Why Some Of My Best Friends Are Racist

4 thoughts on “Why Some Of My Best Friends Are Racist”

  1. I read your article with interest and while I agree with much of what you said, I believe that the problem is far more complex than you appear to suggest; or maybe I’ve simply misunderstood you. And if that’s the case, I apologise in advance.

    I am a Scot and although I have lived in Australia for almost half a century, I still speak with a noticeable accent. During my time here, I’ve occasionally had to put up with mockery of my people both at the personal level and as a third party observer. The Scots accent is often mocked, usually badly and often in ignorance of the fact that there are many different accents in Scotland. Scots are often stereotyped as hairy savages (as in Braveheart); and as drunken oafs. And the Scots are often portrayed as mean spirited, narrow-minded, penny-pinchers. How often do you see TV ads where the idea that a product will save you money is conveyed by casting the beneficiary as a Scot? But you know what, none of that really bothers me because in most cases, it displays only ignorance on the part of the purveyor; and sometimes not even that.

    I was warned about the Australian phenomenon of “stirring” long before I set foot on these shores; and most of the time, the stereotyping and mocking of the Scots is just that, “stirring”. And I’ve learned over my half century in Australia that the best way to deal with it is to give as good as I get. But every now and then, the comments ride on a wave of malice and the “stirring” stops being good-natured banter and reveals itself as racial vilification; and to that, I take exception.

    Now, I know Scots who get upset whenever our people are disparaged; and that’s their prerogative, I suppose. But when I heard Adam Hills tell his story about the man who collapsed at the Edinburgh Festival, I split my sides laughing because it was very funny, including the accents (and more than one, I hasten to add); and I felt sure that there was no malice towards the Scots intended. We all have our idiosyncrasies, some of which are personal, and others cultural; and it does us good sometimes to take a step outside of our cultural haven and “see oursels as ithers see us” like the Scots bard, Robert Burns, suggested. But where this relates to your article is that it shows there are two variables at play here: the first involves knowing where to draw the line between harmless “stirring” and racial vilification; and the second is that the line is not in the same place for everyone.

    I am not prepared to make judgements in the recent cases of racial vilification that you covered in your article. I really don’t feel qualified to talk about those specifics. Racial vilification is wrong, and hurtful, and divisive; and we as a society should be vigilant in identifying it and eradicating it. So maybe, in looking for the silver lining here, the Eddie McGuire incident, whilst being damaging to an individual who did nothing to deserve it, will serve to bring this issue to the attention of the broader public, demonstrating how blatantly nonsensical acts of racial vilification are. And I’d even broaden that to cover any form of vilification on the basis of age, or gender, or sexual orientation, or race or colour, or whatever differentiates us in a way which is genetic and therefore beyond our control. And don’t get me started on the perversion of religions to justify violence and hatred. But we have to be careful not to use vilification as an excuse to factionalise society. We mustn’t react to it by perpetrating further wrongs. After all, we don’t want to see gangs of Scots roaming the streets, beating up anyone who isn’t wearing the kilt, do we?

  2. Excellent reply XPat… specially the bit about those gangs of Scots roaming the streets!….

    I think what the point is here is the intention behind the behaviour of people like McGuire, Goodrem and of course the thirteen year old girl…Quite obviously calling someone you don’t know an ‘ape’ is insulting in any fashion… the fact that it was used in the context in which it was used is a heinous breach of intelligence and etiquette… and McGuire carrying on with the theme… well apart from being blindly stupid when it was obvious Goodes and ALL Aboriginal people felt insulted and shamed… was arrogant and ignorant of how this behaviour might affect people who have been continually derided and oppressed and called words like ‘ape’ as derogatory terms…It is ignorant in the extreme for someone like McGuire not to understand this… he is a public figure and his behaviour reflects the culture around him…

    “Stirring” is quite a different matter… it implies shared viewpoints and an intimate understanding of anothers boundaries and limits…

    “Stirring” becomes quite another thing when someone holds the whip hand… in this case a young white girl calling a grown black man an ‘ape’ is about as derisory as you can get…The fact that McGuire tried to create a joke from the whole thing is just disgusting…

    And people like so called journalist Mia Freedman whose worldly experience seems to revolve about being “the great white hope” of teenage girls acne problems weighing in on the issue of racism with the assertion that it is “batshit crazy” to think “blackface” is not funny, shows she also has not taken the time off advising said teenage girls to educate herself in the actual meaning of “blackface”. If she had she may just be horrified to learn that it has a similar historical meaning to black fellas as the Nazi Swatztika has to Jewish people.

    I have heard so many people use them phrase “Oh I was just stirring them” when really it was bullying behaviour… This term so often cloaks racist behaviour…

    When people don’t realise what they are saying it simply shows themselves up as ignorant and stupid but when they don’t even acknowledge that what they have said is hurtful because it is inherently racist then the crime lies in the fact they are being cruel. And if the insult is based on something that has historical meaning to a particular group of people then that cruelty is racist.

  3. And here is an even more poignant explanation given to me by a proud Gomeroi woman Walbira Murray…

    “Offend means 1. To cause displeasure, anger, resentment, or wounded feelings in.
    2. To be displeasing or disagreeable to. So, how does someone else get to decide if feelings have been hurt or not, if someone has been angered or not, been displeased? Surely it is those who are hurt who get to define that, not the offender?? To decide what offends someone, particularly is when it comes to perceived racism is perhaps one of the most glaring and obvious signs of white privilege me thinks..” Walbira Murray

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