Tag Archives: racism

The unbearable ignorance of Tim Wilson, Human Rights Commissioner for *Freedom*

30 Mar

Tim Wilson, recently appointed Human Rights Commissioner for Freedom, declared today that race hate laws are bizarre and unequal because while members of a community are permitted to use “racially loaded language” among themselves, outsiders are not permitted to do the same.

Mr Wilson clearly does not understand that *racially loaded language* used by outsiders is always, without exception, deliberately employed as a racial slur intended to insult, hurt, demoralise, ridicule and devalue the human beings  hate speech targets. When such language is used amongst members of a community it is used ironically, defiantly, and as a method of defusing and ridiculing the racist intentions of outsiders.

Everyone, Mr Wilson asserts ought to be allowed to use the term “nigger,” for example, because it is widely used in black communities. Wilson reveals his monumental ignorance and gobsmacking stupidity, through either his incompetent or  deliberate misunderstanding of the difference in the meaning of that term, when used within communities or by outsiders.

This dangerous call for absolute free speech favours only white people, and only certain highly privileged white men are demanding it. Wilson’s call for “personal responsibility” in this matter is ridiculous. There are matters society cannot afford to leave to an individual’s sense of “personal responsibility” and as has been proven over and over and over again, hate speech is one of them.

Like many others, I am enraged and heartbroken to see the gains that have been made in my lifetime crushed by the severely limited intelligence and utter lack of imagination of privileged white men such as Brandis, Wilson, Abbott et al. That a Commissioner for Human Rights (Freedom) is now campaigning for everyone to be free to use loaded terms such as “nigger” against our fellow human beings  because “equality,” signifies a journey through the looking-glass that leads to nothing less than insanity.

There can be no “equality” in the use of racially loaded language when the intentions behind the speech are utterly opposed.

This is a bald act of white supremacy, a brutal attempt to claw back what is perceived as a loss to the power of privileged white men.

PS: On a personal note, Tim Wilson recently blocked me on Twitter when I asked him a valid question about competing human rights.

 

 

On the Aldi shirts

9 Jan

I agree with Tom Calma on the matter of the t-shirts marketed by Aldi and Big W to celebrate Australia Day. The former Race Discrimination Commissioner does not believe the design to be ‘intentionally racist’ but:

“What we can say is that it is not accurate, is bad taste and does not in itself lead to an understanding of Australia’s history and heritage,” he said. “In the lead-up to Australia Day it is important that we educate the community, the nation and the international community about what Australia Day celebrates.”

However, I think we’ve reached the use by date of the argument ‘not intentionally racist.’ There’s no possible excuse for anyone who is at all engaged in daily life in this country to be unaware of racism,and ignorant of its myriad manifestations. If they are, they are likely intentionally unaware, because you’d have to be living under a rock to not notice the everyday racism to which Indigenous people are subjected.

‘We didn’t mean to be racist’ is the pathetic bleat of a lazy privileged twat. How could those shirts not offend, with their logo stating that Australia was ‘established’ (in itself crap, we weren’t a nation till 1901) in 1788 when white people invaded, leaving a trail of slaughter and tragedy whose aftermath resonates to this day, in their wake?

Incredibly, the shirts were approved by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, in July 2013.

What the fucking fuck?

If you ‘don’t mean to be racist’ then fucking educate yourself, and maybe you won’t be. This is the prime responsibility of the privileged. If you are fortunate enough to have been born into the dominant culture, fucking educate yourself about those who are not, and what that means.

But don’t bloody bleat ‘I didn’t mean to be racist’ or ‘I didn’t mean to be sexist’ or what the fucking what. Just learn.

That is fucking all.

“Hate is just a failure of imagination.” On racism.

3 Jun

WhitePrivilege

I’m guessing just about everyone is familiar with the recent events surrounding Sydney Swans player Adam Goodes, a young girl who insulted him with a racist slur, the subsequent involvement of Eddie McGuire, and the public debate on racism that has dominated media and social media ever since.

The following are some writings on the topic I found worth reading.

Helen Razer’s piece in Crikey, titled “I am racist and so are you” in which she alleges that anyone white in this country is racist and ought to own it.

Jeff Sparrow’s piece in Overland, an interesting rebuttal to the claim “we’re all racist.”

