The standard you walk past is the standard you accept.

A few recommended articles to help white people think about race. It’s not about you, but you do have the power to make a difference.

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.

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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.

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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.

My stance:

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.”

EVER.

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.

For the teachers

This is a shout out to my teacher peeps.

This week, my kid expressed his unhappiness at school in a way that could not be ignored, and it couldn’t be misinterpreted.

And the response from the school has been heartening. Teachers who have worked with my boy have been shocked, and distressed, and they have made the time to set things in motion for change.

There have been teachers in his past that have ignored, minimised and disregarded his challenges, and his feelings about school, and my advocacy for my boy. But the last two days I have seen three teachers go above and beyond to make sure that this situation gets turned around.

And one special teacher, who happens to be a friend to both Squid and I, who took time out of her busy life to make sure we are supported and informed, and nurtured – you can’t know what your advocacy has meant.

I am hopeful that things will change really soon. And if it does, it will be down to great teachers, working passionately within a system that constrains and stifles where it should lift up and celebrate these wonderful people.

Thank you for the work you do.

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Gainful Emloyment

The New Zealand government has a philosophy that all kids should be catered to in the school environment.  

“The New Zealand School Trustees Association describes school policy as a framework that integrates culture and practice, values and actions. Inclusive schools ensure that the principles of inclusion are embedded in their policies, plans, and actions. They develop specific policies for the inclusion of students with special education needs…”

Which is great, right?

So Squish’s school has approached me to ask if I might consider helping out as a teachers aide for a few weeks while they get a more permanent person in to work with a new kid.  I’ve started back at uni, so I don’t know if I’ll be able to juggle work and uni and family in the longer term.  

The new kid has a global developmental delay, and he needs an aide with him the whole time while he is at school.  I did my first shift today.  

And it was fine.  He’s a lovely kid, responsive and keen to try new things, and he has loads of energy and enthusiasm.  It was hard work, but I can see that working with him has the potential to be quite rewarding in the long term.

But yesterday, a teacher in the same school told me that there simply wasn’t enough resources to be able to give my kid the differentiation and attention that he needs in order to be integrated into exactly the same school.  That he would need to be home schooled if I wanted his learning to be tailored to his needs.

So much as I hate the whole “my kid is a precious snowflake” syndrome, it is rather a double standard to claim that the school can be all things to all kids – except the ones at the wrong end of the bell curve.

At the Mind Plus information session we went to last week, I asked about emerging research and best practice in the field of teaching gifted kids.  Internationally, more countries are starting to have classes just for gifted kids, and that these classes give kids the best opportunity to develop their strengths and work on their weaknesses.  

NZ policy is to cater to everyone, and giving extra support where it is required within the school setting – just not to kids like Squish, who struggle at the other end of the spectrum.

Sydney Siege

Squish Kitten
Here is a picture of my kitten with a Hello Kitty face. To distract from the awful crap I am about to talk about.

A lovely friend just asked me to sign a petition asking for bail laws to be toughened so people like Man Haron Monis won’t be able to put innocent lives at risk in future.

I chose not to sign, because I believe that we must choose between a justice system that is there purely to punish wrongdoers, and a justice system that rehabilitates. If we believe in a rehabilitation model, then we must allow bail. And that will always carry a risk that someone will reoffend. Or, as in this case, take his vendetta against “the system” out on innocents.

Far better, would be a justice system, and a family court system that treats violence against women as a real crime. If his history of sexual assault had been taken seriously in the first place, is it possible that incarceration could have prevented these other crimes that he has been convicted of, and therefore avoided this siege in the first place (ostensibly in protest at he “wrongful conviction” for said crimes).

How is it that he faced more legal trouble over sending offensive letters than for the sexual assault of multiple women while in the role of a mentor and spiritual advisor?

Frankly, the last two days have really rattled me, but I think we are asking ourselves the wrong questions about why this happened. Let’s throw more money at refugee support services, mental health initiatives, and change the way we think about violence towards women.

And now, I am going to spend some time with a gin bottle, and search the internet for cute bunny pictures.

In which I shamelessly brag about my kid

I get it. Every parent thinks the sun shines out of that poorly wiped bum. And every non parent rolls their eyes at the beginning of every anecdote.

Believe me, I know I am boring. And your problems are bigger than mine. I know. And I care.

But I have no self control.

I wish I had three kids to brag about. I wish I could mix it up a bit. But I can’t. I only have the one kid to dote on, and I am going to keep doting on him.

I do try to tag all of my doting posts under “Spawn” so if you want to opt out it’s easy not to read those posts and stick to my political rants and cooking. You’ll probably think I am a much nicer and more interesting person, that is fine with me.

And in person, I’ll try to keep my adoration of the firstborn down to a dull roar. But here, on my blog, there will probably be a lot of Squishyness.

So. Best Start.

Inigo spent an hour with Mrs D. I waited outside the classroom. Usually the parent goes in for a while until the kid feels comfortable, but Inigo and Mrs D go way back, they met in school transition, and it was pretty much love at first sight for him. He wandered off without a backward glance, and I was happy that Mrs D was the teacher with him, I trust her too.

I spent an hour with Wolf Hall, and then he popped out, Mrs D said, “He did really well. Really well”.

He had a little snack while I talked to another mama outside the class, and on the way home I asked him what had happened in the class. As usual he got cross. He finds it hard to tell stories about his day because he can’t remember every detail, and gets frustrated when I ask.

So I let it lie.

Then he piped up with, “Mrs D asked me what would happen if we took the M away from the word MEAT. I said ‘eat”, and she did a little dance”. “She said it was her happy dance and that she had never had a kindy kid get that before”.

And I was happy.

Not because my kid is extraordinary (I am sure there are loads of other clever kids about to start school this year!), but because my kid has a teacher that takes real joy in teaching, in learning, in achievement. This anecdote illustrates that she cares about her job, and that she cares about the outcomes, and that she cares about my child.

Starting school is a big step for me. But I know he will be ok.

Thank you Mrs D, and also to all of the other teachers who care enough to do such a tough job. Public schools rock!