One of the most frustrating aspects of people who aren’t experienced with any type of discrimination is the assumption that small problems don’t matter. Why, goes the refrain, does it matter that people use language like “gay” to mean uncool, or “lame” to mean slow, when there are very real incidents of violence against gays, homelessness amongst out teens, or a lack of awareness of the very existence of the disabled?
The answer is that if you put a lot of small problems into a pot, mix them together, and then leave them to simmer, you get some really bloody disgusting soup, where the young girl who thought “gay” meant uncool might become a parent who evicts one of her children for being gay or lesbian. Where people who call things lame constantly ignore the disabled. Where getting away with the little problems starts producing big problems.
Discrimination is a slippery slope, and it’s simple pragmatism to get at small problems before they avalanche into bigger ones. If sometimes that means we come across as jumping down someone’s throat to make a point about something that doesn’t matter, perhaps that’s because there’s so much to do on this front that sometimes it’s hard to manage. I’ve owed apologies for this in the past. But I’d rather apologise and be able to love someone as a friend or a member of my family without the reservation of constantly thinking: “but I hate when you belittle who I am, or who my friends are”.