Colour my world a rainbow!

This week at the Carrot Ranch, through her thought- and idea/l-provoking post, Charli Mills invites writers to respond to her challenge to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that tackles racism.

Charli describes racism as a social earthquake that divides our common ground. She says that Our first step is to recognise our one race: human (with a) colourful kaleidoscope of culture.”

Charli suggests that writers Think about common ground, about the things that rip us apart as humans. How we can recover our identities in a way that honors the identities of all individuals? What breaks the barrier of other-ness? Imagine a better tomorrow that doesn’t need expression in riots or taking sides on social media. As writers, think about genres, characters, tension and twists. We can rebuild.

In my comment on Charli’s post I admitted that I am not qualified to write on this issue. I am fortunate to have never experienced the negativity of racism, the cloak that can at the same time judge one to be invisible and without value or singled out in the spotlight of blame. The responses of those who have, from the moment of their birth, needed to prove the value of their existence are often judged without understanding or sympathy by those who have experienced no such discrimination and whose attitudes are so ingrained as to go unnoticed.

Consider this exchange between work correspondents who decided to meet up at a conference. “How will we know each other?” she asked. He responded, “I’m black.” In recounting this episode to friends, she said, “I’ve never thought of myself as white.” Perhaps until all feel their skin colour is not an issue, any more than eye or hair colour, it will remain so.

I am not participating in the flash challenge this week, feeling unable to write something that would give sufficient recognition to the gravity of the divide that is racism. However I do not want my silence to be seen as lack of concern, or negation of the importance of the issue. Instead I will use my post to amplify the voices of others.

Dr Enyimba Maduka from the Department of Philosophy, University of Calabar in a paper entitled “Racism and Philosophy: An examination of Human and Kantian Racial Thoughts” considers the history of racism and the effects it has had on the mindsets of African peoples and cultures as well as Western philosophies. Maduk specifically targets and explores writings by Hume and Kant.

He says that racism can be understood “as a functional rationalization and symbol for oppression; (that it is) an attitude always directed at the vanquished not the powerful; it is the colonized who are the victims of racism and not the colonizers.”

He also says that “when human persons refuse to recognize the authentic humanity of their neighbours and fellow human beings, they cease or fail to be human persons themselves”. Strong words, definitely requiring reflection.

Listen to Clint Smith explain everyday limitations imposed by, and reminders of, skin colour; and ponder their humanity:

Or read the letter to his future son, expressing his hopes and dreams and fears. His message reiterates Charli’s call to rebuild.

He says,

“do not for one moment think you cannot change what exists. This world is a social construction; it can be reconstructed. This world was built; it can be rebuilt. Use everything that you accrue to reimagine the world.”

Or listen to James A. White Sr. describe the difficulties he had in renting a house, and consider how patient and resilient you may be in similar circumstances. Some of these situations I find difficult to imagine. White Sr. aims to share his experiences of racism in order to stress the message that all races, genders and backgrounds must come together to challenge the status quo.

Or perhaps Nina Jablonksi, an anthropologist, who says that skin colour is an illusion.

While many people deny it, or deny it affects them or their communities, racism is also an issue in Australia.

According to the All Together Now Erasing Racism project, acknowledgement of racism is essential to start preventing it in our communities.

We must all make an effort to ensure that racism stops with me.

I think education and understanding is a good place to start.

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

17 thoughts on “Colour my world a rainbow!

  1. Bec

    Hi Nor, a very powerful post, and I like your choice for title. Thanks to Charli for raising such an important topic to us all. Like Anne, I liked your story about the person who ‘never thought of themselves as white’.

