politics

It Gets Better from the CBC

It’s Bullying Awareness Week in Canada and my colleague Ryan Couldrey and I produced an It Gets Better video featuring CBC folks we work with. It Gets Better is an online video project that Dan Savage started and focuses on homophobic bullying. While Ryan and I worked on it, we did think about how opening our video up to be more generally anti-bullying would be interpreted. One colleague asked if we were concerned about diluting the original issue surrounding LGBT teens.

This is part of my response which I hope explains our decision to include everyone:

When we started asking colleagues to get involved, a couple contacted us and asked to be participate even though they’re not gay. They still wanted to do it because they too, were bullied for being different, whether it was for the colour of their skin, their love of “nerdy” things or their physical disability.

This reminded us that bullying isn’t limited to gay kids or kids who appear to be gay. Ryan, who is straight, was tortured by other kids on a daily basis, even beat up regularly. And though I am gay, I wasn’t picked on for being a tom boy, I was picked on for being the only Asian kid in a white classroom.

Everyone we’ve interviewed share the common experience of being different and being different in high school is not an encouraged thing. It leads to bullying and in extreme cases, bullying leads to kids hurting themselves.

Since the goal of this is to prevent kids from committing suicide, we did not want to exclude people from sharing their stories. Kids who are bullied aren’t less immune to suicidal thoughts just because they don’t also identify as queer. So if we can discourage those kids from hurting themselves and encourage them to get help, then it makes it worthwhile.

Note: Rick Mercer used the term “It Gets Better” in his anti-bullying rant back in 2007–and it wasn’t just directed at kids of the LGBT community.

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politics, race

Post-racial society? Not yet.

No one could ignore Tracy Morgan when he stepped in front of Tina Fey and accepted 30 Rock‘s  Golden Globe for “Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy.” “Tina Fey and I had an agreement that if Barack Obama won, I would speak for the show from now on,” he said, clutching the statue. “Welcome to post-racial America! I am the face of post-racial America.”

I realize Morgan is an entertainer and no more a political pundit than you or me. But he isn’t the only person who has been touting the arrival of a post-racial society, the end of racism or the idea that any child—no matter what race, religion or gender—can be president one day.

Whenever I hear one of these suggestions, I chuckle at its naivety and then get angry. This is a post-racial society? How disappointing. Anyone can be president now? That is just laughable. People sure were quick to forget how much Obama was criticized for his past connections to Islam.

How different would today’s inauguration be if Obama were actually a Muslim man? If he were gay or a woman? What if he were a Christian man who had a father of Indian, Chinese or Native decent? He wouldn’t have been the Democratic nominee, let alone the American president.

The people who talk about Obama as proof that anyone can be president have a narrow view of what race is. We, the people are not one of two categories. We are not black or white. We are not just Christian or non-Christian. While people of colour share some similarities, each group has its own unique experience. A black man may be in the White House but we haven’t been able to get an Asian lead character on television since Margaret Cho—and that was 14 years ago!

I am excited for Obama’s presidency. This is the kind of change the world needs, but I urge everyone not to be idle. This is only the beginning. If we work together, one day we’ll burst through the glass ceiling, cross racial lines and find that an Indonesian Muslim lesbian can be the face of a post-discrimination America, just as much a black Christian straight man can be.

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