There’s so much conversation about racism right now. The rebranding of white supremacists as alt right and using Nazi salutes, to Noel Pearson’s accusation against the ABC. Peter Dutton’s comments about the Australian Lebanese community, arguments over the Racial Discrimination Act, Birth Of Nation, Oscars So White, Brexit, Le Pen, TrumpCups, Eagles Of Death Metal, BoycottHamilton, Bendigo Mosque, Doctor Strange, Reclaim Australia, One Nation… we didn’t start the fire.
Often it is easy for people to diminish, deflect or deny allegations because racism is so broad. It’s easy to show you’re not a racist by pointing out many types of racism where you don’t fit. For most people, racism looks one way, and it’s this particular type of explicit, implicit psycho. But for me, there are four distinctive, classifiable types.
Let’s look at the four types of racism, shall we? Hooray! Photoshop!
Let’s look at some quick examples of each, before discussing them.
Group A – Careless, Personal
This is the good old “you have very good English!” – or
“I have lots of black friends” – or
“I am 1/8th Chinese, so I am a victim too” [a real thing a US film critic said to me]
There’s plenty more examples. People not trying to be harmful or hateful, and it’s in a completely personal level. It’s less about what is said but how it’s used. We will get back to it, this is the group I will talk about the most.
Group B – Deliberate, Personal
This is the guy who told me, at Marrickville Station a couple of weeks ago, to fuck off back to my own country (he was a junkie and didn’t look like Peter Dutton but I can’t be sure).
It’s is this guy – PJKilby (who claims he was hacked)
Now you can watch the live dismantlement of a refugee camp to a stream of Nazi commentary from the comfort of your own phone #Calais pic.twitter.com/Jj75xYE7LP
— Andrew Connelly (@connellyandrew) October 24, 2016
Or this guy, who also claims he was hacked.
A #CentralCoast chiropractor has pleaded guilty to posting racist comments on FB pg of Sen Nova Peris @abcnews pic.twitter.com/HqD9sAlu51
— Mary-Louise Vince (@marylouvince) June 21, 2016
Sometimes it is said in hateful jest. Sometimes it is said in just hateful hate. It’s both the words and the actions.
And again, this woman in Chicago.
Trump Effect: Unhinged customer shouts 'I voted for Trump' & verbally assaults black employees https://t.co/YNO2yVEysV
— Jeff (@xoxide101) November 29, 2016
Group C – Careless, Institutional
There are many institutions that through carelessness have drifted into racism. #OscarsSoWhite, and their ridiculous policy for new members, meant they will always reflect the views of a small group.
A lot of work places I know, in particular progressive media companies, talk diversity. This is to address some of the institutionalised racism that has come out of carelessness more than anything else.
Silicon Valley has many problems. #BlackLivesMatter is a more extreme example. The argument over Australia Day, the Washington Redskins, etc.
Group D – Deliberate, Institutional
This is the stories I’ve heard (dated, but from recent history) that a prominent major network in Australia had an edict to put no black or Asian people in their creative and crowd shots (the Channel rhymes with ‘Channel Nine’).
Obviously, there are bigger examples, some of the biggest nightmarish marks on the history of humanity. Genocide, Apartheid. The White Australia Policy. Brexit (mostly).
This is when a minority group is kept down with a crushing power of an immense institution. The people who fought against this, in any form, was fighting such big odds. They are heroes.
These four groups aren’t binary (or whatever the four version of binary is). Even amongst each group there is scale. Large complex issues like Brexit can run the gamut. Yet, they are all connected, and feed into eachother.
So I’m going to run through each one again, with some commentary.
Group A – Careless, Personal
This is the group most easily associated with harmless. But this is in many ways the most common form. And it leads and feeds into the other groups.
Take the example of Australian Rapper Pez. He wrote a thing on Facebook where he wanted to say something positive, and inclusive. And that he got teased at school as well, and knows how it feels, that we are connected by our differences. Everyone, let’s calm down.
I want to be nice to Pez, because he’s not trying to be hateful. I’m sure he’s a cultured, smart, inclusive person. But that’s a shitty comment.
Racism isn’t about being made fun of for your characteristics or background. It’s about being discriminated for your characteristics or background.
Pez appears to be around average height. Maybe at some point, someone called him average-o. Sick burn. But as far as I’m aware, people of average height aren’t getting paid less than people of below average height for doing the same job. There’s no one burning down an Average Height Place Of Worship.
(If you’re the very, very special kind of person who in your mind goes to the place where you go – well, that’s not true in basketball, where height is used as discrimination, then you’re very tops and this article isn’t for you).
People make fun of each other. People have to talk to each other. You might accidentally offend someone. It’s all good. But stereotypes starts here. Belittling starts here. The cloud of inferiority that descends over a child’s eyes as they realise they are different and won’t fit in, starts here. Being called whitey a few times doesn’t reflect the other groups of racism. And because you’ve felt Group A, doesn’t mean you know how it feels – or feel any of the down-the-line discrimination.
Sometimes I talk to friends who claim Europe is way more racist than Australia. I have to point out it’s because you suddenly aren’t the majority, and you are actually now just treated like everyone else (by the French).
It’s a shitty thing. I tend to forgive the person who compliments me on my English pretty quickly (and granted, I am brilliant with language). But I’d rather they didn’t, because it empowers the other groups here. And with social media, these comments travel wider and faster.
Another, more damaging example, is when real life Scream painting Peter Dutton spouts his divisive opinions in the media.
I grew up in Australia at a time when my people and my upbringing was a target. And the news regularly reported on rhetoric of politicians mulling revoking citizenship of former refugees, or other crazy shit.
I’m older and I understand it was a political football, and pandering to the stupid. But when I was younger, it made me feel like that passport and citizenship I have is temporary, and I will always be a second class citizen in this country.
