. It can be important to talk to someone you trust about what you are experiencing.

For every act of discrimination people have found ways of resisting. There are many supportive groups and organizations out there that help people talk, share, come together and raise awareness.  Look at what’s going on in your school or community for groups such as Gender/Sexuality Alliances (GSA) or Aboriginal Youth Opportunities (AYO). There are also groups coming together online through social media and blogs where you share and connect with people who’ve dealt with similar experiences. You could even start your own group or blog to raise awareness and resist discrimination.

Here are some other resources:

In Manitoba:

Klinic Crisis Line 1-888-322-3019 or (204) 786-8686 (24/27) – Provides counselling, support and information for people in crisis or distress.
Klinic drop-in counselling – Free counselling services in Winnipeg.

Websites:

kidshelpphone.ca – Info for teens and pre-teens
ruralsupport.ca – Provincial website devoted to farm and rural and northern youth
thatsnotcool.com – Online bullying info for youth
http://www.ayomovement.com/ – An indigenous youth movement from Winnipeg’s North End
kanikanichihk.ca – Programs and opportunities for aboriginal youth
rainbowresourcecentre.org – Provides support and resources to the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and two-spirit communities of Manitoba and North Western Ontario
translifeline.org –  Hotline staffed by transgender people for transgender people. Trans Lifeline volunteers are ready to respond to whatever support needs members of our community might have.
fatso.com – Body positive blog

How can I be an ally?
Being an ally means joining together to stop discrimination. Some examples are when guys and men join girls and women in stopping sexism, or when white people help to stop racism. Becoming an ally is a lifelong process of learning and asking questions. At times being an ally means feeling uncomfortable and thinking about our own privilege. It’s about listening and learning from those dealing with discrimination and making space for everyone to feel welcomed and heard.

We can all challenge ourselves to think and act in ways that are more accepting and inclusive. We can also take action! Listed below are just some of the ways we can encourage more diversity in our schools or community life.

  • Look at your own attitudes and behaviours daily.
  • Think about the language you use and stop saying hurtful things. This could be sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic, ableist etc. terms or phrases (like, “that’s so gay” or “that’s retarded”). We are all going to make mistakes occasionally and say something insensitive. When it happens apologize and keep trying.
  • Learn about the real history of the land you live on or are visiting.
  • Don’t laugh at offensive jokes. Challenge them if you feel safe to do so.
  • Step outside your comfort zone and get to know different types of people, their stories, their hopes and their dreams.
  • Learn from people who are different from you. Listen more than you talk.
  • Attend or organize awareness-building events at school.
  • Talk to your guidance counsellor about starting a Gender-Sexuality Alliance (sometimes also called a Gay-Straight Alliance) in your school.
  • Be politically aware. Educate yourself and understand what is happening in Canada and around the world.
  • Volunteer with community service organizations like a drop-in centre.
  • Boycott companies that are homophobic, racist, sexist, fat-phobic etc.
  • Ask school administrators to make education about respecting differences among people a priority.

Some examples of different types of discrimination are

Ageism
Ageism is when someone is treated badly because of their age. We know that sometimes in our society teenagers and senior citizens are not listened to or given as much respect as others. (**We know that is a generalization and that in some communities elders are valued for their experience and youth as the future!**)

For example, have you ever walked into a convenience store and been treated like you are going to shoplift just because you are young? This is ageism! It’s basically the belief that youth and senior citizens can’t contribute to society or make good decisions just because of their age. We know that this is totally untrue because anybody at any age can have good ideas and make good decisions especially if they have the right information!

Racism
Racism is when someone is treated badly because of the colour of their skin or where they come from. We know that not all skin colours are treated equally in our society. Racism can be seen as bigger than just one person, and is a whole system that is trying to put a group of people down (this is known as systemic racism.) It can be explained as a collective failure by a society as a whole to provide a safe and just environment to certain groups of people, based on their skin colour, culture, or ethnic background.

For example, people of colour face higher rates of incarceration or police involvement. This is not because they are committing more crimes but because racism exists, these groups of people are more likely to be watched. If there were two groups of youth hanging out a park, one group being Indigenous (Aboriginal), and one group being made up of white youth, which group do you think would most likely be checked out by the police? Most of the time, the answer would be the Indigenous (Aboriginal) group. If the police are watching a group of people more closely, then that group of people will also be caught and arrested more often. If you have other people of power in the legal system, such as judges and lawyers, also thinking one group is more trouble, that group can be charged more frequently and sentenced longer than other groups. If someone is also coming from a situation where they have less money and/or social supports, they can have a more difficult time obtaining bail. The media can also play a role. If newspapers and television also start believing that a certain group is causing more crime, they will start reporting the news that way, which means that a lot of people will be getting those messages regularly. In a lot of ways, this has been the experience of many Indigenous (Aboriginal) people in Manitoba, but also in many other places in Canada. It has also been the experience of many newcomers as well.

If someone is born with white skin in Canada, they can often have an easier time dealing with police than someone who is a different colour. Since that person didn’t do any work to get that power, they can be said to have privilege.

Sexism
Sexism is when someone is treated badly because of their sex, gender, or perceived gender. Equal rights between men and women still do not exist. Although we’ve come a long way, there is still a long way to go. Therefore, when we talk about sexism, we almost always see this type of discrimination happen towards women.

