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Discussion Forums
Racism & Sexism

A lot of folk want to pretend that prejudice and discrimination toward people belonging to labeled groups doesn't exist, that racism and sexism are things of the past. If you can believe that we really live in a place where everyone has an equal opportunity, that's only because you live a life with the accidental privileges of being born white or male or rich. In general (yes, of course there are always individual cases that are different), you get treated better and you're given more opportunities if you're any of these things. It's like having a foot race and the starting line is different for everyone. Some start out way ahead of others-not because they're smarter or wiser or kinder or better in any way than the others, but simply because they were born with certain things this society favors because of prejudices; it's rarely an advantage these people personally achieved.

I had a class recently where my (white) students would often argue that racism was long gone; the Civil Rights movement had changed all that. The students of color knew better, but one (black) student would always remain quiet during these discussions. Toward the end of the semester, students were giving speeches and this guy, for the first time in his life, publicly talked about being held down and cattle-branded by the Klan as a boy. He courageously showed the horrendous mark on his upper arm as tears ran down his face. Do you think he was "whining" or playing "victim"? Do you think there would've been no criminal charges against the perps if this guy had been white? If so, it's time for you to wake up. Just because your life is one kind of experienceómaybe you donít personally get followed and watched in stores, stopped and harassed by cops, have taxis pass you byó that doesnít mean other people donít have other kinds of experiences. Try to remember that what you know from your own life is not the sum total of all human experience.

I personally think that if we're looking at oppression across the world, females as a group (again, of course there are always individual exceptions) have been discriminated against the most. Infant girls are killed because they're not as "valuable" as males. Girls and women can't vote or work or go to school. There are still places in the world where if a woman gets raped, her family has the legal right to beat her or even kill her for "dishonoring" the family. In this country, nine out of ten females don't feel safe enough to report it if they're raped. Women make less than $.75 to a man's dollar in the US. The government wants to be able to tell women what to do with their own bodies.

My grandmother couldn't even vote in her early twenties for one reason: she didn't have a penis. The way she was treated as a female in society affected her a lot, I think, and made her emotionally screw up her own children, whose own children . . . well, you know how that goes. Let's not get too personal here. Bottom line? Long after laws change, people still carry the mental and emotional prejudices of their societies. When you recognize these things going on, fight them. Challenge yourself as well as others.


Facts & Stats

In one study, black and white men with the same experience were sent to apply for various jobs. Some randomly added in a criminal background. White men WITH criminal records were more likely to be hired than black men WITHOUT criminal records.

--Devah Pager in American Journal of Sociology

By 1900, 90.4% of Africa was under European or American colonial control. Tens of millions of people were killed or enslaved as a result of their race and color.

--from Sound Vision

Over a period of 100 days in 1994 in Rwanda, up to 800,000 members of the Tutsi tribe-men, women and children-- were brutally murdered with clubs and machetes by the Hutu people.
(Note from Gail: If the US is so concerned about human rights abuses, why didn't we pay much attention to this or intervene?)

At least 70% of the violence experienced by American Indians is committed by persons not of the same race.

Although the INS estimates that only 54% of the illegal immigrant population is from Mexico, 96.2% of those apprehended by the INS are of Mexican origin.

Although Latinos represent 10% of drug users, 22.5% of sentenced State prisoners convicted of drug offenses are Latino.
(Note from Gail: Please remember that Latino refers to someone originating from a Spanish-speaking country; Latinos can be of any race.)

Although African-Americans represent only 15% of US drug users, they are 36.8% of those arrested for drug abuse violations.

--above stats from The Prison Activist Resource Center

Women own roughly 1% of land in the world.

An estimated 4 million women and girls are bought and sold worldwide, either into marriage, prostitution, or slavery.

Women constitute 70% of the poorest people in the world.

Women and girls own less than 1% of the planet's wealth. They furnish 70% of the work hours and receive only 10% of the income.

It's estimated that over 585,000 women die every year due to preventable complications associated with pregnancy, childbirth, or abortion performed under poor sanitary conditions.

Over 100 million girls are missing from population statistics globally due to the preference for male children.

-- Above stats from World March of Women

In the US in 2001, women accounted for 85% of the victims of intimate partner violence.

In the US, 15 out of 16 rapists will never spend a day in jail.

--Above stats from RAINN