Tag Archives: racial profiling

What Egalitarian Means

They called it Women’s Lib or Feminism. They called it Black Power. They called it Gay Pride. They  called it the Suffragette Movement. It has had many names but what it all boils down to is equal rights. Yes, equal rights, that every person, regardless of race, gender, sexual preference or religion should have equal rights.

I realized a while back that I’m not really a feminist, and it’s too bad some people color that as a negative thing (misconstruing it with feminazis who are adamant, woman over the expense of others hard noses). I am an egalitarian. Whether I am that color, that race, that gender, it matters not. Everyone should have a fair chance.

Obviously, I was raised in a culture that alows women certain rights, that also has laws about human rights. In my lifetime those rights have changed, allowing in most places across Canada gay marriage, recognizing discrimination. It’s not perfect and there are still obvious cases of discrimination, racial profiling, bigotry and hate crimes. Otherwise we wouldn’t hear about these in the news.

I think everyone needs to be given a fair shake. Unfortunately, everyone is born into different circumstances. They may be in a country that lacks human rights, that treats women as chattel, that considers a race inferior, that has poverty, corruption and disease. They might be born into a family with too many kids and not enough money to feed them, into royalty, with physical or mental defects, into a loving family, a hateful neighborhood, a low populated farming population. They could be affected by war, drought, flooding, car accidents, rape, murder, economic collapse, disease, love, hate, generosity, prejudice, fear, etc. There are thousands of ways that each person begins a life without being on even footing with everyone else.

This does not mean that we should just accept this status quo, that it’s your lot in life and you should therefore accept it and not strive above your station. If that were the case, women would still not have the vote, black people would still be slaves in the US, Japanese would still be in interment camps in BC, royalty would still be ruling… Oh, right, we still have that. I am inherently against monarchies whether figureheads or leaders, because they did not attain their position through popular vote. They get to be “royal” and rich because they inherit the position. Sure, we the people might vote in a scoundrel (Bush comes to mind) but it is the bed we make ourselves (mostly, but not all in Bush’s case), not the bed we are shoved into.

Inheriting the family business is one thing but not if it’s nominative ruler of a country. In an election everyone  who runs should have a fair shake at winning. That’s being egalitarian. Of course we have examples of sham elections, fudged ballots such in Iran and with Mugabe’s tyranny in Zimbabwe or Bush’s suspect election in the US. When something becomes unfair as the rigged elections of these rulers, it really bothers me. It’s not fair, the rules for everyone having a “fair chance” are tossed out.

When it comes to subjugation of women and children, and in some places men as well, I cannot understand how someone could treat a person as inferior because they are of a different sex. We’re all human beings. We must work together to survive and because one sex bears the fruit of the race does not make them inferior. To keep someone subjugated means that they aren’t allowed to do things or make their own decisions, that they are possessions of another. There have slaves of various races and there are slaves of gender. No matter how you cut it, it is still slavery, one human owning another.

There are people that believe in religious freedom but only if it applies to them. They then think that “those people over there” need to be converted or are Satan’s minions or the infidel. They shouldn’t do it that way. To convert someone by sword or gun serves only to give lip service to a religion not build true faith. It would definitely backfire with me, for no matter what I said to preserve my life I would grow to hate and detest the “faith” that was trying to convert me. In essence, should a person’s faith require them to wear an icon, a seven-pointed hat, a tattooed forehead or robes with pink polka dots, it is up to them. They shouldn’t, no matter what they claim, have a faith that requires them to subjugate, beat, murder, rob or otherwise denigrate another human being. What has been done in the name of religion is inexcusable. Basic human rights is what it comes down to.

So yes, I’m an egalitarian to the bone. It is such a fundamental part of my being that it could never be removed. Am I perfect in my philosophy, free of judgment and prejudice in all things. No. Cultural and societal conditioning, moires and values can sway and color us. I too have to watch for attitudes sneaking in which could prejudice me against someone. Difference is sometimes a hard thing for people to accept.

A person should get the fairest chance at life. That means through skill and experience should someone get the job, not through age, or gender, or looks, or color or religion. It should be on what the best person can do. If that goes to a white guy fine. If it seems there are too many white guys and not enough women or people of color then don’t rig requirements for a job or admission into something by that criteria because it is reverse discrimination. Instead, make is possible for those people to attain better educations if they have come from limited circumstances, no matter who they are.

