Don’t feel like reading? Listen to me tell the story
Ever since the video of George Floyd’s death and the rapid amplification of the #BlackLivesMatter movement the world over, I have pondered the privileged whiteys who don’t believe in white privilege.
NEWS FLASH! Everyone is racist. Everyone is judgemental. I don’t care who you are.
I am often asked about whether Australia is a racist country when I have travelled in India, the Middle East, and Asia, and my answer is always the same.
“Compared to WHO??”
India is a melting pot of races, casts, religions, and languages, and there is a LOT of racism based on all of these things before you leave their borders. At its most basic level, there is north vrs south, lighter vrs darker skinned, but there is so much complexity of discrimination amongst all of that. I have never seen the level of venom and hatred as in the Middle East in the Arab, Israeli conflicts. It still completely blows my mind how deep that runs there. You can feel it in the land. And in Asia? Everyone seems to hate each other quite nicely, but most have a special spot of hatred for the Japanese.
And we JUDGE! Boy do we judge. Everyone. It is how we are wired. It saves the time and the effort of getting to know someone.
The following stories are some of my experiences of being treated differently, discovering racism, looking different, and identifying with your tribe. I realise leading with a story about being young, white, and blond with large breasts pales in comparison to what many experience, but work with me here. My point is, if we whities are judging each other like this, imagine how it feels to be on the end of some racial stereotyping and judgement from our entitled selves?
The ‘little girl with the big boobies’
In my last year of Primary School, one of my best friends was Alex. Although both whities, we could not have looked any different. I was tall with blonde hair and boobs; Alex, a gymnast, came up to about my shoulder, had raven red hair, and a flat chest. We didn’t care, but other people seemed to.
Towards the end of the year, we started hanging out with two boys from our class. Nice kids. One was the class clown and the other was quite quiet. Alex had a bit of a crush on the quiet one, but we were just 12-year-old kids hanging out. We used to laugh a lot and had fun.
On our last day of school when our teachers handed our report cards to us, and gave us our final individual pep talks, 6’4” Mr Hilton called me up.
“You know Claire, I think you will do well in life,” he paused for dramatic effect. “As long as you don’t pay as much attention to the opposite sex as you have been in the past few weeks.”
My mouth dropped to the floor and my right hand balled into an involuntary fist, itching to connect with this man’s face. WHAT!? Me? ME?? Where the hell did that come from? I was so angry.
I went to each of my three apparent partners in crime and asked if they had ANY similar comments. They had not. Why the hell was he singling me out? Heck, I didn’t even fancy either of the two guys even a little! Other girls in my grade had innocent little hold-hands boyfriends. No comments to them either.
Because I looked like a teenager and the other kids in my class looked like kids, he projected his own weird judgement of what he thought someone who looked like me would act like, onto me. With boobs like mine, surely I was gagging for it? Only I wasn’t. I was a 12-year-old kid, doing 12-year-old things, getting judged by some asshole because of how he thought I should behave given the way I looked.
That might have been the first time I was accused of things like this, but it wouldn’t be the last. Not because of the way I behaved, but because of the way I looked.
The boobs are always… greener?
A couple of years ago I sat in a bar with another, gorgeous, skinny, red-headed friend and we discussed the childhood boob or no boob situation. She said she was teased relentlessly because she had no boobs and always felt she was not womanly enough. She always wished she had had some. The teasing and judgement she described was awful.
I told her what it was like on the other side of the boob world as a kid. The girls patting me on the back and shoulders when I first got a bra then running off giggling. My older brother’s friends calling me ‘the little girl with the big boobies.’ Regularly being accused of doing or thinking things I was not by adults including my friend’s parents. This was all before I left Primary School. I wasn’t behaving in a sexualised way, but was being treated like it because of how I looked.
“Wow. I never thought about it like that,” she pondered. “I always thought it must be so great to have boobs, but I guess we were all judged no matter what we looked like.”
Japan crash course on racism
It wasn’t until I was 19 and went to Japan the pennies started to drop on racism. I was privileged to not have to think about it much until then. The places we lived and went to school in Brisbane were extremely multicultural and I hung out with kids from most parts of the world. That was my normal. Kids were all colours, shapes, and sizes, and I didn’t think about it.