    This speaks to some of the learnings I have from social identity – that “group” with the power becomes the default, so anything which is not part of that group differs in that attribute. I feel I’m not explaining it very well. But for example, a white man is just a person, this is where power is concentrated in society, so anyone who differs from this default setting becomes defined by what is the cause for that difference. A woman. A black man. And so on. When you’re part of the majority, it’s easy see as invisible parts of society that to others are impenetrable and opaque. Intergroup relations literature tells us that when a group of lower status sees that the group boundaries can’t be transcended, i.e. they can’t exit a low status group and enter a high status group or change the relative status of their group, then the only option is some form of revolutionary change. For people who see the colour of skin as absolute, or feel that the rest of the world sees it that way, those in a lower status group may feel there is no option other than to, e.g., riot, and those in a high status group may feel the need to oppress and control in order to retain their status. Conversely, when individuals may see group boundaries as permeable, they can suffer from persecution by people in their original group as well as those in their new groups. Waleed Aly wrote a great piece reflecting on the proposed changes to racial discrimination laws, and how what would be judged as being ‘reasonable’ is defined based on an average person. When the average person is those groups with historically concentrated power, to whom bigotry can be invisible, it raises all sorts of concerns about how ‘reasonable’ will be judged in law: http://www.theage.com.au/comment/brandis-race-hate-laws-are-whiter-than-white-20140327-35lv7.html

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts and the article, Bec. I particularly liked this statement: “only white people have the chance to be neutral because in our society only white is deemed normal; only whiteness is invisible.” and the three following paragraphs. It is precisely for those reasons (and one or two others) that I chose not to write this time. The article supports what I was trying to explain through my anecdote – her point of difference may have been her hair colour or a hat she was wearing; his was his skin. Thanks very much for reminding me of this article from last year. 🙂

      Like

      Reply
  2. Pingback: These Racial Earthquakes « Carrot Ranch Communications

  3. Charli Mills

    I had a realization that “oppression” is key. We might note differences of feel more comfortable being around “familiar faces” but it is when we use those feeling to oppress a specific group that racism rears its head. Some of my closest friends are strong women of color. I love the unity in that phrase and join in; after all I’m a color, too! Thank you for sharing such a thoughtful post.

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
  4. TanGental

    I have close friends who work in Bahrain where the racism – against them, but especially against the Sri Lankans, Nepalese and Philippine citizens – causes them a lot of thought because they can see how it works over here if you aren’t the predominant racial group. And he quote about not being human stands out. I’m with Anne wondering at your reluctance; you have given it a lot of thought so surely there’s no reason to suggest your opinion is any less worthy than mine?

    Liked by 4 people

    Reply
  5. Annecdotist

    I like that you mention “I never thought of myself as being white”. A great starting point for getting white people to think about racism – an approach that I’ve experienced as part of the training I’ve received. I’m interested that you don’t feel you’re equipped to write about racism – and yet your sadness that it exists is threaded through your post. I wonder what stops you writing about that? I’m also wondering whether teachers in Australia (or anywhere) receive any training in racism awareness? I think it must be hard to work in a public service without it.

    Liked by 3 people

    Reply
        1. Annecdotist

          I seem to have done that thing that white people do in relation to minorities, only in relation to education, in being blind to how privileged I am in having lots of opportunity to think about this difficult subject in a safe place. I don’t know if this kind of training is something we do more over here in general or more about within my profession, but I’ve kind of taken it for granted (even as I recall how we had to fight to get into the curriculum) so thanks for the reminder to be grateful.

          Liked by 1 person

          Reply
          1. Norah Post author

            Sounds interesting. I might have to look into it to see what’s available here. Of course there might be more now that I don’t know about. Thanks for letting me know.

            Like

            Reply
    1. Norah Post author

      Hi Anne, Thanks for your comment. I’m interested to hear that you received training in racism awareness. I have not, and am not aware of any training being available. Interesting that the sadness came through. I was feeling that way all the time I was thinking and writing about it, and really wondered about pressing the ‘publish’ button. Powerless may be an apt description of my feelings, overwhelmed may be another; but to avoid writing the post that I chose to not write, I’ll leave it at that but thank you for your response.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply

I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s