Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Sweating the Small Stuff for the Greater Good of All

I learned a new term on Steve Paikan's show The Agenda last evening. The subject was "racism" and one of the experts brought up the topic of "microinequities".

What's that when it's at home in its bathrobe and slippers? Well, apparently there's the big stuff--systemic  and societal prejudice/bigotry/discrimination--the kind of stuff that our "human rights" system tackles. And then there's the small stuff--the really small stuff: gestures, facial expressions, even the tiniest gasp when, say, a person of colour enters an elevator. (Yes, the elevator example was really the one that was given; all I can say is that, wow, people seem to by hyper-aware of even the slightest, barely discernable display of "bigotry" such that it has become all consuming.) The expert who brought it up says micro-inequities are really important, because research has shown that people who have experienced them tend to have more mental health issues and shorter lives. I'm not sure how research has shown a direct correlation between the two; one would tend to think that other factors (genetics, exercise, nutrition, sense of well-being, etc.) might play a larger role. Then, too, if one is obsessing about people taking a small intake of breath when one enters an elevator (and, hey, maybe it's not that they're being mico-inequitable; maybe you forgot to put on your deodorant that morning), that can tend to have a deleterious impact on one's emotional stability. However, he's an expert, so I guess he must know what he's talking about.

Or not. If we're now reduced to the level of nitpicking facial expressions and other physical gestures for the merest trace of "racism," we have created for ourselves an eggshell-land in which everyone will feel so inhibited, so afraid of making a move lest it be interpreted as a sign of "micro" racism, that it will be an impossible place in which to live--a Hell on Earth, in fact. But then, hasn't history shown that that's exactly where the drive to Utopia lands you?

Update: The Microinequities Song:

Raise an eyebrow on a subway train.
Make some small move you ought not.
Nudge and a wink aren't so hard to explain--
Little things mean a lot.


Don't clear your throat when I get on a lift.
It tends to make me distraught.
You know the eensiest moves gets me miffed,
Little things mean a lot...

Update: These two are in big trouble.

5 comments:

Unknown said...

The entire premise of microinequities is certain to raise an eyebrow or two.

OMG I'm a racist!

scaramouche said...

To the re-education camp with you, Cat!

natasha said...

I still scream when one of those freaks in full niqab come upon me suddenly -- I guess that's more of a macro-inequity.

Actually, I'm full of microinequities, which is why I make a terrible poker player.

scaramouche said...

Watch out if you've got Tourette's. Someone might assume you're a major racist.

truepeers said...

Last night at the swimming pool, two Chinese peasant types were talking really loudly in the showers. The crazy Algerian guy bent over in a semi-foetal position put his arms over his head and made "pain" noises. This drew some shocked half looks from the Chinese. I don't know if i hid my smile quikly enough as i looked sternly like a "human rights" officer and quickly looked down at penises in a silent attempt to move them along. This game can get out of hand in a microsecond!