Friday, 5 December 2008

Black, white, blah blah blah

Andrew Bolt brings to our attention another gab-fest at Monash regarding awful, mean, nasty whitey.

I always find it hilarious when looking at photos like those Bolt has dug up - a bunch of pasty-faced academics trying very hard to act like blackfellas. It makes about as much sense as me putting on a kilt, splashing a bit of blue paint around the nether regions and invading Ireland. (What? Did I just blow a brain circuit? No. Apparently most of the army that conquered what we now know as Northern Island were Scottish, rather than nasty Englishmen. Although my background is part-Irish about 5 generations ago; way, way, way back, those Irishmen were Scottish. Bloody confusing mess is what I call it).

My sister works in the Aboriginal industry, and she is darker than all four of these pseuds. (Bet you never expected my family to throw up a bleeding heart, GetUp!, "Sorry" promoting sibling). I reckon she spends 50 times the number of days in Aboriginal communities than this lot do - altogether.

As much as I like to tease her about her job, I also think she does about 1,000 times more for the communities that she deals with than a Jumbo full of academics trying to justify their existence.

Anyway, what does it mean to be white? What does it mean to be black? Does it matter? Do we really give a flying fuck these days? And forget Obama and all that post-racial crap - I'm talking about Australia.

I was pondering this question as I strolled through the aisles of our local supermarket last night. It's a fairly big supermarket, requiring at least 20 staff to be working at any one time. Most of their clientelle are what you'd call "white" - although this is wogville, and the Greeks and Italians can get pretty dark during summer, they're Europeans. This is a very "white" suburb. We even have white trash at the bottom of the hill.

Except that is for all the Indians working at the supermarket. At any one time, 50% or more of the staff will be Indian. And you know what? I don't think anyone notices. Some are not long off the boat, but others were clearly born here, and are as ocker as you and me. They're just a bit darker, that's all. Some of them have a bit of an accent, but hell, when you walk down the main drag here, you hear more Italian and Greek spoken than English, so speaking with a funny accent is not something out of the ordinary.

Now that I have said that, I have a question for you.

In Australia, are we allowed to have more than one group of black people? Or is that a colour monopolised only by Aboriginals? Some of the people that I rub shoulders with around here are very, very dark. If we are going to throw labels around, are we allowed to call those people "black"? Or, in the eyes of the Aboriginal industry, are those people in fact "white", because they are non-Aboriginal? Or are they some form of off-white, because whilst they can't be black, they are not part of the English-oppressor-conquerer group, so they can't be white. Then again, they could be black, because they were also oppressed by the evil English.....and so it goes.

It's pretty screwball, isn't it?

Frankly, I can't stand labelling people that way. This whole bloody white/black crap just has to go. If you like to think that way, do us a favour and join the human race.

It takes a really "special" kind of person to label people according to their skin colour. And by "special", I am not being complimentary.

When I think of the people that I choose to associate with, I look for the following qualities:

  • honesty, reliability, trustworthiness, "solidity"
  • hardworking, restless, driven, self motivated
  • interesting, engaging, fun to argue with
  • people that brighten up my day with good stories, new and interesting information and "stuff that fascinates"
  • character
These are all qualities of personality and experience. I like people who have travelled to interesting places, and have bizarre stories to tell of their experiences. I like people who read all sorts of stuff, and regurgitate the whackiest titbits and the oddest times. I like people who have done strange jobs in strange places with strange people, and who tell you things that massively expand your world view. I like people who you can go out for dinner with, and you don't want the meal to end, because they are such a hoot to be with.

Notice I have said nothing about hanging around with say Serbians or Spaniards or Morrocans or Chinese. Or hanging around with Catholics or Jews or Buddhists. Or hanging around with Republicans or Laborites or Greens. Or straights or gays or lesbians. Your race, your religion, your politics, your sex, your sexual orientation, your skin colour - all these things are secondary or irrelevant unless you want them to be. If you want to make a big deal about being a Catholic Serbian lesbian republican, then I think that I want nothing to do with you - because your identity is more important to you than your qualities. When you put identity first, everything gets filtered through that identity, and all the good stuff can be left behind.

And worst of all, an identity may be adopted to cover for a very thin "CV". That is, if your qualities are crap or non-existant, then you might adopt a strident identity to mask those shortcomings of personality and experience. Which, by the way, is a very teenage thing to do - being an Emo for instance is a great way to avoid the hard questions of who are you and what have you done?

So when I see this:

Aileen Moreton-Robinson is a Geonpul woman from Minjerribah (Stradbroke Island), Quandamooka First Nation (Moreton Bay) in Queensland, Australia

all I think is, "you poor, poor person. What a hollow husk you must be."

It's sad when people have so little pride in the many, many things that they have done in their life that they have to hide behind an identity. (That is of course assuming that they have done anything. Some people do sweet fuck-all, so they have no choice in this matter).

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