I know there are many connotations to fairness and that ethical equations come into play, sometimes protect a culture or a way of life. But to me the basic rule applies, do what you will, as long as it hurts no one else. And everyone should get a fair chance at life and all its aspects and not be limited due to how we were born.  Overall, I don’t think it’s a bad way to live my life, trying to consider the rights of others and working to make sure they get a fair shake.

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US Border Security Escapades

Over the years I have gone over the Canadian-US border a lot. With friends in Seattle I’d drive down sometimes several times a month. In most cases, there have been the usual spate of questions by the border guards and away I’d go. Since 9/11 I’ve only been stopped once, which was pretty much the random draw of the lane. Some guards have been big on asking numerous questions, which often contain, where are you going, where are you staying, how long will you be gone, how long have you known your friends, where did you meet them, open your trunk, whose car is this, where do you work, etc. Fairly standard. The following three tales relate some of the more…involved interactions with US border security (who are definitely more tight-assed than the Canadian side).

Incident one really wasn’t a big issue. A friend and I were going down to the US on a sunny Sunday. We noticed that day that there were a lot of Asians and Arabic people. And sure enough we were pulled over and searched at random. However, when we had to go inside and present our ID and answer questions, we noticed the predominance of the aforementioned peoples. I told my friend at that point that it was obvious we were picked just so that US customs could not be charged with racism in their searches. I’d say the ratio was one white person/car to ten people of darker skin types. Interesting when you consider that the border crossings probably have the ratio the other way around with at least ten white people to one person of color going over. This was before we heard much of the phrase “racial profiling.”

Incident number two involved the fast lane border passes. I forget what they were called but they all ended with September 11, and several years later they brought back the passes but call them Nexus now. Because I was going down every weekend I applied for and received the pass. It took months to receive. The first day of using it, which speeds up going through the border when you have nothing to declare, was a Sunday. I picked up my friend and we started on our way down. Now I had an apple in the car that I had been intending to eat and forgot about.

We we arrived at the booth, in honesty I said, I have an apple I forgot to eat (which was most likely a Washington apple anyways). Well, the border guard, you know the type, the ex-arm sergeant who’s bitter that he didn’t get promoted who believes everyone is still a bug that has to be brought into line and brainwashed to OBEY ORDERS tells me to pull over. I got out of the car and said, “Here is the offending apple.”

But, oh no, that was not good enough. We had to go upstairs. I can’t remember whether they searched the car but most likely. We had to stand with all the other boys and girls and wait to get a filled out reprimand form for disobeying the rules of the pass, where I tried to reiterate that I had only forgotten to eat the apple and I had let them know, which was not heard and I was told, another infringement and we will take away your pass. It was my first day of using it, I had been honest about what I had, it was a mistake, but still I was treated like I was one degree short of a mass murderer. 

Shortly after, 9/11 happened and the passes were made null and void. However, they didn’t refund our money for the unused portions. I should say that with the pass, if you bought anything at all, even a pack of gum, you were expected to fill out a claim form to be deposited when you went through the border. The problem with these forms was that the provincial government would then send you a bill for any taxes on the amount spent. Normally, when you buy something and go through the border you have a tax/duty free exemption of a certain amount depending on how long you’ve been gone. This was somehow waived if you used the passes and had to pay more. Which did garner me another search when I bought a bottle of wine and chose to go through the regular lineup rather than pay extra taxes (which defeated the purpose of buying over the border).

Incident number 3 involved going down for the Christmas holidays. It was the morning of Christmas eve and I was planning to stay at my friends in Tacoma, driving down in my Honda Civic. However, we had had a freak snowstorm the night before, with about two-three feet of snow, and I couldn’t get my car out of the parking spot.

I chose to take the bus rather than remain in Canada for the holidays. Over the years I have had streaks of color in my hair: turquoise, blue, purple, red. I’m not sure what color it was then but probably purple. We’re not talking punkified cuts here but long hair with a streak or two. I had a winter coat that was made up of squares of purple, yellow and green. I wore quite a few rings.

