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Discrimination. Oppression.

September 16, 2012

My mind is full of tangled thoughts about discrimination. I am writing this blog post to untangle them. I shared the following link on facebook earlier this week. I would like to share it with you now.

http://ollibean.com/category/blog

The August 15, I think it was, post is the one I first read.

I admire Henry. He reminds me of other people – like Rosa Parks – who just want to do something relatively simple – like go to school down the block or sit on the bus after a hard day of work. People who end up being famous and inspiring because they make it easier for oppressed people to do what everyone else is doing. People who remove barriers for themselves and by doing so remove barriers for the people who come next.

Now it will seem like I am digressing. One of my daughters wants to become a firefighter. She is in her late teens and has had this as her career goal for about 4 or 5 years now. I am aware that many male firefighters are not very welcoming of female firefighters. I noticed yesterday that I don’t want my daughter to have to fight that gender oppression. I would rather she had a related but different goal. I haven’t wanted her to have to fight that for a long time but I just saw it in a different light yesterday.

I admire Henry. Why can’t I admire my daughter for fighting to remove an attitudinal barrier for herself? Well, I will admire her if she does but I want to spare her that fight. I realize that Henry’s family probably support and admire Henry in his fight to go to his community school BUT that they probably wish he didn’t have to face this fight. Rosa Parks probably didn’t even think about the fact that she was fighting racism when she sat in the whites only part of the bus. I think she was just tired after a day of work and saw an empty seat and sat down. 

I think what I am trying to say is “Yes, admire Henry and others who are fighting oppression.” AND “Do what you can to remove barriers so that Henry can be admired for his other contributions.” So, I will continue to support my daughter’s goal of becoming a firefighter. I will not be one of the barriers to her achieving her goal. How can I help to remove this gender barrier? Why does it have to be hard for women firefighters even when it is illegal to discriminate against them?

I’m not sure I really understood the “feelings” associated with being denied attendance at your community school until I compared it to the attitudinal barriers my daughter will face in a male-dominated profession. And I live in a community where all children can attend their community schools (well at least in theory – the lack of a ramp can be a bit of a problem).

Are you ever surprised by your own lack of understanding? What do you do when the light of understanding goes on?

Sheila

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