Posted by: hellonhairylegs | October 13, 2008

Racism as a Badge of Social Honour

I’m planning to submit this to the school newspaper (after some extensive editing) and I was wondering what y’all thought about it. My google-fu has failed me and I was wondering if any of you could point me towards people who have said this better (I know Angry Black Woman has a great post up about political correctness). My main concern is whether I should go into depth about the history of racism in Australia or whether I should just leave it short and sweet.

I’ve noticed a disturbing trend at this school in which racism is seen as something cool, new and edgy. This makes absolutely no sense when you consider that our entire culture is steeped in racism, even if we don’t have an official White Australia Policy. Our television shows feature all-white casts, Muslims are vilified in the media and beige crayons are advertised as skin-colour. Racism isn’t new, it is as old and mainstream as you’re likely to get.

Some of you will be nodding your heads at this, having grasped the concept that racism is bad. But racism is everywhere and you just might be a racist. A racist isn’t an endangered monster, easily identifiable by tusks. Racists are human beings, people you might even like, people that are funny and smart. If you stereotype based on race, you’re racist. If you make a racist joke, you’re racist. If you laugh at that racist joke, you’re racist.

The “just a joke” defense gets a little old. You may think you have a right to laugh at the expense of others. So what? The fact that you find racism funny says far more about you than it does about the people who don’t like hundreds of years of brutal oppression being minimised. Your jokes create a hostile environment for people of colour. When it comes to jokes involving race, err on the side of caution. Losing a few laughs is an easy price to pay for not being an asshole.

Yes, this school is tolerant and more diverse in comparison to some of the surrounding schools. It is better than those schools in the same way that a broken arm is better than a broken leg.

Don’t accept racism. Speak up about it.

I wrote the article mainly because I needed to do something. If I do something, I want it to be effective, helpful and not inadvertently clueless. So, what do y’all think?

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Responses

  1. It’s currently very short&sweet, to the point and not too complex, which might lose people who don’t inherently agree with your points – all good things!

  2. This is really well written! I hope that you can change people’s attitudes (or barring that, at least you’ll make them think a little).

  3. I like it. I think you should keep it short and sweet- the length is good. All your facts are verifiable and your ideas are easily grasped, hopefully even by the less-thoughtful.
    Activism is cool. =)

  4. Love it!

    This is my favorite: Losing a few laughs is an easy price to pay for not being an asshole.

  5. I think you should go more into depth. Brief is by it’s nature a bit general, and general means people can write themselves out of the picture because they’re “not like that.”

  6. I think it’s great.
    Simple, to the point and use of examples.

    Sadly, I think that it the assholes that will be the ones speaking up, not the ones who support the end to racism.

    Fear breeds conformity.

    I’d very very interested to hear the responses you get. Maybe you could do a followup later and publish the reaction?

  7. Thanks QoT, jayne, SL and plainjane.

    Whatsername, I see what you mean. Given the other feedback and responses I think I’ll only add to the length a little bit (and I will try to add more examples).

    Emilie, I fear you’re right about the assholes speaking up. It’s a good idea to plan ahead, record the responses, analyse them and publish them in the next edition.

  8. I agree about some specific examples being given so people can’t pretend they’re ‘not racist, really’, but overall it’s an article that really makes you think. It gets the point across. I love the bit about your school being better than a broken leg, it’s so scathing.

    Let us know how it goes, assholes and all. I’ve just written an article for the college paper about using gay as a synonymn for crap; maybe we should compare responses?

  9. While I can see the merits of one or two more examples, I very much agree that “short and sweet” is the best way to get your point across here.

  10. Maybe don’t use the specific phrase ‘people of colour.’ I’ve only started using the term since I’ve started interacting with people on race issues from other countries, and I find it’s not a term that’s understood in an Australian context.

    Otherwise, I really like the short, sharpness of it.

  11. Hi, Hellon!

    I agree with your other commenters, that it’s often too easy for people to take themselves out of the discussion by only recognizing the most extreme forms of racism as racism. Because of that, it would probably help to give a few examples of racism at your school in the first paragraph.

    At the same time, shorter is better for your chances of getting published.

    I also don’t think this problem is unique to Australia. We’ve got a lot of incidents in the US of white kids using racism and classism to be “cool” — I’m thinking specifically of “ghetto”-themed frat parties.

    Also, I gave you a blog award.

  12. I think it’s excellent, short and sweet, for a high school newspaper it makes the point perfectly.

    It would help maybe to add a point about where someone who’s skeptical of your definitions of “racist” could read more about it for themselves – like a link to a blog like Angry Black Bitch’s,. etc.

    On that note, I don’t know if they’ll let you link to a blog called Angry Black Bitch, or of course use words like “asshole”, etc., so some careful editing is needed (unfortunately). But I think if you just work around that you’re good to go.

    Keep it up! Your commitment to action at such a young age is really inspiring.

  13. I like it too and I think you’re really brave. Maybe start with something like “so you think you’re not racist?” just to catch all those who are going to automatically assume that you don’t mean them.
    I think using POC is ok. There are a lot of terms that weren’t in use here until people actually started using them and forcing others to recognise them.
    People never used to have a disability for example, they were crippled or invalids.
    Make people reach.
    Btw are you going to Reclaim the Night?

  14. I didn’t know about Reclaim the Night, but I think it will be a good side trip. I’ll look at my schedule.

  15. Great. I know it’s right in the middle of your exams.
    Town Hall friday october 31 6 pm. Pass it on.

  16. I think it is great, and I agree with plainjane–that is a fabulous line!


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