Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The deciders have decidered.

A month or so ago, Sam Armytage blah blah blah, google it if it you haven't seen it already.

Some people wrote articles saying it was or wasn't racist, and you can google them too. There's also a petition somewhere you can probably google if you want asking for Sam to apologise. (Spoiler alert: I really can't see that happening, and if it does it won't go well because she wouldn't understand why she was apologising, and that never bodes well for a 'sincere apology'.) (Update: Called it.)

One article in particular though, and the reason for this blog, was written under the very courageous heading of 'No racism to see here, people. Move along', by Susie O'Brien.

Such a definitive, authoritative decree must surely raise the question: Who snitched on us to the racism police? In fact, who the hell are the racism police?! I think we can safely rule out the actual police, given their track record, and I would have thought we could safely say the same of journalists. Given other articles this author has written, I think I wouldn't mind seeing her badge before I voluntarily vacate the area...

"No racism to see here, people..."

We know that in the land of the blind the one eyed man is King, but what if he was just pretending to have one eye? Surely a few people would be duped into following him, even if it was straight off a cliff.

I fear this is indeed what has happened in this article for just because you are unable to see something, that doesn't actually mean that it doesn't exist. This where we usually fall to those with more knowledge and experience than ourselves. Those with the necessary experience, understanding, and training.

For example, I can't see oxygen, but I have it on very good authority that it does indeed exist and I am, for the most part, pretty happy to go along with that.

There is a campaign which uses the slogan "It's hard to see racism when you're white". This slogan really pisses a lot of white people off because, well, it's hard to see racism when you're white.

This where phrases like 'real racism' come from, (this phrase is included in the article, actually why haven't you read the article yet? It is kinda relevant to this blog if you haven't worked that out already... take your time. I'll wait.

Okay, we good?)

Where was I? Oh, right... 'real racism'. Tangible, in your face, self declaring racism. The latter seems to be an essential criteria for identifying racism now, amongst white people anyway; self identification. Even the actual white supremacists who organised the Reclaim Australia rallies were largely able to avoid this label from the media merely be declaring themselves not to be racist...'No racism to see here, people, they said they're not racist. Move along.'

We often see the strongest defense of people come from those who can readily empathise with the perceived 'victim'. And given the overwhelming whiteness of our media, this means a much higher proportion of our journalists find it easier to imagine themselves being accused of racism for reasons they can't understand and therefore assume don't exist than it is to imagine what it is like to  experience racism. 

And, just because I enjoy a challenge, I'm gonna take you up on your dare, Susie O'Brien.... "Go on, call me racist if you dare."

For you see, racism is not something so simple as to be able to label purely from the perspective of intent, nor is the person who receives this racism able to remove the label of racism from an event purely because they either didn't feel that it was racist, or because they felt a certain amount of social pressure to downplay whatever suspicions of racism they may have felt, as is not uncommon in these highly public instances. 

Racism is not merely overt acts, or individual intentions, but it is also relevant to consider the interpretations of those affected by the comment. If you do not intend to kick me when you walk around with your eyes closed, that doesn't mean I have to interpret it that way when you do. And even though I may concede that you did not directly intend to kick me, I can ask why you would be so irresponsible as to walk around with your eyes closed in the first place and even decide that you are equally as culpable as if you had intended the inevitable outcome. Can I not think of racism in the same way? If journalists are going to blindly stumble into matters of race and racism does their ignorance provide immunity from any offense or upset they cause? Should the people who get kicked every single day show a greater level of forgiveness and empathy to those who choose to walk around with their eyes closed than those who kick them on purpose? Should they 'move along' quietly and peacefully when another person with their eyes closed tells them there is nothing to see? Is the act of feigning authority on a topic and declaring a case closed not a perpetuation of the inherent problems which allow the problem to perpetuate itself? Is this not a culpable act?

You have patronised a large group of people who regularly experience overt and casual racism in their daily lives, from their employers, from their media, and from their governments, just to name a few. This racism is not always overt on the part of the individuals who enact it, and it is not always readily visible.

For instance, I think there are many considerations to be made about why such a common phenomena was even deemed newsworthy in the first place. Evidence of the fascination with eugenics that still plagues our society perhaps? Or simply a slow news day? Either way, why should a journalist, usually self proclaimed bastions of free speech seek to shut down discussion on issues of public interest? To act so blindly, to dismiss any other considerations than the grossly inadequate evidence presented in your article is to perpetuate the status quo of silencing discussion on race and racism that is not conducted exclusively by white journalists. To perpetuate racism is to be racist. You are racist... I dared.

What now?

You will not be fired, because that's not how racism, or being called racist, works, despite claims to the contrary. If you check your voice box and your keyboard you will see that my assertion has also not robbed you of your free speech, which is also commonly claimed. You will not find yourself in front of a judge. You will not find yourself shunned by your friends or colleagues. You will find it has little outwards impact whatsoever, which is good because I don't want it to. I don't want to lose your job. I want you to do your job. I want you to think, to challenge yourself and your readers, I want you to do your research.

The only impact it will have is the impact you choose to allow it to have. You can decide that I and everyone else who was gobsmacked by the audacity of your headline should be ignored and no one will ever force you to consider the matter in any detail. You can write a reply blog calling me whatever labels you can apply, some of them are probably even true. Racism, sexism, homophobia, ableism, Islamaphobia, these are all so complex, interwoven, and often subconscious that I don't doubt that people wiser than me see elements of all of those in things that I have said or done. I like to think I would be humble enough to take these considerations on board and improve my own understanding, but I cannot guarantee it. Pride is a difficult beast to conquer, and humility can lead to pride much quicker than pride ever leads to humility.

So, if I'm willing to concede that as a fair skinned, blue eyed Australian who has benefited from white privilege that I have more likely have said things, and more importantly probably still believe things which could rightly be called racist, I don't feel I am going out on a limb to apply the same label to you. It is a statistically logical conclusion, especially given the confidence you evidently display when determining what is or not racist for the rest of us. That assertion is in itself an act of racism. As my friend and compatriot, Kelly Briggs aka The Koori Woman said to me earlier, the entire article is in itself one huge micro aggression, which you probably can't see and don't even realise was there, yet we both felt it. That means it should be up for discussion.

Besides, we can't move on... we live here. We deal with this stuff every day.       

The only question now is what are you going to do about it? Are you going to challenge yourself to try and open your eyes and consider how you are trivialising our lives and our experiences in such a patronising fashion? Or are you going to close them even tighter and yell even louder that you're not racist?  

The world waits with bated breath.



1 comment:

  1. I watched this unfold, ridiculous! Good article bruz