Dutton, who looks like someone left the Grim Reaper out in the sun, is not really thinking of hurting someone. He’s being careless, to appeal to worst in our society.
Group B – Deliberate, Personal
This could almost be split into two groups. Jokes and insults.
Hey, can’t you take a joke? (Note that most people who have to descend to this level of discourse usually cannot take a joke. I mean, does Dutton’s face suggest he has ever laughed?)
Jokers might think it’s harmless, but it’s definitely a deliberate act of slander. I do go back to the above group and say the key is discrimination. Jokes about Swedish people loving flat packed furniture, as far as I know, hasn’t led to much anti Swedish groups forming in regional Victoria. Bendigo is safe to open an IKEA.
But jokes about Aboriginal people being drunks. Or women being sluts. Or muslims being… well, we should all just stay away from Muslim jokes for a bit.
There is, of course, a more explicit, deliberate, hate. We see it all the time, the rise of right wing coupled with camera phones. Footage of people attacking people in public places seems to be product of this era. It will be our hula hoop.
Of course, this should never happen. It’s interesting, post Trump, how much analysis has gone into Trump voters. And how economically depressed they are, and how they’ve lost that factory job, and how they are just good people. It’s a bullshit excuse for shit behaviour.
Let’s not forget undecided voter poster child Ken Bone, who it turns out made some pretty racist comments on social media. He’s not necessarily a skinhead terrorising the corner shop owned by an Asian couple in a 90s film cliché. He seemed harmless. But he’s a racist little weasel.
Group C – Careless, Institutional
This group seems to be where all the progress is focussed. It’s easy to understand – it’s an easy win, and easy to feel good about yourself #youdidit.
Groups A and B nudge, or push, the divisions in our society. And representation takes time to catch up. But with some work, and a clear focus, we can make our institutions and our media reflect our society. #weneedtocometogether
This is shakey ground. When I think of the face of Australia, I’m sure it’s not the same as Reclaim Australia’s, or maybe even anyone else’s. So who decides? And inclusion isn’t necessary enough on its own.
Noel Pearson laid a claim against the ABC for its portrayal of Aboriginal culture and people as ‘racist’. In particular, that they are usually represented as down trodden, lesser members of society.
I don’t agree with Noel, but I’m of course nowhere near taking the brunt of what that representation means when it takes form in an audience. But I do take the point that if we never saw an Aboriginal person with a drinking problem on TV again, it might lead to some positive gains (but is that the role of arts? Is the answer at the end of this slippery slope?).
Doctor Strange is a racist old 60s comics, from Marvel, home to a lot of racist stereotyping. The portrayal of ‘the east’ in that film isn’t great, but there was controversy about casting Tilda Swindon in the role usually played by an old Asian guy. Would casting an old Asian guy be worse, as it plays on a bad stereotype?
It’s about the audience in the end. It’s about seeing people of all colours and kinds in all positions. Not only does diversity make logical sense (smart, talented people can come from anywhere), it fights off Groups A and B. It’s worth noting here that for a while, people would ask me if I was the Asian guy in the Harold and Kumar films. So even not playing a stereotype isn’t always helpful. Volume might be the answer. If there were actually dozens of Asian Australians on TV, men and women, some comic, some drama…then we would stop a lot of Group A at least (or not).
There is a lot of movement here, because this group is easy. But there’s a lot of work. People get defensive about institutions they work for, and people take offence that somehow they aren’t doing their job. I remember one work place, when faced with diversity, looking at their own team and pointing out how diverse they were, within Europe, if you go back a couple of generations. They missed the point.
The Australia Day issue is a touchy one for some people. People feel like they are being personally accused of racism. The same happens with the Washington Redskins problem. The institutions haven’t kept up. We need to change.
Group D – Deliberate, Institutional
That just about every podcast I know did a Donald Trump special (as did I), that everyone is so worried and anxious, comes from the fact Group 4 has reared its head, like the big boss at the end of a video game round.
There is so much hate and tension, fuelled by Groups A, B and C (failure in C to turn the tide), that it leads to D. And boy do we have several D’s in power right now.
Once they happen, Group D are almost impossible to fight. How do you fight a problem like Nauru? All the protests, all the condemnations, all we know about the abuse that takes place there.
The rise of the white supremacist movement that is alt right is Group D. They’ve taken their ignorance (Group A), and has turned into into hot hate, blaming everyone else for the problems and impotence (Group B). They’ve felt emboldened by the world at large (Group C) so they’ve started their own organised movement of hate (Group D).
I know I feel powerless to stop it. Sure, I can write. Sure, I can call my local whateveritis. Sure, I can start a petition. All that means nothing.
But I can vote. And I can kick Peter Dutton in the balls if he has any (actually they are probably quite large, considering the backwards racist crap he spouts).
Group A – one more time
Are Trump voters racist?
They might not (all) be actual Klan members themselves, but they at the very least fall into Group A. Their action is carelessly harmful, and empowers the other shittier groups.
Anyone who thinks PC has gone too far fall into this group. People think being against PC isn’t racist because they think racism is Reclaim Australia – Group B – and nothing else. You might think it’s harmless, but it’s a stupid thing to do in and of itself, and it leads to further discrimination.
I guess….one can do something stupid, and not necessarily be characterised as a stupid person. So I guess one can probably make a racist act without necessarily being characterised as a racist person. I guess.
The problem with these groups is, of course, they are all different. But they have the same reductive name, meaning they get confused and conflated. Allow me to suggest how we should describe these groups going forward (or don’t, up to you).
Group A – racism
Group B – racism
Group C – racism
Group D – racism
See what I did there.
As we try to put the condom back on the exploding madness that is the current political climate, its clear that once again the best option was avoidance altogether.
So try not to be racist, OK?