Sunday, June 2, 2013

An Open Letter To People Who Feel They Are Excluded Just For Being White.



I am writing this as an open letter to any and all people who identify as 'white' AND who also often feel excluded from discussing issues of race by non-white people for the sole reason that you are a white person. 

I hate to be the one to tell it to you, but it isn't 'just' because you are white. It isn't 'reverse racism'. Our supposed unfair condemnation of white people isn't a viable excuse for your continual, wilful and blatantly unapologetic perpetuation of racist stereotypes. Also, the fact that you might have identified the same phenomenon in other groups not based on race, say disability advocates, gay marriage advocates, or feminists, doesn't meant your observations aren't still racist. If I say that Muslims and people with autism are violent, that doesn't mean I am not making a racist comment. It just means I'm also insulting people with autism. It doesn't detract from the inappropriate nature of my comment, it adds to it with another form of discrimination.

Now, just to qualify, and I know this is going to confuse a lot of you but here we go... being 'white' isn't the sole reason you get excluded from these dialogues, or from expressing your opinion without receiving an overwhelmingly consistent negative response; but it is a factor, just not the disqualifying factor which you claim it to be.

I know that seems like the most likely answer though; if you are being excluded from commenting about racism, when you are one of the least racist people in the history of the universe, and your opinions are awesome; then obviously, it must be because of something out of your control. Your 'whiteness'. But it can't be whiteness's fault... because whiteness is awesome too, and besides, it's entirely out of your control! The fault must lie with others. They must just be excluding you because you are white!! Those bastards... no wonder everyone hates them!! Not you of course, you don't. You're not racist. But still, no wonder, hey?!

Then you realise that lots of other white people are having the same experience, and expressing their own frustrations at how, even though they are totally not racist and are awesome, they too are being excluded from making comments about racism. It's an epidemic.

In fact, what it really amounts to, is racism! And the worst kind of racism too... the kind that marginalises white people...  

You should probably write a blog about this, and get the word out. If this gets any worse who knows where it could lead? Perhaps even *dum dum dum* White genocide!!

Maybe though, through your kindness and compassion, you can convince these racist non-white people to listen to your awesome idea about how to solve the 'racism problem' that you have identified. 

They just need to be nicer. To explain more. To take more time and be more patient. They need to stop throwing around the racism word so willy-nilly too. Basically, they just need to stop being so selfish, and racist, and most importantly, let you play too!! 

But before you write that blog, you might want to take a moment, a quick time out, to consider something. Nothing huge, just a little something that might be relevant to your theory... a loose end as it were.     

Turns out there's plenty of white people who feel able to talk openly and passionately about racism, and their views are recognised and respected by many non-white people too. Their whiteness is also no impediment whatsoever to their skilful avoidance of saying or doing racist things, and they seem to have no issue of being excluded or dismissed from groups or conversations purely for their whiteness, with the exact (not just the generic) people you are referring to... 

So, if plenty of white people are welcome in conversations about racism, and understand racism when they see it, and manage to avoid it themselves, then what else could it be? What else could be contributing to these people, who all hate racism, seeming to get so angry whenever you talk to them, even when they start off by saying they're happy to talk to you about racism? 

There must be some other secret, even more malicious reason going on here than the already unbelievable anti-white racism which you have so brilliantly deduced... 

Or is it possible, even remotely, that these people who all hate racism but who clearly don't hate all white people are excluding you from conversations because of anything you could be saying or doing? 

Have you considered that at all? 

Maybe you shouldn't write another blog about the generic 'they', maybe this doesn't really have anything to do with 'them'.

Imagine if you went to the doctor for help and told him that something was wrong, and he told you that you were sick, and that he knew what the sickness was, how you most likely got it and how to cure it. Would you get offended that he insulted you by calling you 'sick', or that he dared presume to know anything about you as a person? Or would you listen to him and hope that you can get it fixed?How many second opinions would you need to get before you accepted the diagnosis? Would you rather dismiss the entire field of medicine than concede that perhaps they are right?

Maybe you need help to understand this issue, maybe you need to look back over your life and try and work out how you got this sickness. Consider all the contaminants you have been exposed to. Consider how you may have overlooked some of the earlier symptoms. 

Now, to get back to the point. I'm no racism doctor, but from what I am seeing, it is very likely that you have a racism sickness. I have a good idea how you got it, and I might even be able to help you fix it. I recommend you do as much reading as you can on it, and feel free to get a second, third or even fifty-fifth opinion on it, but from the fact that you identified as one of the people I addressed this open letter to, it sounds like you have received quite a few opinions on the matter already. It sounds like your racism sickness has actually gotten so bad that you have entered the stage where you are racistly blaming others for your own racism. That's a pretty severe case. It's not 'burning crosses on the lawn' bad, but it's not good. 

And just to clarify, I don't hate you for your sickness, I don't blame you for it, and I don't believe it is incurable. But your sickness is one that unless it is treated, can cause you to say and do harmful and dangerous things. So, if you pretend like the sickness isn't real, and you start to endanger others, I will have no option but to walk away, in the interests of my own safety, and for the safety of others.

And again, it's not 'because' you are white. This sickness just seems to be far more prevalent amongst white people, which is tragically to do with the overwhelming amounts of concentrated racism that so many white people are exposed to, often from a very early age. 

This particular racism sickness, where you exhibit all the same signs as other forms of racism sickness but are ultimately convinced that you are not actually in any way racist is known as 'aversive racism'.

As this excerpt from "How Nick Cater misunderstands the debate over racism" states.

"Some psychologists refer to this as ‘aversive racism’. Discussing the research of John Dovidio and Samuel Gaertner an article in the Association of Psychological Science’s Observer explains:

Aversive racism is characteristic of many White Americans who possess strong egalitarian values and who believe that they are not prejudiced. But many also possess negative feelings and beliefs of which they are either unaware or try to dissociate from their images of themselves as being non-prejudiced.

