Wardrobe issues

I recently went shopping for new clothes suitable for the office as I have started a new job. Specifically I felt I needed things that showed less cleavage. On my first day on the job, I noticed that I was not the only one with such considerations.

I mentioned this to a (female) colleague who informed me that the other amply-chested colleague had been warned about her décolleté. This bothered me because, over the last couple of weeks, I have not seen any immodesty or attention-seeking in this person.

So for any male colleagues, particularly management, who may be reading this blog, the following should be noted:

  • nature endowed me with big tits
  • I endeavour to restrain them
  • you should think about doing the same with your eyes and not blame it on me if you can’t

Dear WAP

We exchanged a few emails at the beginning of the year when I helped you get information on citizenship for your child. We even met at that cultural event. And then you wrote to me frustrated that you couldn’t find any cultural activity for your very small child. My response that cultural communities had no real need and little inclination for such activities, and that the adoption community could hardly care less obviously didn’t please you.

I applaud your efforts to set something up, and I told you that in no uncertain terms. So why does it piss you off so much that I protested your use of a racial stereotype in your logo?

Please allow me to deconstruct your message:

Wow, I never even thought about it!!!! (I am so privileged I don’t HAVE to think about it.) I agree that it isn’t very original but when you have ZERO budget, originality cannot be bought! (I don’t actually know what the word “stereotype” means and I am not motivated enough to find out because, frankly, it doesn’t concern me.) Anyway, I wonder how it’s possible to not use a “racial stereotype” when trying to represent a Chinese child!!!! (But I’m still not motivated enough to find out.) Should I have given him a pseudo americanised look so he appeared less Chinese? (‘Cos he IS Chinese, right, and you know you are being ridiculous, right?)

You know, sometimes I wonder if that’s what really shocks you the most? (I think you have a chip on your shoulder.) Whatever, I don’t hold it against you. (‘Cos it’s all your fault anyway. You should be less sensitive.)

Please refer to my free apology.

¡Viva la opresión!

Recently I have been struck by the profoundly embedded nature of certain –isms.

Most people would agree that, in the professional world – the glass ceiling, wage differentials and the occasional sexual harassment lawsuit not withstanding – sexism is a phenomenon that rarely rears its ugly head. ;-)

Seriously, most women would probably agree that their male colleagues don’t apparently treat them any differently because they are women. Their professional opinion and expertise are respected. Their voice is heard and considered. They are not (obviously) leered at. Most men would spontaneously agree that they see no difference in ability and potential contribution between their male and female colleagues.

Similarly, most people would agree that differently abled people are not sufficiently catered for by society. When our privilege is pointed out to us, we feel ashamed and we agree that more should be done. We even vow to try and be more inclusive ourselves, to think about the difficulties that the blind person, the deaf person or the wheelchair-user confront daily.

Yet, those are conscious thoughts. Reasoned reflections. They are not knee-jerk reactions conditioned into us. The reality is very different. Continue reading

Expert?

“No country in the world has made more progress toward combating overt racism than [the United States],” says David Schneider, a Rice University psychologist and the author of “The Psychology of Stereotyping.” “But the most popular stereotype of black people is still that they’re violent. And for a lot of people, not even racist people, the sight of a white child with a black parent just sets off alarm signals.”

This quote comes from a Newsweek article about an African-American family who have adopted a little white girl. (But don’t read the comments unless you want to puke.)

What do you all think? Because it strikes me that the first statement is not true. My post from last year refutes it, in fact. And as for the statement that people whose alarm bells are set off by the sight of a white child with a black parent are “not even racist”, well! Doesn’t sound like much of an expert to me.

Will French POCs finally be seen?

Let me be clear about this: I am not a fan of Nicolas Sarkozy, France’s “playboy” president. I would not have voted for him and I don’t normally agree with much he says.

But I have to agree with the statement he issued regarding his plan to collect voluntary data on race:

He said the lack of data on ethnic minorities was hampering the ability to measure inequality and deal with it.

Having lived in the country for over a decade and a half, I can assure you that racism is rampant. I also therefore agree with the race campaigners in the article who say that the society is “plagued by discrimination”. This is a country that only got its first primetime newscast journalist of colour this decade.

However, I really do not believe that any light can be shed on the extent of this discrimination until reasonably reliable statistics are produced. Unfortunately, many, many groups do not agree with me, including the ground-breaking SOS Racisme. Continue reading

Racist literature – or teaching?

