Blackface

This is a conversation I have frequently at school:

 

“Did you hit him/ her?”

 

“Yes, but not very hard! It wouldn’t hurt.”

 

This is when I stop them, look them square in the eye, and say no.

 

No, you don’t get to decide that.  You don’t live in their body; you don’t know what it feels like to be them. You chose to hit. You don’t get to also choose if your action hurt the victim or not. They decide. 

 

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I’m a woman. I was born a woman, and I’ll be a woman for the rest of my life. I don’t have a particularly high level of testosterone or well developed muscles (you know how weak my little arms are?). I also don’t have a penis or testes.

 

I’ve seen men wacked in the balls. Hit in the nuts. Socked in the scrote. Mostly when it happens, they double over, moan, and start breathing pretty heavily. I’m guessing it’s an extremely painful thing to experience, but I don’t know for sure. I mean, they could all just be making it up: faking the pain to get some attention. They’re probably over-reacting.

I suppose I could put out a questionnaire on Facebook, or write a question on yahoo.com. “Is it actually, honestly painful to be hit in the testes?”  And I could take a variety of women’s opinions on the matter, and consider what they feel about the experience. Their opinions are just as valid as men’s, right?

 

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I live in the city, while my brother lives in the bush. He and his wife own and manage an enormous sheep and cattle station, right up in the north-western corner of NSW. He oversees a variety of contract workers, deals with buyers and agents, flies his own gyrocopter, and tries to cope with the ever-changing conditions of water and droughts (among hundreds of other jobs).

 

Some people from the city would call him a jackaroo.

 

To my brother, and many people from the bush, this is a pretty offensive term. It implies someone who assists on a station without having much skill.  He is not a jackaroo. He is a station manager.

 

If you lived in the city, you could call him a jackaroo and no one would really say anything. You could keep using this term among your friends and colleagues, and no one would correct you.

 

And if someone did correct you, you could just shrug your shoulders and say ‘So what?’ And you could just keep saying it, because in your mind you don’t think it’s offensive at all. Or I guess you could get pretty angry about it, and say that the bleeding heart PC bullshit brigade are turning us into censored doormats who don’t get to have any fun.

 

Or - possibly - you could listen to those who find it offensive and decide not to say it anymore so you don’t hurt any more people? You know, even though you don’t really, fully understand why it’s offensive and you don’t mean to offend, you could stop saying it because you respect other people?

 

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2009 - Hey, Hey, It’s Saturday.  There were loud complaints. Claims that they ‘didn’t know’.  So, in the face of this ignorance, people attempt to educate. Backlash.

 

2011 - QANTAS & The Bledisloe Cup. There were loud complaints. Claims that they ‘didn’t know’.  So, in the face of this ignorance, people attempt to educate. Backlash.

 

2015 - FOX sports & I’m a Celebrity, Get me out of here!  There were loud complaints. Claims that they ‘didn’t know’.  So, in the face of this ignorance, people attempt to educate. Backlash.

 

2016 - Ballarat, ‘Aussie icons’ party. There were loud complaints. Claims that they ‘didn’t know’.  So, in the face of this ignorance, people attempt to educate. Backlash.

 

2016 - Australian Opals. There were loud complaints. Claims that they ‘didn’t know’.  So, in the face of this ignorance, people attempt to educate. Backlash.

 

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I am a white Australian woman, and the closest I ever got to experiencing racism was when I was in India and China, and lots of people wanted to have their photo taken with me because I was white. Mostly, I just felt like a celebrity, and then it felt a bit weird, and after a while I felt a little annoyed. That’s it. Mildly annoyed. I have no idea what it’s like to have that happen in your own country. Not the taking your photo part, but having your skin colour be your main identifier.

 

I have no idea what it feels like to have a potential employer hesitate/ refuse to give me a job because of my skin colour. I have no idea what it feels like to be chosen for something and for others to assume it was a token/ PC choice because of my skin colour. I’ve never been asked where I’m really from because of my skin colour. I’ve never been afraid of other people and how they may react to my skin colour. 

 

Because when people look at me, they don’t really see ‘white’, they just see human.

 

 

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Gross over-reaction… becoming too precious… PC is destroying fun… the MOST ridiculous carry on that I’ve ever heard… So when I put on my mudpack I am being raceist (sic)? … a bit over the top… from what I see it was a fancy dress … How about green? Anyone upset about green? … If we stop making fun of others then there IS no humour … Get over it people … there is no hope of ever regaining our Australian way of life… some low esteem and insecure person …gotten beyond a joke … What are you talking about? What do you mean by “blackface”?… If this is racist it’s time to give up … Ausdies are a bunch of compliainers and over reacters (sic) … get over it! … tired of people endlessly needing to be offended by something … can’t people have any fun anymore … the next thing we will be charged for becoming brown with sunburn … the world has gone crazy … good way to create a divide that didn’t exist … get over it girlie … people these days are so righteous … so what? Get a life people … please, a bit more discretion and decorum in future… I person should be allowed to paint his/her face any colour he/she likes. It is none of anybody's business (sic) … people need to harden up and get over it … political correctness leading to the absurd … it’s just make believe just like this promoted outrage … some people are so sensitive and pretentious these days…

 

             - Australian commenters on the internet

 

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“When a person tells you that you hurt them, you don’t get to decide that you didn’t.”

 –Louis C.K

Twitter, 24 April 2015

 

 

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Time to stop listening to a white person and all-white panels and white media personalities and white politicians talk about racism. 

 

You should read this guy:

 

“Let's say you decided you wanted to dress as Ketan Joshi, and you don some glasses, a fake beard, a red skivvy and a tan blazer. Cool! That's what I look like. 

 

Except, you're not finished. You coat every visible inch of your visible skin in thick brown paint, and "now I'm done. Now, I look like what Ketan looks like, to me", you say. 

 

This is a signal that the wavelength of light that my outer layer absorbs is a major part of of what I am to you. To the point that you feel I'm unrecognisable without being designated as A Brown Man. You see me as an amorphous, brown figure - a part of me that I had no involvement in creating is, according to you, a major part of me. I can never change that. That is how you see me: a brown man. 

 

This is why it really hurts people who belong to a group that is visibly different, when you collectively rise up and say to them 'a feature of your body is a costume, to me. It's a bit of you that you can never disown, and you have no say in how much of you it comprises. We decide, and you have no power to stop this. Even if you ask us to stop, we won't. If you tell us it hurts, that it cuts you to the core, we won't stop’. “

 

    - Ketan Joshi

Facebook post, 22 February 2016 

 

(from a comment responding to ABC Video’s ‘The Drum’  where a white presenter asked a variety of white guests if blackface was offensive… including Senator Jacqui Lambie)

 

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I’m trying to teach children the value of empathy. I’m trying to teach them that their friend’s experiences are not the same as theirs. I really want them to understand that when someone says…

 

“Please stop”

 

“It hurts”

 

“Please believe me that this is upsetting me”

 

 

… that they will actually listen. 

 

They won’t try to argue or justify their right to hurt another person or make fun of them for being so weak or sensitive.

 

They’ll just listen.

 

And even if they don’t fully understand WHY it’s upsetting to that person, they will recognise that stopping is more important than just having a bit of fun.