All girls and women everywhere should have the freedom to:

  • live free from sexual assault;
  • access birth control (including ECP);
  • have control over their bodies at all times(including during pregnancy and sex);
  • choose abortion, adoption, and parenting without pressure or bias from others;
  • be paid equally for equal work;
  • be treated with respect and dignity at all times.
Homophobia
Homophobia is when someone is treated badly because of their sexual orientation. Sadly, in our society if someone identifies as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or two-spirit, they can face harassment. This behaviour usually comes out of the belief that being gay is wrong, or that if someone really wanted to, they could change and not be gay anymore. This is simply not true! Can you imagine if someone who was straight was expected to all of a sudden completely change who they were attracted to and be gay? It doesn’t seem too likely does it? And there is nothing wrong with being gay anyways! People have the right to be attracted to whoever they want, and live as whatever gender they want, free of harassment.

Our society often doesn’t think about the power of words, and how bad they can make someone feel. For example, we often hear people saying the phrase, “that’s so gay,” to describe something negative. If someone was gay and constantly heard that being gay was not good they can start to feel pretty badly about themselves. It’s the same as someone saying, “that’s retarded,” to describe something negative. Again, if someone was dealing with a cognitive disability , they can start to feel pretty badly.

The point is that all of us need to work to make things as safe and welcoming for everyone, so people can openly be who they are without dealing with harassment and feeling bad about themselves.

Transphobia
Transphobia can be defined as the irrational fear and/or hostility towards people who are Transgender (Trans), 2-Spirit, non-binary, or who don’t fit into male/female gender norms.

Transphobia can be systemic, for example having to choose between male or female washrooms or checking off ‘male or ‘female’ on an application form, or it can be in the form of verbal harassment and/or violence by individual people.

We know that choosing which gender we identify as should be one of our basic freedoms. So, it’s up to all of us to inform ourselves about trans issues, and work towards creating safe places and a more just world for everyone.

Ableism
Ableism is when someone is treated badly because of a disability that they live with.

For example, let’s say you were in a wheelchair and you really wanted to go see a new movie. All of your friends were going, but then you found out that you couldn’t go because the theatre didn’t have wheelchair access. That would be unfair and is an example of ableism. We know that there is sometimes a belief that if someone is living with a disability, that they will never be interested in dating or having sex. This harmful belief may make it more difficult for a person living with a disability to access their basic rights around sexual health like condoms, birth control, information about consent, information about STIs etc. However, we know that every person in this world has a sexuality, and has every right to express it.

Fat Phobia
Fat Phobia is when someone is treated badly because of their body size.

If someone has a fat body things can sometimes be made harder for them. This is because there are a lot of messages that the media (TV, magazines, movies, advertisements) sends out about what a ‘good’ or ‘sexy’ body size should be. Experts say we receive thousands of these messages every day! Sometimes messages about what bodies should look like can even come from our friends, family, or doctors. Trying to have this “ideal body” is impossible and makes up a very small fraction of what the people of the world actually look like, so is therefore unrealistic.

If someone doesn’t fit in with this ideal, then sometimes they can be made to feel pretty badly about themselves and even cause them to have a negative body image. The world needs to realize health and hotness come in all shapes, sizes, and colours!

Classism
Classism is when someone is treated badly because of their social standing or how much money they have. We know that in our society a lot of times people get caught up in valuing how much money they have, what clothes they wear, and what kind of car they drive. Is this actually what makes them a great person? It can sometimes feel that way, but this is not true. It’s how you treat the people that are around you as well as how true you stay to yourself that makes you cool.

For those of us that have money, things can be easier along the way. We may not face challenges that others might face. This doesn’t make us bad people, and doesn’t mean we should feel guilty, but it is important to be aware of our privilige. For those of us that don’t have much money, we can sometimes have a tougher time along the way. It doesn’t mean that we won’t succeed, it just means that we might have more of a struggle to get there. The good news is that by facing and overcoming struggles, we build strength that other folks might never have and that that strength will help us with whatever we choose to do in our lives.

 

Questions About Discrimination

What Can I Do if I'm Experiencing Discrimination?
Realize it’s not your fault!

  • Talk to someone you trust about the discrimination you are experiencing such as friends, family, caregiver, school counsellor, teacher, crisis lines.
  • Practice self care and positive self talk. (You wouldn’t be harsh to a good friend, so you shouldn’t do that to yourself ether!)
  • Know that you are not alone; there are many supportive groups/organizations out there that help people talk, share, come together and raise awareness.
  • Hang out with people who support you and make you feel good about who you are!
  • Organize with other students in your school, the student council, human rights group, or start a group where students can get support, share stories/experiences, access resources.
What Can I Do To Stop Discrimination?

The best way to stop discrimination is to join together by becoming an ally. This is a commitment to a life long process of learning and asking questions. We can all challenge ourselves to think and act in ways that are more accepting and inclusive. We can also take action! Listed below are just some of the ways we can encourage more diversity in our schools or community life.

  • Don’t laugh at offensive jokes.
  • Think about the language you use and stop using oppressive language or phrases (like, “that’s so gay” or “that’s retarded”). We are all going to make mistakes occasionally and say something insensitive. When it happens apologize and keep trying.
  • Look at your own attitudes and behaviours daily.
  • Step outside your comfort zone and get to know different types of people, their stories, their hopes and their dreams.
  • Learn from people who are different from you.
  • Organize awareness-building events at school.
  • Talk to your guidance counsellor about starting a Gender-Sexuality Alliance (sometimes also called a Gay-Straight Alliance) in your school.
  • Learn the real history where you live. Who were the first Peoples of where you live today?
  • Be politically aware. Educate yourself and understand what is happening in Canada and around the world.
  • Volunteer with community service organizations like a drop-in centre.
  • Boycott companies that are homophobic, racist or sexist.
  • Shop at local stores.
  • Ask school administrators to make education about respecting differences among people a priority.