Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Racism is not a Fence!

Everyone should be familar with the phrase "sitting on the fence" as it applies to racism. And I am not a fan of it...

To me, it is a cop out. I'm more of a 'If you are not a part of the solution you are a part of the problem' kinda guy.

I also like metaphors, people seem to understand racism better when I make it not about racism and then link it back... So, for this metaphor racism is now 'litter'.

On Clean Up Australia Day you don't hear people talk about 'previous generations' being responsible. Some people don't do it on this day, they do it at various times throughout the year. They make sure they don't leave any litter. They help to make our country a little bit better. Others never pick up litter, and constantly leave litter wherever they go. They make Australia that little bit worse. Companies and Governments and 'previous generations' may have made more litter than individuals, but it is everyone's responsibility to fix it. It is everyone's country. Some people do not see or feel the damaging effects to litter, so choose not to worry about it... they are 'fence sitters'.

To address this we need to make racism (remember, the metaphor? C'mon people, keep up!) a part of the national dialogue. In the same way we do for litter (Litters are tossers, is one Government slogan, young people who drive too fast are inferred to have small genitalia in other govt campaign (the little pinkie' pics and the slogan "Speeding. No one thinks big of you", so why can't we have a campaign insulting racists? ... "If you are a racist you are a scumbag F-wit" probably needs to be more subtle, but you get the drift!).

Racism needs to be openly discussed, and people need to free to ask "Is this racism?", "What is the truth behind this stereotype?", "What are the effects of racism?", "What does racism look like?", "Am I a racist because I have been misled and miseducated by my family, school, media, & govt?" How do I undo the racism that has been drilled into me from birth?". 

The unfortunate truth is that so many people who honestly believe it when they say "I don't have a racist bone in my body" usually don't have sufficient knowledge about what classes as racism to say that. For example, when a so-called 'white' teacher says "I treat all of my children the same", this too often implies that they treat all of their children as though they were 'white' too. Completely ignoring whatever cultural considerations this child might have influencing their actions and behaviour. A common, and decades old, catch cry from Aboriginal Education theory is "We want our kids to be educated, but not at the cost of their Aboriginality'
We need stronger understanding on racism if we want to have a better chance of fighting it.
Sorry, kinda tangented there... you'll get used to that if you keep reading my rants.

It is not ok for people to simply "sit on the fence".

So instead of a fence, I suggest a line in the sand. This metaphor is better for a few reasons.

If you 'sit on a fence', your feet don't have to touch the ground, you are saying 'I have no impact on this issue either way".


Silence and inaction DO have an impact!

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
Martin Luther King Jr

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
Martin Luther King Jr.
A line on the sand is a way better metaphor. In that instance, anyone who stands on the line just pisses off both sides because they are actively ERASING the line!

If someone stands on a line in the sand it becomes blurred for others, they actively make it harder to know what side of the line you, or anyone else are on.

Also, a line in the sand needs to redrawn everyday (just as the standards of what is racism are constantly under debate and shifting with the tides... double pun!) and finally, because I like the idea of every Australian being able to answer this one all important question:

Where do you draw a line in the sand and say "No, this is racism!"?

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