Just because I didn’t think about it, doesn’t mean racism didn’t impact those kids. As a ‘normal’ looking white girl, and not thinking any differently about people from other cultures myself, it didn’t come to my attention. (Spoiler alert: that is the white privilege everyone is talking about).
All of a sudden, I was very firmly the minority in a country where I stuck out like dog’s balls. I even had to carry an Alien Registration Card. I didn’t speak the language very well then, which my revolting Japanese redneck equivalent homestay family liked to tease me about, which also reminded me of my ‘place.’
People abused me when I walked down the street. Freaks came up and made nuisances out of themselves on the train. Everywhere I went, people were either blatantly staring at me, or actively looking away. I was always on everyone in the vicinity’s radar because I looked so different, and no one knew what this circus side show would do next.
But somehow I excused it more there. In the late 1990s we were told 99% of the some 120 million population of Japan were Japanese. Of the one percent who were not, most were Koreans. Koreans were also heavily discriminated against, but people that didn’t look like Japanese or Koreans (the rest of us Aliens), really were freaks.
Most people were curious and very lovely. Random people wanted their pictures taken with me, and some accosted me as I powered through the subway to catch my train to University, wanting to buy me coffee and get a free English lesson. One friend took six of us Aliens to her home town one holiday. Seeing one of us on the street would have been something, but six!? From memory I think there was at least one car crash caused by drivers shocked at our presence, and a few near misses too.
My Dad had some racist friends when I was growing up, who I mostly just ignored, but their words came flooding back to me.
“They shouldn’t come here if they can’t speak English.”
“If they come here, they should assimilate and not just hang out with their own people.”
There I was living in a country where I couldn’t speak the language very well, and was very much hanging out with other Aliens at my university. The food, the way they thought, the way they acted… everything was different and it was overwhelming. The culture shock was MASSIVE. Spending time with people from similar cultures made us feel sane for a while.
This was what it was like for the migrants coming to Australia. Except in Japan, there was an element of wonder and curiosity about us layered on the fear and prejudice. I was pretty sure for those racist friends of my Dad, and many others they would encounter in Australia, curiosity and wonder were not a part of their sentiments.
I remember writing a post card to one friend of my Dad’s after I had my epiphany, and explained how if I was in New Zealand, I would be in his sights in this bizzaro world I chose to stay in. I hoped it would help flip his brain around.
Who says colour doesn’t matter?
About a year later, now a 20-year-old university student, I was so incensed after an argument with my parents, I went to stay with my friend Ben for a few days.
Ben was dating a hairdresser at the time, who thought I could use a change of look to make me feel better. I’m pretty sure he didn’t mean to do what he did for my hair. I’m sure he was going for something a little more… subtle. But I ended up transitioning from a blond to having jet black hair with bright red and white streaks through the top. THAT was different!
The next day I went to my part-time job where I sold electrical appliances to the people of suburban Brisbane. It felt weird. Something wasn’t right, but I just couldn’t quite put my finger on it.
As I explained the differences between two expensive stereo systems to a couple of young guys, it hit me. They were listening to me more intently. They were putting more stock into what I was saying. And it wasn’t just them. It was everyone I had spoken to that day.
Apparently a pasty-faced goth-looking girl with black, red, and white hair is more likely to know about electronics than a blondy. I had just had my hair done the day before, and there were no mirrors around at work, so I was going about life as though I was the same blond I was the day before. The electronics buying public saw a goth-y looking chick who must have known her stuff in order to get hired there…
When I finally went home, I walked in the front door just as my mother was nearing the top of the stairs at the entrance.
“Claire!!” she exclaimed in horror. “What have you done to yourself? You are in the prime of your life? How could you do this?”
It was only hair! But hair that was going to get me more sales commission that Summer, and also apparently mean I would never get married. Wait…
Coolio hair carnage
One night not long after, my friend Jess braided my hair in tiny little plats, then turned them into little nodes on my head, like the famous 90s singer, Coolio. I looked ridiculous. But so much effort went into it, when I work called me to a store I hadn’t worked in before, I went with my Coolio hair.