When we arrived at the border, we all had to disembark and go through customs. At the counter this hulking black guy started asking questions that went something like this: Where are you going? To my friends for Christmas. What are you going to do there? Eat and sleep and visit. How much money are you bringing down? About $30. That’s not very much. What if you need something. It’s Christmas eve; I’m not planning to shop. The stores will be closed. What if you get stranded or the bus breaks down? I’ll call my friends. What if you can’t reach them? I have three credit cards right here. You could have them maxed out. What are you going to do if you’re stuck? (At this point I was getting angry. I almost said, I’ll stand on the street corner and sell my rings.) My cards aren’t maxed out. I could call my friends or use my bank card. How do I know that you have any money in your account? (I almost said, but bit my tongue, are you asking me all these questions because of the color of my hair? ) Look, I was going to drive down but my car got stuck in all the snow. (Suddenly a look that suggests I’ve just moved one level above bug out to steal US jobs on Christmas eve.) Oh, you have a car? Yes, I couldn’t drive because of the freak snow storm. (And luckily for me.) Here’s a bank receipt from yesterday showing that I have money in my account. Oh, you have money in your account. Okay you’re free to go. Have a nice Christmas. Yeah, right. (What this guy was really trying for was to make me cry so that he could go, why are you crying? Oh, don’t worry, little lady, you can go now.)

I will never ever ever take a bus over the border again. They automatically think you’re an unemployed lowlife. Still, it wasn’t as bad as the woman I sat beside on the way back. She was American living and working in Canada. She said, It doesn’t matter which customs I go through. Watch, I’ll be the last back on the bus. She had to bring bill receipts showing she had an address in Canada because the official letter/piece of paper wasn’t enough. And sure enough they ran her through the ringer before she was allowed back on the bus.

If you’re ever needing good examples of anal retention and people pushing power, the border is a great place place to hang out.

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Fashion Nightmares: Baggy Bottom Pants

I’m hugely grumpy today so instead of whinging about my problems and the mean people out there I’m gonna bitch about fashion. Along with people that spit everywhere, one of my other pet peeves are the baggy bottom britches.

I’m not just talking about a person whose butt shape doesn’t match that of their jeans. Some people are just buttless and can’t fill out the space. Others, like me, have more than enough but always have extra waist on the pants. I’m talking about those homey boy pants, those misfits of fashion that started out as what, taking grandpa’s pants? Of course, all anti-fashion, such as the original punk movement, becomes fashion and affectation. Hip hop or gangsta pants were just that, starting as hand-me-downs and emulating poor, thug or prison culture.

Woo, that’s what I want to look like, a poor slob. Granted some of this came out of true poverty and humble beginnings, it took on a new life. There are those that argued to ban these fashion nightmares (which they tried in some State) would be racial profiling but I live in a predominantly white and Asian metropolis and it’s the white homies wearing  the pants. They usually have ‘tude all over their face, which I guess you need if you’re going to wear something so ludicrously fugly and impractical.

I mean, face it: thug culture. Not likely that these thugs would be attacking you if their pants kept falling down and inhibiting their fast retreat. Baggy pants did change from the giganto waistband that let them slip off of narrow boy hips. The legs stayed baggy but the waistbands tightened up. I guess guys got tired of hitching up their pants every time they took a step. There is nothing less attractive than showing your boxers in whatever disrepair. They’re not attractive, not sexy and I don’t give a rat’s ass how much you might have paid for them. Oh, there is one thing more hideous, the butt crack. Sorry, not attractive on women either, not lurking above ill-fitting jeans and bulging out of underwear.

The worst offender of the supposedly baggy, sagging pants fashion was a wannabe homey, wearing his tight T-shirt and his long shorts worn low on the hips. They weren’t that baggy so perhaps he was emulating the more recent hip-hop trends. But lo and behold, his briefs weren’t, and were there to be seen, worn right up to the waist, in bright bright red and a good six inches showing. It was actually hilarious. Threatening? No. Tuff? No. Just absolutely ridiculous.

Besides the one benefit of guys in baggy bottoms not being able to run from a robbery, there are few benefits. That particular hip-hop/gangsta image overall is now outdated, but outmoded fashions never really go away. No matter how goofy I can see how baggy, loose jeans work for skateboarding , if you find it uncool to wear track pants or yoga pants. (Are you crazy, lady? Who in their right mind would be caught dead wearing yoga pants on a board?) Yeah, crazy. Until someone decides it’s the coolest fly anti-fashion and starts the next trend.

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