This illustrates how the meaning of ‘racism‘ has shifted in recent decades. It no longer necessarily refers to conscious beliefs of racial superiority or feelings of hatred and contempt. For most researchers, the point is not to blame people, but to encourage them to be more aware of how their behaviour systematically disadvantages others."

Now, admittedly, because I've had aversive racists ramming both their racism and their aversion to being labelled racist down my throat for the last couple of days, and consistently for a large part of my life, I can't say that I have written this with the usual patience and generosity I am often known for... 'Patient Luke' as this approach has been dubbed lately, nor have I written in the 'Angry Luke' style which at times is seen to step in for 'Patient Luke' when he gets a bit too exhausted... I think this is what happens when both 'Patient Luke' and 'Angry Luke' take a break, and 'I'm So Over This BS And I Really Don't Care If I Hurt Your Feelings Because You Need To Hear This Luke' steps up to the plate.

9 comments:

  1. oh Bravo!


    I think we need to hear from "so over this bullshit Luke" more often.

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  2. Are you sure you're not a racism doctor? ;)

    Good read Luke, even though I have seen a fair bit of it unfold on Twitter over the last week or so. As a 'white' Australian, I don't often think of myself as having a colour, but perhaps that is because I have never really had my identity defined or challenged due to 'colour'/race/ethnicity. It is easy to not feel discriminated against when you haven't ever really been discriminated against...

    I have to say that I haven't felt excluded from conversations about racism at all - although find that I learn far more from the conversation by listening (which I'm not always good at doing in other parts of my life!) to people who understand infinitely more deeply than me...

    And as a minor consolation prize for you on a frustrating evening...

    re: 'Would you get offended that he insulted you by calling you 'sick', or that he dared presume to know anything about you as a person? ... Would you rather dismiss the entire field of medicine than concede that perhaps they are right?'

    ... this has happened to me (and other docs) at work many times! Vaccination is the one that comes most immediately to mind. Perhaps fittingly, seeing as you used it as an analogy when discussing racism, it has happened far less since I've worked in an Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service!

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  3. I look at the person first before the race. It's not a conscious decision. It's just something I do. I don't care what colour someone is. I am a 40-something year old gay male who just happens to be white... and freckly. (Actually I used to get teased relentlessly at school because I was so white.) I was shocked and appalled when learning in high school of the atrocities inflicted on Indigenous Australians by the European invaders and the how the effect of this invasion still reverberates today. I don't want to get involved in Twitter debates about racism nor do I want to write a blog. It's not my place to do so. I just go about my life giving each and every person that respect they deserve and I speak out when I see or hear racism... or sexism... or homophobia.

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  4. Hi Luke. I am someone who it seems, identifies as white, in more ways than one.

    Yes, there was a time when I would have said I was not racist, and while I try hard not to be, it is a hard mind set to unlearn (I am trying). It is a difficult argument to have with a person who has been raised and educated in a country where the truth was kept secret so to justify the actions of "settlement", which is how the Invasion of Australia was portrayed and taught in Schools for most of last century.

    Even in the last few weeks I have learnt so much (because of the media coverage of the racist episodes which have been brought to our attention), including the 1967 Referendum, something I did not know about! You might ask HOW THE "F" COULD YOU NOT?

    I was educated in Australia in a time when these things were not taught, and I have not had any further Tertiary Education. I have not sought out this information because like most people, I want to know about the things that impact me and my family. But now, I am 50 years old, I have a story of my own to tell, but it is irrelevant here, other than it has taught me to be more compassionate, more empathic and less judgemental, it has also taught me to keep my mouth shut unless I know something of what is being discussed. It has also taught me I need to know more about many things and people and I need to seek out my own perspective.

    So when it comes to the History of Aboriginal People in this country and the treatment they have suffered and still do, there is only one thing I do know, and that is ... I don't know.

    To know that Aboriginal People were not only treated like animals, but to discover the law dictated that! It makes me sick just thinking about it. I therefore have no idea the impact of that on generations of Aboriginal people but I do see the impact on the thinking of people who find it hard to accept that it was wrong. It is an ongoing battle of changing perceptions.

    Certainly there has been that one word uttered as a token of closing the gap, but was "Sorry" really enough? From my perspective and from what I now know, how does one simply say sorry for all that has happened? I do understand there have been other things come of that initial apology, but we are still missing the mark by a mile.

    I don't know what needs to be done, but for me I know I just need to keep my mind open and keep learning and keep trying to understand and change the way I think and behave in the hope I will overcome my sickness. :-)

    Thank you for your open letter and I hope more people can receive it in that way ... openly.

    All the best Luke :-)

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  5. OMG Sandra that was well said and totally agree with your comments. Everyone needs to learn more about the TRUE History of Australia and hopefully overcome this sickness.......

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  6. Excellent piece. Very well said. :)

    Excuse me while I go try to ram this down some people's throats...

    (just kidding! it is tempting though)

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  7. Yes the first thing is to recognize our own racism - I remember hearing Christos Tsiolkas say that in an interview and thinking what a cool thing to say.
    And it's interesting (and to be honest, creates a bit of envy) for an Anglo to learn the value of keeping a connection to the traditional land. I lost mine before I ever had it, can't even qualify as a British citizen, now I live in your place, with a certain inescapable awkwardness!
    But is racism really a sickness? Any more than fear, ostracism, bullying, etc. Just the downside of being human I suspect. But yes, something can be done about it.
    BTW Breivik in Norway apparently had major concerns about what he called anti-European racism which might be related to the "aversive racism" you mentioned.

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  8. Thanks Luke for such a powerful piece

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