That day, I was the doyen of all things electronics. Everyone came to me for advice, more so than the local, normal looking salespeople. It was so weird. I was used to being dismissed as a dumb blond who couldn’t possibly know more about TVs and stereos than my male customers, to now being this freak who was obviously the fountain of knowledge, just because of some hair.
Walk like an Egyptian
When I lived in Egypt, I walked about a kilometre each day from my bus stop to my office. On that one-kilometre walk, a minimum of five cars would stop and some man would proposition me. If it was only five, I wondered if I wasn’t showing enough ankle that day, or if my hair was off a little…
No, I was not that special. If an Egyptian woman walked the same stretch, she would have gotten the same thing, but possibly a little more abuse for walking on her own thrown in. Sexual harassment of strangers was horrendous over there. Even then, some of my Egyptian friends felt that although I dressed respectfully, I got disproportionate attention.
Of course I did. But let’s do the math. As a whitey, I am far more likely to have sex without having to get married first. We do that. Don’t get me wrong, so do Egyptians. I learned about labiaplasty there for those wanting to replace their hymen so they bleed on their wedding night and can pretend they are virgins again… That is a thing… That is also how taboo it is that people go to that level…
It is also likely that if you have access to pornography, an awful LOT of it is blond white women who love nothing more than to get jism all over their faces at the end of a rigorous session in the sack. In fact, your first thought of pornography is probably the same blond white woman with gigantic boobs as everyone else, because they all seem to have the same plastic surgeon and hair dressers.
So if I am walking down the street, even if I am not flashing ankle that day, and an Egyptian woman, with or without a headscarf is on the same street, it is statistically more likely that I will sleep with you if you approach me. And for these guys stopping on the street and harassing young women, it is all a numbers game. They are looking for the statistical outlier to rock their world, and someone who looked like me is more ‘likely’ to do it like a porn star in their world.
Freedom of movement privilege
It was also in Egypt I discovered my extreme privilege to travel freely, and learned it is not available to everyone. I was able to turn up in Egypt, and look for a job and a place to live, without too many hassles (actually there were plenty, but that is a blog post for another time…).
If my boss asked me to go to Hamburg on business, I picked up my passport, and off I went. I didn’t have to get permission from my husband or father, on the off chance I could get a visa anyway. The reality was, even if it wasn’t for the passport and visa situation, most would not have been able to afford to travel.
An Australian passport is very different to an Egyptian passport. You get very different receptions at the airport. Especially just post September 11, 2001 which is when I had the pleasure of being there.
Of all of the privileges afforded to me, freedom of travel is the one I appreciate the most, and try to be the most respectful of. I feel incredibly lucky most countries let me in to have a look around and maybe stay a while, when I know mine does not afford that same courtesy back. That is privilege.
A couple of weeks ago, after the pubs and restaurants in Australia opened up again, but with social distancing, one of my friends decided he wanted to dress in drag and go for a drink. And if she was going to look all fabulous, I sure as hell wasn’t going in as Plain Jane, so I donned a pink wig from her collection and off we went.
It was a Tuesday and none of the gay bars were open. We stood at the bottom of the strip wondering what we would do. The walking light buzzed, and an older tranny approached us. She lovingly chatted away as if we were old friends. We chatted to her for a while, she was already quite happy with whatever the evening’s substances were, but was super warm and eventually toddled off for a bite to eat.
My friend went to the bathroom, and I waited around in my pink hair checking out how much the area had changed when I heard these excited camp voices behind me.
“Oh! I love the hair! Is it real do you think?”
“She has got such great energy. Let’s go talk to her.”
“Oh! It’s a wig. Yes, lets.”
I turned and there were two young boys who couldn’t have been much more than 16 years old. They seemed to already be veterans of the gay scene and when my friend joined us, offered advice as to where we might find some ‘action’. My friend was not wearing the shoes for that kind of a walk, so we popped into a couple of the straightey 180 bars, and enjoyed a bit of socially distant attention.
If we were standing around in our ‘normal’ clothes looking like ‘normal’ people (as we often do), would those people have just come up to have a chat?
