Discrimination is like a cancer. Imagine this:
Two people walk into a hospital feeling sick. The two patients have the same symptoms. Both look essentially the same, but one has cancer, the other does not.
Who should the doctors prioritise?
Many people’s interpretation of “equality” is that the equal symptoms should receive equal treatment, but for the cancer patient, their symptoms hold much more significance in terms of their broader illness. Their immune system is already compromised – these symptoms could be the attack on their body that kills them.
For the otherwise healthy patient, their symptoms represent a temporary discomfort, but ultimately they will recover and be fine once again.
Discrimination – racism, sexism, homophobia, classism, ableism and the multitude of its forms are a cancer. When we face the symptoms of discrimination our immune systems are already compromised.
When you complain about “double standards” as a person in a position of privilege and power you are the otherwise healthy patient demanding equal treatment to the cancer sufferer.
When you complain that we “overreact” you fail to see that a symptom that is insignificant to you can have major consequences for us.
When you get defensive and aggressive, you’re distracting the doctors from helping both of us. In the meantime, the symptoms of my cancer (the discrimination) can build to the point that it stops me from living a happy and healthy life or could even kill me.
So, what kind of person in the hospital will you choose to be?
The person who shows patience and empathy for the cancer patient?
Or the person who helps my cancer grow?
P.S I’d like to add to this that I recognise I still hold a lot of privilege in my life. Yes, I’ve faced discrimination as a gay man – but it pales in comparison to many in the community. Much like actual cancers, some are more aggressive than others and I lay no claim to being at the worst end of the spectrum.
My hope in writing this is that it can articulate why these issues matter so much to me and why I can’t just stand back and say or do nothing when this is happening to others.
We’ve seen a lot of the “symptoms” this week and the discussion has become about the relevance, severity and validity of those symptoms. It’s time we talked about the cancer.