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Let's not celebrate privilege

Each February, without fail, a certain minority of white people get themselves all worked up about Black History Month.

“Where is White History Month? What about the contributions of Caucasians? Why can’t we celebrate white culture? What’s wrong with being proud to be white?”

As a Caucasian, I find it honestly humiliating.

“White culture” is such an all-encompassing part of our lives that we don’t even think about it. It’s “normal.” Everything is catered to Caucasians and our needs – when I go to the grocery store, I can easily find the right shampoo for my hair type; make-up, bandages or pantyhose to match the colour of my skin; and foods that accommodate my family’s traditions.

I’m fortunate to have never experienced racial profiling or stereotyping based on how I look.

Celebrating that kind of privilege when other, marginalized groups have to fight just to be treated like human beings isn’t only in poor taste – it actively undermines the progress those groups have made through years of consistent effort. It creates more division, instead of the equality it purports to seek.

Last month, a Disability Pride parade was held in Calgary in an effort to spark an open dialogue examining how the city can be more inclusive. The event aimed to increase the visibility of this community – a vulnerable population that faces similar challenges of discrimination and victimization. According to Statistics Canada, Canadians with disabilities are twice as likely to experience robbery, sexual or physical assault as the able-bodied population.

The parade fell during the month of June, which also celebrates LGBTQ+ Pride by commemorating the anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall riots. And, probably unsurprisingly, this annual event drew indignant reactions not unlike those spouted by white people in February – but this time, from a small sect of heterosexuals feeling the unjustified need for a parade of their own.

Where is the backlash from the abled community, looking for “equal representation?” How come no one wants to raise a flag in celebration of how great it is to be able-bodied? Doesn’t anyone feel threatened that the disability community is pushing their “lifestyle” on the rest of us?

Nope. We seem capable of recognizing that building a ramp to accommodate someone in a wheelchair doesn’t take anything away from the able-bodied person using the stairs – all it does is level the playing field by providing everyone equal access.

It’s easy to mistake equality for oppression when you’ve become comfortable with a life of superiority. But it’s really missing the point.

These events – Black History Month and Disability or LGBTQ+ Pride – aren’t about promoting any specific race, orientation or disability. They’re about drawing attention to the ongoing discrimination and violence faced by the members of these groups. They’re about bringing communities together, celebrating the strength of our diversity.

What they promote is inclusion, and that’s something we can all benefit from.