Sunday, 11 October 2015

Stereotypes that Bite us in the Butt.

I love Sunday. Lazy morning, coffee, autumn colours.....hangover free. Such a difference to five months ago.

Sunday's were horrible. Feeling awful, usually parked on the couch, guilt ridden.....until wine o'clock rolled around again, and my chemical induced low, could be perked up a notch, with yet more alcohol.
Once I was in the warm protective glow of glass #1, I could then rationalize my drinking :

* At least I don't drink as much as X...he/she really does have a problem...

AND, one that will be familiar....

* At least I'm not living under a bridge, drinking cheap cider...

If you live in Canada, (or maybe the US), you may be tempted to envision this homeless drunk as a First Nation person.

Yes, I really did type that.

In Canada, it's a widely accepted theory that First Nations people and communities have a "Alcohol Issue". And yes it is true, that in some of the more poverty stricken communities (Oh, that would be MOST of them) alcohol abuse is destroying native people and families.

Well, that's because native people are genetically more likely to become alcoholics right?

(oh sure, it's not the generations of  white people who destroyed a way of life, treated the indigenous population like shit, and as recently as 1976, were still tearing children as young as five away from their mothers, to make sure they didn't grow up like 'savages')

Yes. That's correct. It's the Firewater.

If you've read any parts of my blog before, you may have noticed that I am totally skeptical of any "genetic" research into alcoholism. Firstly, before I read any research, I tend to check out the sponsor, the people who paid for it (after all, Coca Cola would pay for research that "discovers" that soda every day is not harmful, right?), and secondly, I always question the "agenda" of the people who are researching in the first place.

After all, why the fuck would you spend a ton of money linking eye colour to alcoholism?

Anyway I digress.

I believe that the reasons for alcoholism are far more complex that a nature v nurture debate will allow - I don't give a shit how many "research" projects are conducted.

I also believe that the "genetic" argument is dangerous. It leads to stereotyping (some racist - the "drunk Indian), and it leads to a a lack of accountability, and a lack of hope.

It also lets the alcohol industry off the hook. The same alcohol industry that sets up liquor stores as close as possible to tribal lands. After all, they don't make any money off "normies" who only drink a glass of wine at the weekend, do they?

So this week, I was pleasantly surprised to find an article that seemed to make sense, and was attempting to be as objective as possible, and highlighted the flaws in this particularly racist argument.
It aimed to de-bunk the stereotypes that have kept native populations firmly in the past. You can read it here 

It provides hope for the future.

And for the rest of us?

Stereotyping always bites us firmly in the butt.

If you want to carry on swilling the wine, a comfortable alcoholic stereotype will do the job.....I can't be an alcoholic because I drink expensive wine, I don't roam the streets drunk...

Stereotypes are dangerous. Not only for the sector of the community that we are stereotyping, but also for the rest of us. Hanging on to these misconceptions allow us to not examine our own drinking habits. They allow the wine witch to continue her hold. (And of course, it makes us not particularly nice people)

If I'm white, middle class and affluent, only drinking expensive wine, how can I possibly be the same as the drunk homeless guy, drinking shitty vodka...?

Well, I have news for you.

You may not have the same life experience. You may not have the same socio-economic status. You may not have the same culture, same beliefs, same traditions, or even eat the same food.

But you drink the same poison. So in this respect....

You are the same. I was the same. We're all in the same club.

So if you are sitting on the couch this Sunday, waiting for a bottle of white to chill in the fridge, waiting for a hair of the dog, trying to rationalize drinking today, after drinking yesterday, and the day before.....

You have one less excuse.

And maybe some hope for the future too.


( So you are aware, I am white and middle class, married to a full status native man. It doesn't give me any more 'experience" or "insight" - I am still a product of my upbringing (and influenced by my genes, maybe), but it does allow me to listen firsthand to the debate, and get a different viewpoint that isn't always comfortable. But that's OK. We should get out of our comfort zone occasionally)



  1. It's sad that the stereotype exists.
    But it's also sad that people are so afraid of stigma that they refuse to get help when they need it.
    As a fellow Canadian we have a lot of work to do.
    Happy sober thanksgiving!


  2. Very good post, WB!
    I read the article and it was informative.
    Made me think of ways I stereotype Native people.
    I can do better at this, to be sure.
    I was born to white, middle class, and a 2 parent family.
    I had support to become a teacher.
    I also remember that before I became sober, I thought I was "better" than other drinkers….
    Now I know better.
    It could be me.
    Which is why I choose not to drink today.

  3. We're all in this together. xx

  4. Any stereotype eventually comes back and bites us. I am guilty of it as well. I always thought I am an average drinking statistic until I've read somewhere that I actually drink more than the average person in the US. That just shocked me.

  5. I'm a white, well educated, affluent professional, as were my parents.
    My husbands parent were both immigrants, one from New Zealand and the other from the Philippines.
    He looks very "genrically ethnic- darker skin, eyes, hair". and we live in an area with a large First Nations population.
    He is assumed to be First Nations regularly and I am often appalled at how he is treated. For no reason other than his immediate physical appearance.

    It is a disappointing reality in North America. I would have never seen it either.