Blogger Dragonista’s piece “Entitlement should not disqualify me” and the follow-up. It’s important to read the comments as Dragonista engages with Luke Pearson, who explains why Indigenous people can become very weary of explaining their situation to white fellas.

Luke Pearson’s blog in response to Dragonista and others who share her position.

David Horton’s piece “Bone of Contention” in which he recalls some background relevant to the present.

There are of course hundreds of other pieces throughout both social and mainstream media.

A few days ago I wrote aboutprivilege and imagination, in which I argued that the current passion for “checking your privilege” could be more usefully replaced by using one’s imagination, and walking a few steps in the shoes of the other to see how that feels. Checking my privilege rather keeps it all about me, while using my imagination to envisage another’s experience makes it all about them.

I’m of the view that race is a social construct, yet another of the many ways in which some human beings categorize other human beings in order to dehumanise them, to the degree that they don’t have to be considered as equals and worthy of the same considerations as the dominant group. Racism has much in common with sexism. Both allow the dominant group to maintain a sense of superiority by measuring themselves against the perceived failings and allegedly inherent weaknesses of the others. Both allow the dominant group to maintain a sense of entitlement and privilege, because they feel superior to the others.

In both cases, the dominant group  will be extremely reluctant to either examine or relinquish any of its entitlements and privileges.

It struck me as I ploughed through the at times strident, accusatory, smug, ignorant, enlightened, sorrowful, angry, bored, pissed off, exasperated, exhausted and exhausting commentary of the last week, that the discussion of racism itself had quickly evolved into a battlefield on which combatants fought for the high moral ground, casting opponents as “racists,” “privileged,” “entitled,” or in some instances, just plain “white,” the latter used as a racial insult, if we stick to the strict definition of that term.

It’s quite a thing, to besmirch another as a “racist.” It probably isn’t something that ought to be done lightly. I’ve wondered how hurling around that word as a contemptuous insult furthers the debate at all. It’s not likely to make anyone stop and think about their views, quite the opposite, it’s likely to cause anger, resentment and a hardening of the heart.

Again, I believe the answer is imagination:

When you visualised a man or a woman carefully…when you saw the lines at the corners of the eyes, the shape of the mouth, how the hair grew, it was impossible to hate. Hate was just a failure of  imagination. Grahame Greene

Greene echoes philosopher Emmanuel Levinas’ beliefs about the power of the face, and the ethical responsibility we all have to honour the face of the Other, no matter how different from one’s own.  The responsibility we have to recognise and respect our common vulnerability as human beings, and to refrain from exploiting that vulnerability. To look fully at another’s face, to really see it, immediately places one in a more respectful relation to the other than the cursory, unseeing glance.

I ended the week feeling a great deal of admiration for the man at the centre of the storm, Adam Goodes. I’m not in the least interested in football, but as the rest of my household watched the Swans game I couldn’t help but observe Goodes rise above the slings and arrows of his week and immerse himself, fully focused, in his task.

This debate on the othering of some groups by more powerful groups is perhaps the most important debate there is. Racism, sexism, homophobia, hatred: discrimination of any kind, is a failure of imagination.

How do we teach that?

Privilege and imagination

17 May

Yesterday the word “privilege” was used a great deal in social media, mostly with regard to this post by Mia Freedman, in which she defends Delta Goodrem against charges of racism following an incident involving a white man dressing up as Seal by painting himself black.

I used the word myself in my last blog, though it isn’t one of my favourites. It has a good deal of currency at the moment, with people requesting other people to first consider their privilege before expressing opinions, making judgements, behaving in certain ways, prescribing and proscribing. It’s not a bad idea, but many of those amongst us who are most privileged find it tedious, silly, and that crowning insult, it’s political correctness, usually “gone mad.”

So if I were to say, as did Mia Freedman, that using blackface in this instance is not racist, not intended to be racist, and people who are offended need to get a sense of humour, I’d do well to consider the privileged position from which I am speaking before I open my mouth. As a middle class white woman who has never experienced racism, I am the least equipped to judge whether or not blackface is a racial insult. If I then tell brown people to get a sense of humour about it, I’m skating on very thin ice indeed.

It seems to me that the easiest way to avoid offence is to first exercise the imagination.  How would I feel…

If, as Clementine Ford acknowledged in her article on violence and sexual violence against women, the situation one is about to discuss is beyond one’s imagining, then one might do well to refrain from expressing opinions about it. I haven’t yet understood how it is possible to hold an informed opinion about something one cannot begin to imagine, or refuses to imagine, beyond the initial opinion that one finds it unimaginable.

