Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Different Shades of Racism

OK, now my last post on Sol Trujillo went on for a bit so now I just want to move on and not move on at the same time.

Mainly (sorry amigo - hehehe) I'm not exactly that interested in Mr Trujillo right at the moment. I don't think I ever was or ever will be. I don't even have a Sol Trujillo label.

However, the real reason I brought up Sol's comment was to discuss racism, not to discuss whether Sol was being a whiney ass or not.

One interesting thing did come up when my Dad mentioned it over the table, and that was that there was no racism, yes he got called names but you just had to laugh at it.

Now, I have to say that my Dad does have certain beliefs about racial differences - that is, he comes right out and says things like he doesn't think Aborigines aren't as good as other people. But then he believes it's based in fact, so that isn't racist.

What I want to throw out here is - what really counts as racist? Is racism distinguishing between race? Is it believing in racial superiority/inferiority? Is it making assumptions based on race? Are there some assumptions that are acceptable to make based on race? Is it ok to be racist if it's a joke - and does it count as a joke if the other person doesn't get it?

For instance, if a person is Chinese, certain people might say it is more acceptable to assume that they will have dark coloured hair and skin. And that's not racist. But is it racist to also assume that they don't speak English and that they eat only with chopsticks?

I was at a TAFE class once and we went to a photo gallery. I liked a photo that was predominantly red in colour so I stopped to look at it, and my teacher came up to me and said "Do you like that photo because you're Chinese?" I said, "No, I like it because I like it. It's got a very vibrant, striking colour." She started going on about how she was sure it was because I was Chinese, and red was a very Chinese colour, and it was the colour of the Chinese flag and it was very symbolic. (I would like to point out that red is only one of the colours on the Chinese flag and red is also the colour most common on all of the flags of all the countries in the world. It's not very particular to the Chinese.)

I'm not sure if someone else would consider this singling out 'racism'. I didn't think it was a major attack, but I did feel she had made me feel awkward, and yes, she'd made a racist assumption and treated me according to my racial group rather than either treating me like everyone else or listening to me individually.

Are racist remarks and opinions based on so-called 'facts' still racist - and then who decides what 'facts' are valid? That is, many tests, surveys, and stats have been done testing racial groups and they have come up with certain results. Physical, social, intelligence, health etc related stats could lead someone to use a taunt and then claim that they backed it up with a stat.

"This guy's a black - more likely to have AIDS and do drugs," or something similar.

I remember a poster that was considered racist that was put up on campus that said "Don't have sex with blacks - Avoid AIDS". It was also backed up with stats that said more black men had AIDS than white men.

Do racial jokes count, and what's funny? And what's not? I don't want to live in a country where you can't tell a joke, but on the other hand, basically other people determine the funniness of any joke.

In my opinion, when you tell a joke you take a risk, but people take the risk because it's well worth the laugh! And you build up enough of a connection with the people you tell jokes to that it is not a big enough deal that you will end up being killed because you told a crummy one. Most likely if it's terrible you will just get some glares or blank looks.

Anyhow, I don't believe I've even touched the tip of the iceberg as to how racial tension, harassment, bullying and discrimination can be expressed, but I'm sure it can express itself in many ways. By omission as well as action. By making assumptions, by delegating work and roles of certain types to certain people.

The trouble is it's almost impossible to be colour blind, and in many ways we wouldn't want people to be because many of us are very proud of the racial backgrounds we embrace; what we don't want is for people to make us suffer because of them, and often it is difficult to know when what we may think is a friendly gesture could be interpreted as a racist or demeaning one that is singling them out, not as one celebrating race, or being curious about individuality or making a friendly joke. It isn't always easy to figure out how the other person takes it, and saying "they shouldn't be so sensitive" or "They should have a better sense of humour" or whatever ... well it doesn't really change the fact that they could be hurt or bemused at the time now, does it?


Friendless said...

And if I think Asian girls are hot, is that racist? I agree with you - I don't know.

Maria said...

Well ... yeah. I think a lot of the time it's a rule that it's going to be called racist if someone doesn't like it ...

If you stifle racial differences people will get mad, that is, people want to be able to celebrate the bits of their race and racial culture that are different. On the other hand they don't want to suffer because of their race - but then, when are they sufffering, it's a hard call to make.

Sometimes you think you are being helpful or complimentary or friendly and someone thinks you are a racist presuming twat who knows nothing about the real culture.

