Injustice is injustice By Gayle Gonsalves
Guyana Chronicle
March 3, 2002

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EVERY ethnic group that seeks to remedy injustice finds itself standing before a wall, hitting its hard, thick structure and wondering if it is impenetrable. History tells us all struggles encounter resistance. The resistance is the old way of thinking that is held by a subset of people who want to hold onto a way of life that would be threatened.

In the Caribbean, history books recount the era of slavery. There were a group of wealthy merchants and planters who wanted to keep this institution alive because it was profitable. They did not see the slaves as people, but as goods or a commodity. They fought to keep this practice alive and fervently argued that one race was superior to the other. Eventually, slavery ended, but laws were created that prohibited the former slaves from land ownership to keep them chained to the cycle of indebtedness to the former slave owner. When these laws failed, the colonial powers created a new form of slavery via indentured labour and that brought a new set of people and further injustices to our side of the world. Our lands were created via injustice by a group of people who believed indelibly in their superiority and right to seek economic gain. Those who were in power did not want change and its consequences to their way of life and their livelihood. They had a vested interest in keeping the system alive and they fought to keep it that way. Today we see the ramifications in our societies.

The woman’s movement can be defined within those parameters. Although many women feel the sting of racial prejudice, we also deal with the sexism that is pervasive throughout society. Our gender defines us as a targetted ethnic group. Like all groups who have had a history of subjugation, we also face those impenetrable walls. Once, speaking with a friend about discrimination, this friend believed that his ethnic group was more persecuted than any other in the entire history of humankind. I understood his pain but my response was, “injustice is injustice whatever face it dons.” That statement made this man think of history and we never fought again about discrimination.

Any ethnic group that feels discrimination experiences similar emotions. The woman’s struggle must also grapple with the reality that we are a targeted ethnic group who has always felt the bite of discrimination due to our gender. Thus, our struggle is the same as any other ethnic group. We seek to redress inequality and ask for the same liberties that other ethnic groups seek: the right to be free from discrimination; the right for equal protection under the law; the right to adequate housing and the right to an adequate standard of living.

Discrimination is personal. It attacks the self-worth of an ethnic group and creates feelings of inferiority that live within a culture for centuries. For women, it is the only one that we’ve known for time immemorial because we had no economic power and were refused the right to education. This created a cultural system that has only begun to unravel in the twentieth century. Male viewpoints and beliefs created a standard of acceptance throughout the world. It has woven itself into the psyche of people and most are unaware of the hold it has on the day to day patterns of existence. Thus, our struggle crosses all cultural beliefs. Yet, many men, even those of a targeted ethnic minority, ignores the plight of the female. If the world were truly seeking an egalitarian society, the voices of all peoples must be heard and credence given to their struggles. In the female world of discrimination, many men do not wish to accept that the female struggle is no different than the racism that exists worldwide. Many brush aside our struggle as frivolous despite their ethnic orientation. They cannot or they refuse to think that our struggle can be equal to their own. If they could look outside their tunnel vision, they would understand that injustice is injustice however it is donned.

Injustice can take the form of flagrant abuses of human rights such as the recent conflicts in Bosnia and Rwanda that are genocides. Then there are injustices that attack the psyche of the victims and takes away their self-worth. Examples are the long-term effects of colonialism that leave the people in the country feeling inferior to those in the mother country and the generations of racism practiced against African-Americans and the indigenous people of the USA that have made them believe that they are third-class citizens.

This is the way the female persecution is translated. Women experience the constant perception that we are inferior. Our thoughts and opinions do not count. We must settle for the crumbs that have been thrown at us. Our role in society is as a nurturer and not as a person who has the ability to express an opinion. We cannot compete in the male-oriented job market.

When I began my pilgrimage into ensuring that my female voice was not silenced, I encountered antagonism from some men and others who applauded my right to think and contribute to society outside defined social parameters. My journey has shown me that there are truly some men whose liberalism allows them to understand that injustice is injustice no matter how it is donned. I applaud them.

As women, in our day to day existence, we must never be fearful to voice our opinions and keep an open mind towards all aspects of our lives. We have experienced our entire existence on this planet as second-class citizens and it is important that we never lose sight of the struggle of all ethnic groups, not just our own. We can be strong but we must also be empathetic. Our nurturing side must be nourished and not be transformed into a tunnel vision that makes us only see our struggle and forget the problems that exist in the world. We will continue our fight, yet remember that injustice is injustice however it is donned.