Of course it’s possible to observe how awful a situation is, but that is not particularly insightful or helpful. With imagination the complexities and nuances become evident, and in situations as complex as racism, and domestic violence, the devil is in the detail.

For example, as I’ve noted many times, the simplistic gendering of domestic violence by some feminists and governments has done nothing to prevent any of it, and obfuscates the complexities of intimate relationships that turn very bad. I don’t know how it’s in the least helpful to frame this violence and our attempts at management in terms of gender, and until someone writes policy with a bit more imagination and a lot less ideology, nothing is going to improve.

I think that our primary responsibility to others is to use our imaginations about their circumstances. If we (and I mean anyone) are unwilling or unable to do this, the problem is ours, not theirs.

“Examining your privilege” might be better thought of as “using your imagination.” This latter opens up the possibility of stepping into the other’s shoes for a while, and seeing how it feels.  This is probably one of the most powerful expressions of respect one human being can offer to another. It acknowledges our common humanity, and the vulnerability we all share in our embodiment. It is impossible to perform this respectful act without engaging the imagination.

When individuals and groups fail to use their imagination about the circumstances of those who are in some way different from themselves, bad things start to happen, such as excising the entire country from the Migration Act and incarcerating others for indefinite periods in far from acceptable circumstances. If we (and by we I mean everybody) don’t imagine others as human beings with whom we have much in common, and perhaps add, there but for the grace of the gods we might be, then we can’t feel as badly as we should about how we treat them.

If we don’t use our imaginations about another’s suffering, we end up feeling little more than pity, although we might call it compassion and empathy. Without imagination, it is only pity. Pity allows us to distance ourselves from the other, while compassion and empathy demand we walk with her or him, figuratively speaking.

The most compassionate people I’ve known have not suffered in ways I have, yet have never made me feel different, less than them, or pitied. I doubt any one of them ever “examined their privilege.” They are all, however, possessed of powerful imaginations. They have no difficulty putting themselves in another’s place. They may not understand some things, but they accept and respect another’s right to her or his subjective experience. They don’t “take your voice and leave you howling at the moon.”

Imagination. That is all.

Scott Morrison. Racism. The facts.

14 Jun

Racism: (just to refresh our memories)

1. the belief that human races have distinctive characteristics which determine their respective cultures, usually involving the idea that one’s own race is superior and has the right to rule or dominate the others.

2. offensive or aggressive behaviour to members of another race stemming from such a belief.

3. a policy or system of government and society based upon it. (Macquarie Dictionary)

Morrison sees votes in anti-Muslim strategy. The opposition immigration spokesman, Scott Morrison, urged the shadow cabinet to capitalise on the electorate’s growing concerns about “Muslim immigration”, “Muslims in Australia” and the “inability” of Muslim migrants to integrate…But after Mr Morrison’s comments this week on the cost of asylum-seeker funerals and his role in the controversial decision to cut a Howard government program to fund schools in Indonesia, colleagues are privately questioning whether he is trying to pursue an anti-Muslim political strategy unilaterallysources say Mr Ruddock, the shadow cabinet secretary, was particularly “blunt” in his rejection of the suggestion, saying a well-run and non-discriminatory immigration policy was essential for nation building.
Lenore Taylor, Sydney Morning Herald, February 17 2011. [emphasis mine]

Ugly game of race baiting. Morrison decided to see if he could win some political points by inflaming racism and resentment. More specifically, he zeroed in on some of the most vulnerable people in the country for political advantage.

Morrison publicly raised objections to the government’s decision to pay for air fares for some of the survivors of the Christmas Island boat wreck to travel to Sydney for the funerals of their relatives.

Some were Christian funerals, others were Muslim. But all of them were foreigners, all of them were boat people, all of them were dark-skinned, and to Morrison that made them all fair game. Peter Hartcher, SMH, February 19 2011.

