There are some things I don’t understand. Can’t understand, and probably won’t understand. I don’t think I have the tools to understand. I hope that I never do.
Here is a fun little story that I think makes me look very stupid, but, I think, makes my parents look unquestionably brilliant. We used to watch The Nature Of Things regularly on CBC. I was, as most children are, fascinated with science, technology, robots, spaceships, aliens, volcanoes, and dinosaurs. If there had been a show with robot dinosaurs, piloting a volcano through space meeting aliens along the way, it would have been my favorite show. In fact someone should probably get on that.
Anyway, we used to watch The Nature of Things all through the 80’s. I have more than a few fond memories of laying on the carpet in front of a monolithic, wood clad, television tube, thoroughly entranced. Occasionally I would be allowed to stay up late to watch a particularly interesting episode that aired later than intended, usually due to a hockey game running long. Any episode that centered on robots, computers, or dinosaurs could usually hold bedtime off for a spell.
As I got older and more of my evening time was spent at the rink, I would only watch the show sporadically. Usually, an episode about robots or computers or dinosaurs that would catch my attention, since I am perpetually locked at a mental age of 8-12.
This time though, the topic of the episode was the human genome project. The projects goal to map out the entire human genome was not yet complete, so this episode aired sometime in the early 90’s. That means I was in my mid teens. The host of the show, David Suzuki, told a story about how he became interested in science, nature, and most importantly, genetics. He described how his father had fostered in him an interest in nature, and exploration. He also went on to describe how he and his family had been placed in an internment camp during WWII. Listening to him recall this troubling story, at the age of at least 15 or 16, I realized that David Suzuki was japanese.
I have read a lot of the #1ReasonWhy and #1ReasonToBe comments on twitter. Most of them posted by women in the game industry, or women who comment on the game industry. Seriously, go and read some of these. When taken in aggregate, it paints a pretty bleak picture.
What should be done? What can we do to improve this situation?
Why did it take until my mid teens for me to realize that, David Suzuki, a man I watched explore the natural world as often as weekly, was japanese?
Of course, David Suzuki is not japanese. He is canadian. As canadian as I am. As japanese as I am scottish/irish/french mutt. He’s more canadian, If you take seniority into account. Aside from having the same last name as a cool motorbike, he was that science guy on TV. In other words, he was someone that I could aspire to be like, emulate, if i chose to.
That is all the information my spongy young brain had to go on. That was how my parents let me picture the world. That a family could have their business and possessions taken from them, that they could be imprisoned due to a minuscule variance in their genome, simply did not exist for me. That a girl couldn’t grow up to be an astronaut or an engineer, or a game developer did not exist. Maybe that was something that happened in a long gone, barbaric past, but we lived under the banner of the federation of planets. People were all basically equal. Only their circumstances were different. If you lived next door to me, we share the same circumstances, regardless of where you were last week, so we should probably go play Star Wars and Transformers.
I realize that claiming ignorance of racism, or sexism, means that I am guilty of some unique form of both in some peoples eyes. I feel the positives outweigh the negatives.
We try to make sure that our sons image of the world is this:
Most people are good, but some aren’t, so be careful.
We are mammals, just like a lot of other animals. We do a lot of the same things.
People come in different shades of brown and orange, just like other animals.
People believe different things, but mostly for the same reasons.
We like to live together peacefully, but sometimes we don’t.
We speak different languages, but say the same things.
Most of the time boys fall in love with girls, and vise versa, but not always.
Be curious. Ask questions. Good scientists ask questions. They don’t always get answers.
Do what you like doing, help other people do what they like doing.
Some day, when their brains are nearly fully formed, they will hear a story about how one group of people discriminated against another. They will comprehend the history, and they will be able to empathize with the story in the abstract, but they won’t really understand. They will realize that they never understood, and now, having grown and experienced the world, the will know that they don’t have the tools to understand. I hope, that like me, they see it as a gift.
#1ReasonToBe So that my sons grow up never knowing the difference.