Sharptooth's Lauren Kashan: "Real change comes when we look in the mirror and have the courage to acknowledge the biases within us"

Sharptooth vocalist Lauren Kashan on why we should all use International Women's Day's theme of Choose To Challenge to question ourselves and confront our own internal biases.

Sharptooth's Lauren Kashan: "Real change comes when we look in the mirror and have the courage to acknowledge the biases within us"
Lauren Kashan

I implore folx to choose to challenge not only the obvious displays of oppression in the world, but to choose to challenge our closest allies and peer groups – and most importantly, ourselves.

There’s a level of complacency that those in positions adjacent to the marginalised get very comfortable with; a false belief that because we are allies, or of marginalised status ourselves, we’ve already done the work. But the work doesn’t stop just because we’ve made an internal decision, or a declaration, or a public image of being an ally in the fight for the marginalised. The work doesn’t end because you were born in a certain body or with a certain mind. The real work of dismantling oppression happens when we aggressively introspect, and honestly examine, our personal biases and the ways they manifest in our interactions. We all have them: can we please stop acting like we don’t? Like there’s some box that you can check off for being ‘woke’ that means you’re above racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, and ableism? Can we eliminate the idea that there’s some finish line? Can we discard the idea that because you’re a woman, you can’t behave in ways that are sexist? Or that because you’re queer, that you can’t possibly behave in ways that support cis or straight supremacy? When the hell did we decide that our skin colour, our gender identity, our religion absolves us of guilt in the realm of contributions to systemic oppression, even when it’s our own? Maybe even especially when it’s our own.

If your response to someone is ever the words, “I am not sexist because I am a woman,” or, “My behaviour can’t be racist because I’m friends with black people,” then you’ve already played yourself. If you have grown up and existed in a patriarchal society for your entire life, regardless of your gender identity, you can, do, have, and will behave in ways that are sexist. You have internalised biases, regardless of your gender identity. I am a woman, and I have internalised misogyny that I continue to deconstruct every day of my life. I have internalised racial biases and it is my job to deconstruct them for the rest of my life, as a result of being raised in a society of white supremacy. The same goes for all forms of systemic oppression. I choose to challenge myself, my complacency, and whatever asinine badge of wokeness has ever been attributed to me, and I encourage you to do the same. Our pride and our ego has no place in the work of eradicating oppression. If you cannot recognise these things in yourself, you have very little right to point these things out in someone else. We are all products of this system; where did any of us get the audacity to think we’re above the insidious nature of an internal bias?

We all carry these things within us. We all have internalised racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and ableism. If you think you are above that, you are delusional and need to get the fuck over yourself. I’m sick and tired of watching people close to me forget that, and I’m sick of the parts of myself that have done the same. Nobody is born woke, and nobody dies woke either.

Choose to challenge your own privilege, your ego and your pride. Choose to challenge your own friends and peers, to take the helm in educating yourself, and the people around you. Real change doesn’t happen when we look across the aisle and scream “Racist!” Real change comes when we look in the mirror and have the courage to acknowledge the biases within us.

Choose to challenge that person in the mirror, and the people you love, with compassion and clarity. We are all complicit in systemic oppression. Own it, examine it, educate yourself in it, educate others in it. That’s how we eradicate it. Choose to challenge your own damn self.

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