From the blog of well-known free speech advocate Andrew Bolt comes this quote from ABC journalist Stephen Long. I am obliged to reference Mr Bolt’s blog because it appears the ABC have removed this episode of The Drum Online from their website. Mr Long was a panellist on The Drum earlier this week. Along with other panellists he was invited to express his opinion on various topical issues. With reference to the Coalition’s recent comments on immigration policy, Mr Long observed:

I think that it is a cynical manipulation of an underlying prejudice in the Australian community and that it has very little policy merit. It is fraught with problems and it is really awful actually and I think Scott Morrison in particular as a spokesman in this area has just pushed way beyond acceptability in a way that he is willing to pander and manipulate that level of prejudice in what is essentially a racist manner. He is my local member in the electorate for Cronulla, the scene of the Cronulla riots …

Mr Long’s opinion was consistent with that of some of Mr Morrison’s political colleagues, and other journalists. However, Mr Morrison demanded an apology from the ABC for Mr Long’s remarks. The ABC aquiesced, and the apology was delivered on air yesterday evening by the show’s host, Steve Cannane.

This leads me to wonder why it is acceptable to describe someone as “pursuing an anti Muslim strategy unilaterally” but unacceptable to describe that activity as “racist” (refer to definition of racism above). Perhaps there is a way of pursuing an anti Muslim strategy unilaterally that is not racist? Perhaps the activity is indeed racist (check definition again) but under no circumstances are we allowed to say so?

Colour me confused.

On his website Mr Morrison, who is a member of the Assemblies of God Pentecostal Church, writes: “My Christian faith remains the driving force for my family, beliefs and values.”

Note to commenters: As Mr Morrison appears to be sensitive at the moment and may even incline towards litigation, please take care not to leave any comments that might be construed as defamatory.


Racist prophecies from Department of Immigration replace informed advice

8 Sep

In a briefing to Tony Abbott yesterday, Department of Immigration secretary Andrew Metcalfe warned the Opposition leader that on-shore processing of asylum seeker claims would lead to 600 boat arrivals a month. This would cause overcrowding in detention centres making community release inevitable, and this in turn would cause tensions between asylum seekers and the community comparable to those that allegedly led to the rioting in Paris in 2010, and more recently in London.

It’s enough to make a grown woman cry.

Without offering any evidence at all for this causal chain, Metcalfe takes it upon himself, along with his officials, to offer unsubstantiated opinion that is divisive, hostile, demonizing, racist and irresponsible. Is this an indicator of the culture inside the Immigration Department? Of course it is.

Metcalfe then makes a fantastical leap, linking riots in Paris with the riots in London and other UK cities, just because they’re all riots, I suppose. Just because people from non Anglo cultural backgrounds took part in both of them, as did whites, but don’t mention that. Just because immigrant families were involved in the Paris riots and some immigrant families took part in the UK riots. Or just because Mr Metcalfe and the Immigration Department don’t like refugee families who arrive by boat from the Middle East and Metcalfe just has a feeling in his water that they’ll riot if they get out into the community in sufficient numbers just like they have in Paris and London.

Metcalfe doesn’t have to substantiate this ignorant drivel before he and his staff broadcast it to Australia, it’s sufficient that they think it for it to become their professional advice to politicians.

Even the most superficial assessment of the Paris and London riots would concede that there were very different factors at work. The Paris riots broke out in a self-described immigrant ghetto on the outskirts of the city, where young French citizens, ostracised because of their skin colour and/or their immigrant parentage, rioted against French President Nicholas Sarkozy‘s right-wing anti-immigration rhetoric, and the miserable and disadvantaged circumstances of their lives.

The UK rioters came from a much wider demographic, and overt political protest was not a motivating factor. Few of the UK rioters could be described as living in ghettos comparable to those in Paris. But a riot is a riot, according to Metcalfe. Let’s not split hairs. If they’re from another culture, the Middle East in this case, if they’re refugees and if there’s enough of them, they’ll riot, causing social upheaval, fear and destruction in previously safe Australian communities.

The asylum seeker debate, (though to call it a debate is to dignify it) is top-heavy with unsubstantiated codswallop useful only to those who harbour the evil desire to whip up fear and uncertainty in the community. Has everybody turned into Pauline Hanson, because what’s come out of the Immigration Department in the last twenty-four hours could have been written by her.

We are awash with these generalizations, that are nothing better than lies and obfuscation. They are not argument and they are not debate. It’s unacceptable that public servants are given free rein to express uninformed and ignorant racial prejudices in the guise of advice to politicians. There’s opinion and there’s advice. The latter requires evidence and substance. Metcalfe’s conflation of the London and Paris riots is ignorant personal opinion, and to use ignorant personal opinion as the basis for policy advice to government and politicians is unprofessional.

