What did you just say?

In the past few days, I’ve been hit with some genuine racism and it’s had me thinking a lot about the way I react to it.

I’ve had everything from a phone call at work, asking if someone is allowed to do some work in their driveway “because it looks like a blackfellas camp”, to “boat people” references and the usual “send em home” stuff.

None of the comments that I heard over the past few days were part of a joke, which is really the only time I’m ever exposed to racism, and a lot of the time, it’s just a humorous observation about the differences in cultures and not a nasty attack.

My personal philosophy on race and culture is this:
Each to their own. Respect each other and each others’ differences, and find joy in our similarities. We’re all human and we’re all struggling to eke out the best life we possibly can in our circumstances, so cut each other some slack, recognise that we may not ever fully understand each other… but we don’t have to, either!

People who migrate to this country should not have to turn their back on their culture or their religion simply because Aussies get freaked out by a burka or a chador.

People who migrate to this country should not have to spend months and years in a detention centre with no idea as to the progress of their application for refugee status, and while I agree that we can’t just open up our borders and let any old person in here without real threats to our way of life and our future, I do certainly think that with a lot of careful and HUMAN RIGHTS-CENTRED planning, then we could help to end the misery in a lot of peoples’ lives. To give them the tools to heal their lives and etch out a safer existence for themselves and their loved ones.

People who are only in this position because they weren’t lucky enough to be born in this blessed country.

We call the British “Whinging Poms”, but as far as I’m concerned, Australia is nothing more than a pack of spoilt, whinging children whose parents denied them a block of chocolate before indulging them in their Maccas dinner. 

These Australians, this “talkback radio nation” of whingers who have a conniption about the over-regulated Nanny State that we live in, but feel that the citizens of war-torn countries should only be accepted as refugees if they’ve done it through the right channels.

We can help them as long as they come here legally. Because, you know, in the middle of genocide as you’re running for your life and losing family members left, right and centre, you totally have time to apply for refugee status. I remember the last time I had to do it. And then they didn’t get page 17 of the fax so i had to send it again… and that’s when the bullet came through the wall and killed my 2 year old. But at least I got that fax off, right?

So what about all the english-speaking backpackers who overstay their visas? No? They’re ok? It’s just them damn boat people?

What I’ve discovered, is that when someone says something racist, I often feel that it’s rude of me to correct them. After all, this is just my opinion, right?

Wrong. They’ve shared their opinion with absolutely no regard for any offence that they might cause to their audience. Why am I concerned of the offence I might cause to them by offering a different opinion?

If I could do it all over again, I would have told Friday’s caller that her comment regarding a “blackfellas camp” was entirely unnecessary and disgustingly offensive. I would still have found the answer for her, but I would have called her on her behaviour, too.

What I can thankfully say about these recent experiences, is that they’ve all come from people who are at least 50 or older.

We always hear about how we should be respecting the knowledge and lessons our elders try to teach us. I think it’s about time our elders realised that there are things they need to learn from younger generations, too.


7 thoughts on “What did you just say?

  1. “People who migrate to this country should not have to turn their back on their culture or their religion simply because Aussies get freaked out by a burka or a chador.”

    And to be honest, the white Austrailians should know this since they aren’t even the native people of Australia! When they appeared there were already people indigenous to the land, but they slaughtered them. :-/

  2. I AM SO DAMN PROUD OF YOU!! And you’re right. It is your generation that will have the opportunity to see things through to the end. Ours , at least the hippies , had civil rights and MLK. But it isn’t even close to being civil or being right. But your generation is the one that will carry it across the finish line. I am just glad that we passed the baton your hand was reaching out to take it.

    • As I type this, Jimi’s version of All Along the Watchtower came on Pandora.
      Thought it an appropriate soundtrack to a comment to a hippie.

      I mostly want people to think for themselves. I don’t care whether the end result is them agreeing or disagreeing with me, as long as they think and question and research, instead of just regurgitating the news, talkback radio or facebook memes.

  3. I think this is my new favorite blog. 🙂

    This was interesting to me because illegal immigration isn’t that big of a deal here, but racism exists in a big way. I think I deal with less genuine racism, and more people misinterpreting innocent comments as racism. Reverse racism? Idk what to call it.

    • I think we’re all so sensitive to racism that everything can and is being interpreted as racist. People are afraid of saying the wrong thing, or even of seeming to condone it by NOT speaking up when someone says something off-the-cuff that could be viewed as racist.

      At other times, it’s age-old sayings that people aren’t even hearing anymore, they’ve said them and heard them so often that it’s just nonsensical reactionary statements to situations.

      Most times, people don’t mean to be offensive in what they say, but, while it’s the British in our Aussie ancestry that requires us to avoid embarrassing someone by correcting them, I think we have a responsibility to not necessarily correct them, but to make them aware of the words they are speaking. To actually listen to the message, and then determine how they felt about their words afterwards.

      The key is to break through peoples’ walls enough to spark them into thinking, not regurgitating. What they choose to do with that spark is in their hands.

      Thanks for reading, and for your words 🙂

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