I’m going to keep posting about racism as I come across interesting articles.
If you find it uncomfortable, I encourage you to sit with your discomfort and examine it. Like feminism, ableism, and homophobia, educating yourself about issues that don’t effect you personally is key.
I’m not gay, but it sickens me that my loved ones are treated differently, and that the law supports and entrenches discrimination.
I don’t have a visible disability, but I’m outraged that my friends can’t get in to a concert hall to see her kids perform.
I am a woman, and I grew up thinking that gender equality had been established before my birth, and that it was a fight I’d never have to face.
As a woman, and as a mother of a son, I see it as my responsibility to educate him to advocate for others, and to use his privilege to make the world a better place.
As a “white”* person, I see it as my place to be the first to intervene when I see injustice, and to normalise conversations about issues of race. Just because we don’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not happening.
This week a darling friend disclosed some of the abuse she’s been subjected to online, and it’s kept me awake. Being protected from that knowledge is privilege.
I don’t have all the answers, I’m not better than you, I’m probably missing important stuff. But I’m not going to stop trying.
*my forebears were a mixed lot, and so I’m part Chinese, maybe a little Spanish, possibly indigenous Australian, but mostly Irish, English, and white. I look vaguely Greek or Lebanese, and have experienced abuse because of my perceived ethnicity. But this abuse has been sporadic, usually pretty mild, and easy to shake off. Again, that is privilege.
How I discovered I Was White – think you’re “post racial”? You don’t see colour? An examination of privilege.
To The Non-Racist White People, Please Just Be The First – when you see it, do something. Stand beside them, block the racist, ask for assistance. But do something. Never turn your back on injustice. Be the first.
We Don’t Do That Here – how to deflect a racist and shut down pushback
And a long post from a private group, copied and pasted here with permission.
Author – Ayse Sercan on Facebook
I’m going to include a trigger warning here for fragile white people. You will not like this post and will be tempted to report it to the moderators (go ahead!). It’s going to hurt your feelings. I don’t care. If you can’t read anything that might possibly indicate you don’t come from a flawless heritage of heroes and patriots, you should move along and read something else. Maybe even block me right now and keep your world crystal clear and shiny white like you like it.
Also, I cuss a lot and I’m not editing that out because this pisses me off.
I’m going to give you a second to leave the room.
OK? Everybody else cool for having a real discussion? Let’s go.
Over the weekend we had a shitty little conversation about how white people like to exoticize Turks. It got deleted by a fragile white woman who has since flounced off because she doesn’t like conflict so if you missed it, too bad. But I wanted to have a meta-discussion about the discussion that happens here so often.
I do not consider it reasonable or appropriate behaviour by an adult with even minimal social skills and no social impairments to even consider asking the question, “Is calling X thing an [ethnicity or nationality name here]-X offensive? [Ethnicity or nationality name] isn’t a racial slur.”
That is never, ever a reasonable thing to ask.
Whaaaat? you ask. “But isn’t asking questions what you WANT from us? Doesn’t it mean our hearts are in the right place? That we are trying to LEARN???”
1. I’m not the fucking ambassador from Brownistan. The *majority* of the world’s population is not white and one person does not speak for everybody else. You are going to have to use more critical thinking skills than just asking literally the only person you’ve ever met who has any connection to [ethnicity or nationality].
2. Asking questions in this case is a passive-aggressive move. It forces people of [ethnicity or nationality] to respond to a discussion they may not want to get into AGAIN, it forces people to act as representatives of their entire race or ethnicity (something white people literally never have to do), and it leaves a door open to the idea that exoticizing entire cultures could ever be acceptable just because it’s been done for a long time.
3. Your question comes with the assumption that unless that name is literally a racial slur, it’s totally OK. But a reasonable, polite person who literally actually believes that all humans are created equal and nobody is more equal than others should know that there’s a lot of room between “yeah, that’s what we call it, too” and “that’s a racial slur connected to centuries of enslavement and oppression” and quite a bit of that spectrum is ALSO not OK.
Also, I think literally every thinking adult can figure out the answer to this question with a quick Google search, and I will repeat that search here now for those of you who may not understand how the internet works. Type in: “origin of X thing” and see where X thing comes from, and what culture is associated with it. There’s your answer.
If for example you type in “Turk’s head knot” and find literally not one reference that gives a name for the same knot in Turkish, and no references to it as part of Turkish culture, chances are it is an exoticism, which is when the name of another culture is applied to a thing to make it sound more sexy or risque.
Are exoticism racial slurs? No. But they are patently stupid and offensive on the face of it. We know better now. We now know enough to know that Turks didn’t wear turbans because we can look it up on the internet, and all educated people should be aware of what the Crusades were and why the possibility that the knot is named after DECAPITATED Turks might make the name uncomfortable. And there are plenty of other ways of naming knots or tying patterns, after things that are not people or cultures.
So a reasonable, polite human being should know better than to even ask the question, and should not be surprised when people who have a connection to that culture react strongly. If you call a person a slur you should expect to be insulted in return because you’re being a shithead. If you exoticize somebody’s culture, you should likewise understand that it was *your* behaviour that was out of line and you deserve any grief you get for your actions.
And because for sure some fragile flowers of whitehood have stuck it out because they think they can handle this conversation and now they’re triggered as fuck:
If you hurt somebody, even unintentionally, you have to understand that they may decide to hurt you back intentionally. That’s what we call consequences, and if you’re an adult, you take that as a learning experience and try to do better over time, working slowly on being a better person like we all should be doing. If you choose to react by saying, “Well you are so touchy I can’t even say anything” you are an asshole who has decided that not having to learn anything is more important to you than treating other people as your equals, and fuck you. Once you’ve been told not to do something because it’s stupid or offensive, continuing to do it makes the hurt intentional, and you should expect a strong response to that.