On August 16 Andrew Metcalfe fronted a parliamentary inquiry into mandatory detention of boat arrivals, and suggested that politicians should consider the usefulness of detention as a deterrent. He also urged them to consider how to achieve a better balance between our international obligations and our need for border security. At the time, some of us were encouraged by Metcalfe’s stand, however in view of yesterday’s irresponsible claims, it would seem his racist fear of rioting Middle Eastern immigrants trashing our communities will inevitably dominate and prejudice his thinking.

Is this another example of senior public servants telling politicians what they think the politicians want to hear? Or have we been granted an insight into a racist culture in the department that nicely corresponds with both government and opposition policies? Is racism so ingrained in this country’s asylum seeker/border protection policies that neither senior public servants nor politicians no longer feel any need to even attempt to conceal it?

Related articles

Behrendt, Bess Price, and Bolt. And adios from the Diaper Fox

15 Apr

“I watched a show where a guy had sex with a horse and I’m sure it was less offensive than Bess Price.”

Larissa Behrendt

So tweeted Larissa Behrendt, Professor of Law and Indigenous Studies at the University of Technology, Sydney, about remarks made by Bess Price, Chair of the Northern Territory Indigenous Affairs Advisory Council, on ABC’s qanda, Monday April 11.

Behrendt and Price disagree on the NT intervention implemented by John Howard in 2007, and Price expressed her support of the policy on Monday night.

Marcia Langton has now taken Behrendt to task for her tweet, framing it as a betrayal by a sophisticated urban Aboriginal woman of her bush sisters, and as an unprecedented public insult directed by a younger Aboriginal woman at an elder.

In a further twist, Behrendt is the principal litigant in current action against

Bess Price

columnist Andrew Bolt, who, it is alleged, indulged in racial vilification of Behrendt and other Aboriginals in a piece in which he questioned the right of what Bess Price calls “white blackfellas” to identify as Aboriginal. The case has provoked vigorous debate about the parameters of the right to free speech.

Oh my. This is why I don’t tweet anything, except the titles of posts. It’s taken many years for me to learn that putting my foot in my open mouth doesn’t have to be a default position, as was suggested to me on more than one occasion by a husband. Tweeting can only be trouble for a fool such as I, and given the stories, for many others who hotly squirm long after after reckless Twitter moments are over. Blogging is big enough risk.

Bolt published his views in a newspaper, and Behrendt thought she was only tweeting a friend, so in that sense comparisons are weak. However, if one considers the spirit of the content of both communications, there are un-nerving similarities. Contempt, disregard, mockery, denigration, insult, efforts to invalidate the other, inability to deal with opposing points of view; intolerance, prejudice, and  hatred.

Nothing more than you read in the comments on any blog on any day. We are, on the whole, an un-evolved lot.

Price is apparently consulting lawyers about the tweeted slur. Behrendt may yet find herself in Bolt’s shoes. What a time to have to leave the country, but leave I must!

Talking about slurs: how I came to be known as the Diaper Fox.

Diaper Fox

Some years ago a grandson of mine (growing up in the US, hence diaper) out of nowhere one morning took to calling me the Diaper Fox. At the time I was complaining about changing his little brother’s diaper while we discussed how we needed a fox to help us get rid of the jackrabbits that hop under the back fence from the desert and eat the lettuces. These two superficially unconnected issues became linked in his imagination, and I became Diaper Fox.

The name has stuck, and now everybody uses it. On the phone it’s when are you coming over, Diaper Fox, and will you bring me a toy crocodile, a sarong, a koala (real) a cool surfer t-shirt, and Vegemite!! while the littlest talking child sings out in the background “Diaper Fox Grandma! Diaper Fox Grandma!”

So on Monday I’m off to hold this gang of four scallywags in my arms again.

These kids are the best antidote I know to the beltings and bruisings of the adult world and though I always come home exhausted in body, I’m replenished in spirit. Children and dogs. They do it for me every time. I just wish I could persuade their parents to come home so I don’t have to suffer the indignities and dangers of long haul travel – last time our Qantas flight ran out of fuel (???) between LA and Brisbane and had to divert to Noumea. The time before it was water they ran out of, and everybody was asked to try not to pee. When we landed the stampede at the LAX dunnies was life threatening.

Adios, friends, be well and lively, and will see you again in a few weeks.

Gang of four Scallywags

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