So how useful do you think studying a classic anti-racist work of literature is in teaching children about anti-racism? A student of African heritage in the UK doesn’t think it’s very useful at all. The book in question is Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mocking Bird:

“People speak like that in real life but we can study that in history or politics, there is no need to make up fictional stories about it.

“Books like this do nothing to alleviate or reduce racism, but have contributed negatively to the school community with me getting the worst impact of its negativity.

“This type of book only creates and incites hate, violence and racism among races due to terms used in them, which are grossly degrading.

“Times have changed. Racist fiction should be buried in the past.”

Although I enjoyed this book very much, I don’t agree with the teachers at the student’s school that “the point of studying it is to challenge racism”. Continue reading

Colour and the City

Yesterday evening, I watched (again) the Modeliser episode of Sex and the City. There’s a scene at the end where Miranda and Skipper bump into each other at a corner store. The owner is Asian.

For some reason, I actually watched the credits, where the role is listed as “Korean grocer”. There was only one grocer in the whole episode.

Now what is that all about, exactly? How does it help us to know he was Korean? What bearing does his heritage have on the story? And if it was so important, why not get an actor of Korean heritage?

My condolences, Ryohei Hoshi.

What people of colour think

To all those involved in a love relationship with a person of colour,
(whether that be parental, romantic, fraternal or platonic)

We here at RR would like you to know that every time you condone racism, your SPOC (significant person of colour)

  • feels sad
  • feels alone
  • wonders, if you can have these feelings about others, how worthy you think s/he is
  • worries that if s/he called you on your racism, your love for him/her would suffer
  • wonders whether this is just a part of him/herself that s/he will have to hide
  • wonders whether one day her/his love for you will also suffer

Think about it. Act on it.

Exercise in privilege

Respecting ethnic groups
Role play

MESSAGE

You, a francophone Acadian, are on a foreign planet with a Chinese person, a black African, an English person, an Amerindian.
You receive the following radio message:

ATTENTION! IMPORTANT MESSAGE. THE PLANET YOU ARE ON IS ABOUT TO EXPLODE. A ROCKET IS ON ITS WAY, WITH ROOM FOR THREE PEOPLE. YOU HAVE 10 MINUTES TO MAKE A DECISION. WHO WILL BE ON BOARD THE ROCKET?

Did you make a decision? (yes)
Which one? (Acadian, Amerindian, African)
Did you find the decision difficult? (yes)
Why? (because there were a lot of ethnic groups)

The story of this exercise given to 10-year-olds in New Brunswick, (see image underneath the article), as part of a curriculum teaching about diversity, was reported by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) after complaints from two mothers of children adopted from Ethiopia. The province’s Minister of Education had to step in to stop the school from using the exercise which, he said, “invites and encourages defining people by stereotypes”. Good for him.

The school thinks the exercise is a good one because

  • it is intended to show the students how to be respectful to all groups
  • some students have advocated keeping everyone
  • some students have suggested keeping the three main groups in the community (“English, French and Amerindian”), “because of being able to communicate”

It’s hard to know where to even start with this one, so I’ll start at the beginning:

Firstly, the exercise assumes that everyone in this French-speaking school is an Acadian – a white Canadian of ultimately French origin – which clearly is not true. One of the mothers, at least, is apparently English-speaking (I could find no references to this event in the French-speaking press), and her daughter is not white.

Secondly, the assumption and lesson is that Chinese people, black Africans, “English people” (they mean English-speaking Canadians) and Amerindians are not like Acadians. And we’re not just talking ethnicity here. It doesn’t say, “a person of Chinese heritage, a black person, an English-speaking person, and a person of Amerindian heritage”.

Thirdly, what’s with the pictures? Check out the thick lips, the slanted eyes and the animal skins (it’s only mildly reassuring that there are no slitty eyes and feather headdresses).

Finally, how exactly does obliging children to decide who should be saved teach them to be respectful of all groups??? In fact, what it does is

  • teach them their ethnic group (white) has that power over others, in particular people of colour
  • reinforce the notion that certain groups have a right to be here and others don’t (as evidenced by the school’s comment above)
  • perpetuate otherisation through its choice of ethnic descriptors

These are ten-year-olds, for pete’s sake! Instead of asking them to make a decision, how about telling them in no uncertain terms that it would be wrong to choose and ask them to think about why?!

(Thanks to pinkpoppies for the tip.)