Inequality, the difference between groups’ access to resources and opportunity, is a universal issue. It affects our quality of life and the quality of life of our friends, family and members of our communities. Many people face inequalities, major and minor, because of money, race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, and countless other factors that place them into disadvantaged minorities. Inequality can lead to poverty, poor mental health, isolation, fewer job prospects, reduced access to help and sometimes physical harm. It creates an unjust society.
A closely related issue to inequality is stigma, which is a set of negative and often unfair beliefs that society has about a group of people. Stigma can increase inequality because hurtful beliefs are often the first step to deeply ingrained societal inequality. Stigma impacts our group personally because some of the members of our group and their family and friends have faced negative treatment due to harmful stereotypes and stigma. A member of our group was challenged by social situations due to his neurodiversity and uncommon mannerisms, another has a family member who was narcotic-dependent, and another has a chronic illness, all of which have led to our group having personal experiences with stigma. Also, over half of our group is female and that has led to another type of stigma. We are also influenced by stigma individually because we each have our own internal biases that lead us to unknowingly stigmatize others. It is therefore important that we address stigma because it is necessary to become better and kinder people that can make our world more equal.
Inequality and stigma directly impact our community in many ways. We have many minorities and stigmatized groups in Kelowna that face hateful actions, and unjust laws and policies. These groups often face hurtful assumptions that can prevent them from getting the help they want and need. Stigma can make people feel like getting help is too challenging or that they do not deserve it. This issue is not limited to Kelowna or the Okanagan, but it impacts our entire global village. People worldwide face stigma. Globally, stigmatized people are denied basic human rights because of the misguided beliefs of the majority. It is an issue of staggering scale that must be addressed immediately.