Some Asian girls might think it's cool that they get all the attention, some other girl might find it creepy and annoying.

It probably has a lot to do with if you are a hot guy.

I did a course recently at the Attorney General's Department about things like discrimnation but also "acceptable discrimination" like how it's not ok to give prefer someone for a job just because they are of a certain gender, generally, but there are certain cases when this is deemed acceptable, for instance a woman salesperson needed to sell (and presumably fit) clothes for women in a women's clothing store.

There are also some places like Aboriginal work centres where they say that one of the requirements of the job is to be Aboriginal.

And apparently that's ok.

Maria said...

Oh, the funny thing about discrimination and assumptions was how we were taught not to make them at my AGD course.

So it's actually 'unethical' if a client comes up to you at a desk or on the phone, and say a woman is dealing with the person and they say no, they wish to deal with a man, where's the man, and you go off and get a man for them.

That's wrong. It's unethical, first you have to identify why they need a man and if they have a valid reason then youb may get someone else. Say there are religious or cultural or special needs reasons why they need to see someone of a certain ethnic or cultural or gender group.

Anyway we asked if we could ever just make assumptions about why a person might want someone else, and we were told no, we had to enquire.

I don't know if there are some exceptions, I think there should be, for instance at a rape/assault counselling centre I think if someone wants to speak to someone of a particular gender then they may be too spaced out to explain why. Just get them the person. It's a priority, cut through the red tape. People dealing with people who are in emergency and traumatic medical/psychological states, I think they need to be put at ease first, then you can start asking about rational reasoning!

Also, if someone came up to the desk to me and said "I need to speak to a man about where I've hidden the bomb that's going to blow the building in thirty seconds, I don't speak to women about such topics!" I'm afraid I am not going to stand around bantering about what his/her ethical position is on that one. I'm going to be getting the hell out of there and getting a man to deal with it. A man can also be around to take the bomb for me while I'm safely outside, thank you very much!

Friendless said...

BTW it is no longer legal to have men-only clubs, but it's OK to have women-only gyms. Next time I start a club I'm going to put an exercise bike in it.

Maria said...

I was at a program about being non-discriminative, the girls still raised hell at the idea of unisex bathrooms.

The boys didn't.

David Penberthy Daily Tele) wrote an article today that seems to echo some of my thoughts, and even mentions Sol. Maybe he's been peeking at my blog.

"We're racist but it's not personal",22049,25576564-5001030,00.html

where he talks about how Aussies are racist, but a lot of the time it has to do with joking. On the other hand, it definitley has racist overtones and some of it has to be taken seriously.

Of course, the thing that we have to remember is when is it a joke and when is it not, and of course some things are funny to some people and aren't to others. SOme people go on about how they are joking but they just aren't funny. they're rude and tasteless - oh, sorry, that's my opinion.

And then I thought this was worth bringing up - the Muslim school proposal in Camden has been rejected.,,25579342-13881,00.html

For background, there was a proposal to build a Muslim school in Camden, that is based on the Muslim faith but anyone could attend (i.e. like a Catholic school)

There was a battle by residents against the school, many saying that the school was against the character of the area, some saying that they didn't need a new school or that the school would increase traffic any in the area and detract from the area.

Some people protested coming right out and saying that they didn't want Muslims in the area and others said they didn't believe Muslims should be allowed to build a school of their own at all, and some referred to terrorism in their arguments.

The protestors have won, and the school will not be built.

Defence of the anti-Muslim arguments has said that the council was obliged to take in consideration 'all arguments' but these carried 'zero weight'.

Maria said...

OK - here's something that I find interesting. Recently, those controversial comedians, The Chaser boys, did a skit involving content about dying children and people, many, found it offensive. INcluding Our PM Rudd.

Now I didn't see the skit so I can't say whether I would find it offensive, funny, whatever. The Chaser is sometimes funny, sometimes boring, sometimes something else to me. They're not consistent in my opinion.

(There are many who do support freedom of expression at this level though, I must add.)

What I find interesting here is how many people who probably told Sol Trujillo that he was an ass, for instance Rudd - and that he should get a better sense of humour, it's only a joke, will not be told here that this is just a joke. Not funny now when it affects them, eh?

But I'm sure some of them will be able to have some private justification in their heads "everyone knows dying children are to be treated seriously, c'mon, but for goodness sake how could you take 'adios' seriously, it's just not the same thing ..."

Really I think when it comes to taste, bad taste and good taste are in the eyes of the beholder.