thorfinn: <user name="seedy_girl"> and <user name="thorfinn"> (Default)

Some people are a little confused about why the Hey Hey "blackface" skit is being viewed as quite offensive, and why the controversy hasn't just blown over.

If you're a White Australian, and especially male, you probably don't understand the context. Women maybe understand it more - they have more direct experience of similar things.

So let's have a little story to illustrate the context.

Think of half a dozen or more direct insults that might be used if someone was seriously trying to pick a fight with you. As in, really really pick a fight, not the joking friendly kind of insult that Australians are famous for. I'm not going to list any here - but if you can't think of any, then you're not trying hard enough. And if you really can't think of any, I'll supply you with some, in person, if you like. I guarantee you I can find something that will offend you.

Now, imagine that every single day, you get at least one, if not several, random idiots come up to you, and yell one of those insults at you, actually trying to pick a fight with you.

Not people you know, of course. Random strangers, different ones every time, come up to you whilst you're walking along the street and yell something horribly insulting, and probably not even relevant to you at all, and try to pick a fight.

That's life every single day as a non-white person in Australia. Really.

That experience is what I grew up with, every single day of my school life in the 1980s in Sydney Australia, and most every day at University through the early 1990s. It happened a little less often once I got into the workforce in Sydney, and doesn't happen much now I live in inner city Melbourne, where people are sufficiently alright with Asians that we had John So as Mayor for years, and he barely speaks English. That said, even today, when I visit Geelong, the second largest Victorian city, I still get looked at as if I'm a freak show when walking down the street holding my wife's hand.

And as an Asian, I got it easy. Mostly people yelled from across the street, because the same kind of idiot has watched Kung Fu movies, so they didn't usually yell in actual kicking range.

For Indigenous Australians, Africans and other black skinned folks in Australia? That kind of thing happens up close and personal, and happens every day, even to adults. And often that includes physical assault, not merely verbal assault. Today. Not "in the past". Today.

So don't be surprised when people are a just a touch angry at a "joke", when the "joke" in question reinforces the idea of an entire group of actual people as being non-human idiots, and therefore reinforces the idea that you are allowed to yell at them and beat them up.

A couple of links to other relevant places:

Before you respond, read:

Karnythia: The Do's and Don'ts of Being a Good Ally

1. Don't derail a discussion. Even if it makes you personally uncomfortable to discuss X's really not about you or your comfort. It's about X issue, and you are absolutely free to not engage rather than try to keep other people from continuing their conversation.

2. Do read links/books referenced in discussions. Again, even if the things being said make you uncomfortable, part of being a good ally is not looking for someone to provide a 101 class midstream. Do your own heavy lifting.

3. Don't expect your feelings to be a priority in a discussion about X issue. Oftentimes people get off onto the tone argument because their feelings are hurt by the way a message was delivered. If you stand on someone's foot and they tell you to get off? The correct response is not "Ask nicely" when you were in the wrong in the first place.

4. Do shut up and listen. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of listening to the people actually living X experience. There is nothing more obnoxious than someone (however well intentioned) coming into the spaces of a marginalized group and insisting that they absolutely have the solution even though they've never had X experience. You can certainly make suggestions, but don't be surprised if those ideas aren't well received because you've got the wrong end of the stick somewhere.

5. Don't play Oppresion Olympics. Really, if you're in the middle of a conversation about racism? Now is not the time to talk about how hard it is to be a white woman and deal with sexism. Being oppressed in one area does not mean you have no privilege in another area. Terms like intersectionality and kyriarchy exist for a reason. Also...that's derailing. Stop it.

6. Do check your privilege. It's hard and often unpleasant, but it's really necessary. And you're going to get things wrong. Because no one is perfect. But part of being an ally is being willing to hear that you're doing it wrong.

7. Don't expect a pass into safe spaces because you call yourself an ally. You're not entitled to access as a result of not being an asshole. Sometimes it just isn't going to be about you or what you think you should happen. Your privilege didn't fall away when you became an ally, and there are intra-community conversations that need to take place away from the gaze of the privileged.

8. Do be willing to stand up to bigots. Even if all you do is tell a friend that the thing they just said about X marginalized group is unacceptable, you're doing some of the actual work of being an ally.

9. Don't treat people like accessories or game tokens. Really, you get no cool points for having a diverse group of friends. Especially when you try to use that as license to act like an asshole.

10. Do keep trying. Fighting bigotry is a war, not a battle and it's generational. So, keep your goals realistic, your spirits up (taking a break to recoup emotional, financial, physical reserves is a-okay), and your heart in the right place. Eventually we'll get it right.

April 2015

12131415 161718


RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags