We often focus on the big confessions and scandals when it comes to #MeToo and racism, but I’m still entirely convinced that they can only function as an impetus to change things in the smaller, routine, everyday ways where we are often more used to accept sexism and prejudices. I think it’s worth reporting on actresses (and actors) who have been abused and politicians’ racially charged proclamations when it comes to immigration. Without these we wouldn’t have the big public discussions on sex and race. It's important to keep the big picture in mind. But it’s the videos of black men being arrested for nothing that are more important. The accounts of ‘normal’ people who endure sexual abuse. The small picture, if you indulge my metaphor.
But it goes even further. In my school routine and normal daily life, I encounter dozens of little incidents every day that set of alarm bells for me, not because they are extremely hurtful or dangerous but because they allow the normalization of discrimination to continue. Being the SJW that I am (a term we should try to appropriate as much as we can from the people who are so scared and lonely that they battle any desire for change with it and PC labels), I try to call it out where I can. I don’t know if that has a big effect, but I feel being consistent in pointing these problems out and especially explaining where there is a problem to teenagers, is the only way we can further progress in a big way.
So when students are asked to describe pictures for an English speaking exercise, I try to point out that assuming a black person reading a newspaper must be an immigrant looking for a job is problematic. Claiming a waiter with a darker skin color must be from India is damaging.
When students are asked to discuss the question, whether girls should be not be allowed to drink as much alcohol as boys (admittedly, a highly suggestive question from the start that I wouldn’t have asked myself), I feel it necessary to make them reflect how true it is that they think men are tougher, so they can drink more and that girls can’t handle as much alcohol because, well, they’re girls.
I am getting tired of explaining to my mother that it is not revolutionary that I take care of the laundry in my household but that won’t stop from trying to convince her that this is actually not worth mentioning.
People post pictures of famous actresses on Instagram to emphasize their body features and beauty? Comment on it and ask why their actual talents are ignored. Ask people who they think of when they hear the word ‘genius’ and make them wonder why they can’t think of women. (Try a google search on that one: Donald Glover + genius, easy to find results, Beyoncé + genius, keep looking [full disclaimer: I stole this idea from the NYTimes podcast Still Processing])
If you don’t make the people around you question their problematic, discriminatory or prejudiced assumptions, you allow these stereotypes and ideas to survive. Ideas cannot really be killed but can slowly be made irrelevant if fewer people believe in them, if we ask others to let go of them in favor of other ideas. That’s how progress works. And the beauty of it is that everyone can do that, better than any politician ever could.