Racism for white folks

15 11 2012

I don’t understand why abusing someone due to their colour is worse than berating them for being fat or ugly or having a big nose. Colour is simply a physical attribute.

When Louis Suarez responded to the outrageous comments allegedly made about his sister by a fellow professional footballer by calling him a negrito I felt that, on balance, the words directed at his sister were more hurtful, damaging and distressing than any reference to skin colour.

I consider myself to be a thoughtful, well-balanced person who treats everyone regardless of skin colour or other physical characteristic, equally.

My comments only serve to illustrate how difficult it is for a white person, even one that considers themselves as a champion of diversity and equality, to fully and completely understand what racism means to a non-white. I have demonstrated that I don’t understand. In fact I cannot understand as the impact of racism is experiential.

The truth is that racism is not just about skin colour. It has it’s roots in the economic, social and political dominance that generations of those of us with a white skin have exercised over people of colour from the moment we left European shores in search of new worlds.

And we are still doing it. The treatment of the aboriginal peoples of Australia by the immigrant and dominant white population is a continuing affront to a civilised society. We seek, by means of force and sanction, to persuade the ruling classes of countries in the middle east to adapt better standards of human rights for their peoples yet we ignore the behaviour of white Australia in respect of their treatment of the indigenous non-white population.

For people of colour there can be no white version of racism and abuse based on skin colour is not analogous to verbal aggression based upon any other physical characteristic. I cannot judge the depth of hurt that a racist comment causes for the simple reason that I am white.

Me and the rest of us white folk who have benefited directly and indirectly from the exploitation and subjugation of those with coloured skins would do well to remember that.

Collaboration and the me generation

15 11 2012

There are some facts that are taken as read; men are better at parking than women, women are better multi-taskers than men; women are better listeners and so on. Amongst the list is the fact that women are better collaborators than men.

A recent talk made me think. The gist of the argument goes like this.

In the workplace women often take the jobs in what can broadly be called the care sector. Women are nurses, care workers, support workers and assistants. It is only natural, therefore, that when they seek self-employment they start businesses in these areas; becoming therapists, beauticians, health and well-being specialists. The common theme in these businesses is the focus on the self.

How do I look? How do I feel? Or rather, How do I feel? How do I look?

This is bringing the focus narrower and narrower onto the individual.

It is interesting to think on this dynamic.

Women in apparently nurturing businesses, based on caring skills but working to promote a very individual perspective.

Women’s magazines are full of images of women who we are encouraged to admire not for how they behave but for how they look. And these photographs of painfully thin catwalk models presented as perfect body forms are creating all sorts of problems as women try to make their bodies fit that body image. Again we are being encouraged by women to look inwards, to look at our bodies.

And massage and spa days all focus on the self. The advertisements all encourage women “treat yourself” “you deserve it”. Again the focus is on the self. What can you do for your self.

This focus on the self seems to me to be the opposite of collaborative thinking.

Far better to look outwards and see what we can do for each other don’t you think?