Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Racist jokes

There has been enough stupidity around this debate so I will not add to it, I will not lecture you about why something is or is not offensive, I just want to pose a few questions for you to consider, if you are interested in the issue of racism in comedy.

Is there a difference between someone using comedy to come to terms with the racism and discrimination that they experience vs someone who uses comedy to normalise and justify the racism that they inflict on others? or are they both just racist jokes? or are they both perfectly fine?

If you identify as a 'white Australian' and believe jokes that play on stereotypes are not offensive, do you mind that some people at home and around the globe make jokes about white Australians being racist, ignorant, uneducated and 'simple', or is that just 'in good fun' too? Does it matter that these jokes represent an actual belief that this is true? Do you think it is true? Why do you think others might think it is?

If I ridicule you by making a rude joke about your weight, or height, or lower intelligence, or family, or looks, or because I have more money than you, does it matter if I think you shouldn't be offended? or if I think that if you are offended then that is just because you are too stupid to see that it isn't really offensive? Would me thinking that make me more or less offensive or not matter?

If I tell a racist joke to a child is that wrong? What if the child is a member of the race the joke is about? Does that make a difference? What if the child isn't of that race, has never heard anything about this race and doesn''t understand the joke is based around a stereotype? Does that matter?

Now for the fun one. People are saying that if they don't mean to offend then people should not be offended...

If I throw a rock, but I don't intend for it to hit someone... or let's say I do want it to hit them, but not hard... let's just say 'I don't intend to hurt them'. Is my intent more relevant than the damage I inflict on the other person after I have hit them with a rock? or should the person who has been hurt, simply toughen up... or should they start throwing rocks back?

I don't think Australians really want a rock fight, I think some people would like to be able to keep having fun by throwing rocks at others though... but if they do then some people will start throwing rocks back... wouldn't you?

but I am sure there are some people who think that stereotypes are fun, and that no one takes them seriously... they are just jokes... Like the Tenterfield Councillor who said he didn't think Aboriginal people could be trusted to RAISE THE ABORIGINAL FLAG EACH MORNING because "they are a very undisciplined people'...

or the Government who know that because Australians believe the stereotype that Aboriginal people get free handouts, they will be able to take money out of the Aboriginal Benefits Account and use that money to purchase the leases on Aboriginal land... yes that is right, they are taking money that belongs to Aboriginal people and using it for the acquisition of town leases.

or FMG who know that because we have such a dislike and a distrust of Aboriginal people in Australia, they can make the argument that they are not going to pay money to people who own resources they want to mine because giving them money is like giving them welfare... Paying people for their resources and commodities is 'welfare'. Sorry, let me correct that, paying ABORIGINAL people for their resources and commodities is 'welfare'.

See, just harmless stereotypes and jokes... right? 

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


The theme of this year's NAIDOC Week is 'Change: The Next Step is Ours'. For those who are supporters of NAIDOC Week, it seems relevant to ask ourselves two essential questions.

What change do you want to see?

What steps are you planning to take to make it happen?

For me there is no bigger issue than education. Of course, no one issue is truly 'bigger' than any other, but as a teacher I am allowed a certain level of bias towards education. I know what changes I want to see in education and I am working towards achieving them both through study and through direct involvement in programs. In my job I am able to work with a wide range of students and professionals and can assist them directly to strengthen their skills and understanding in key areas. Not everyone is able to work in a field that directly impacts on Indigenous outcomes though...

Since I have joined the world of blogs and Twitter I have been able to better appreciate the perspective of those people who sit outside this circle of influence and have been given the opportunity to consider how I might be able to use social media to help contribute towards achieving these and other goals in a frustratingly indirect capacity.

Education of course does not just mean the education of children. Education is a life-long process. I have seen this in practice with learners of all ages and it seems that the most common 'teachers' in the everyday life for most adult Australians of various age groups about Indigenous issues is mainstream media, such as TV, internet, radio, newspapers etc. So while I like to think I have been able to reach a lot of 'students' in my work, I do not come close to the amount of people one episode of Neighbours does 5 days a week or one episode of any Triple J show. Since I am not likely to ever get that sort of audience it has become pertinent to ask myself: how can I support increased Indigenous media participation and representation to support the improved education of all Australians?  

This is already beginning to change due to the tireless work of many others before who have been advocating for decades on this exact issue.

This NAIDOC Week various media groups have made increased efforts to include an Indigenous focus which is a great step forward... but until it involves more Indigenous people telling their own stories all year round on a wider variety of programs, and not just non-Indigenous Australians talking about Indigenous Australians a couple of times a year or when something 'scandalous' occurs, it can only fall short of what is needed: Diversity and inclusion.

This means an on-going campaign within media organisations to more accurately portray Indigenous Australia. This means an increase in Indigenous employment on and off the air and opportunities for increased cultural awareness for existing staff.

Mainstream Media is the primary source of information for most people in Australia. How can we expect media to educate Australia when media is not educated?

This is true for a lot more media issues than just Indigenous Australia, but since it is NAIDOC Week, and this is Aboriginaloz.blogspot you will have to go to some other website for thoughts about those issues...

Indigenous Employment: media can't honestly promote it if they don't do it themselves. Same goes for government and corporate leaders.

We have non-Indigenous people representing Indigenous people in parliament, we have non-Indigenous police on the streets, and non-Indigenous teachers in the classrooms. We have non-Indigenous people telling us about Indigenous people on TV... these are all important changes I hope to become an increasingly active part of. AnOther is encouraging Government and organisations to discuss outcomes and not just policies, strategies and anecdotes. Another is helping them to attain the necessary skills to achieve better outcomes that they will be proud to promote. I am considering what steps I need to take and am trying to get as many different perspectives on these issues as I can to help me contribute towards these goals... I am confident that I will be able to continue to make a positive contribution to the things I want to see change. I know what steps I want to take, but I also know enough to realise that I will need to be flexible in my approach and be willing to work towards consensus with others to find approaches that work for as many people as possible.

A student of mine once pointed out to me that an anagram of NAIDOC is I Can Do... and I believe that he was right.

I Can Do. I will do.

What can you do?

What will you do?

What do you want to change?

What steps are you planning to take to achieve it?