It occurred to me afterwards that to them, we looked safe. We were their people. We were not normies who judge them, or potentially are even a danger to them. We don’t always look like that, but when we did, that was a signpost we were okay in that community.
It is not IF you judge, it’s HOW you judge
It is absolutely human nature when meeting someone from a different cultural background for the first time, to have all of your past experiences with and knowledge about that culture descend into your brain to form a judgement. You can’t and shouldn’t stop that from happening.
Just because something or someone is different, doesn’t mean they are bad or scary. If you are feeling that way, it likely means your knowledge and experience needs updating. There are so many different ways to think, feel, and act in this world, assuming yours is the only, the best, and/or the right way is ridiculous.
Judging people also means we know how to treat them, which can also be very useful. You don’t treat a child the same way you treat an elderly person. And apparently in the United States and many other Western nations, the police don’t treat black and white people the same way. If you think this is not true in the United Kingdom, read this spectacular article about some white privileged little shits.
I was judged favourably by some in the community for being out with pink hair. I’m sure many more gave me a wide berth for the same reason.
Are you racist and judgemental? Of course you are. But it is whether you look on people who are different to you with wonder and curiosity, or disdain and fear which determins whether or not you are an asshole.
Thanks for reading and/or listening. I hope you enjoyed it. If you did, please like, comment and share on social media. I’m on Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin and my handle is @ClaireRWriter.
If you want to work with me, check out my website ClaireRWriter.com and book a meeting.
Until next time!
This Post Has 11 Comments
Nicely written .
Thanks Akhilesh! I’m glad you enjoyed it.
Hello Claire, Uncle Ken here. Christine told me about your facebook post and so I thought I would look up the essay on your blog. Anyway, I read it all and enjoyed it. You have great skill with your writing and it is good to see you like to tackle serious subject matter – with humour. I have a few other things to say.
Regarding your Japan experience, in 1990 I spent 5 days in Tokyo. It had a profound effect on how I perceived our Antipodean culture – like you, I was in Culture Shock (I called it that at the time) and I felt that our individualistic culture was somehow inadequate compared to the more collectivist approach in Japan. I no longer feel like that but I remember the epiphany still. I have come to see that epiphanies do not always give you correct or enduring insights. They can sometimes be like the ones you get from a big night on the weed – the ones you write down at the time and then wonder WTF the next morning.
Our human tendency to form rapid judgements about other people, sometimes on flimsy or misleading grounds, is the main thing I got from your essay. For me, you made the point beautifully with the hair colour / assumed electronics expertise example. The others were all good too.
Where I think we part company is the “white privilege” thing. I don’t dispute that on average white (and East Asian) people (in NZ) enjoy advantages that brown people on average do not. However, there are enough individual exceptions where the reverse is true to put the lie to this as a totalising narrative. Another problem with the “white privilege” concept is that it subsumes the individual into an identity collective. That can restrict how people view there own level of individual agency in the world. A ghastly idea actually and hardly surprising, as it it all comes out of Postmodern Critical Race Theory … itself an incredibly cynical and negative derivation from Marxism. I could go on about this for hours but best not.
Finally, I am going to challenge you on your last sentence. It seemed somehow harsh on people whose judgements are not 100% positive. I am going to suggest that our hard-wired instinct to make judgement calls based on how people look is primarily for the purpose of distinguishing friend from foe – ie., survival. For sure, there are bigotted, xenophobic types who wrongly identify all difference outside their own narrow set of approved norms, as foes. On the other hand, if someone is only able to see wonder and curiosity in all, and not recognise genuine threat, they are going to have a short life when the Mongrel Mob come to town. I presume then that what you really meant between the lines is that people need to recalibrate their identification of “foe” to a realistic range of genuine threat and be open to the possibility of enjoying the difference of all others. I can go for that.
Thank you for reading my article and I’m glad you enjoyed it! I’m also glad to hear you are still enjoying weed-induced epiphanies ;D
Regarding the points you have raised, I will address them one by one.
Firstly you talk about a number of individual exceptions to white privilege in New Zealand. I would be interested in hearing what types of individual exceptions you are referring to, but I suspect you are referring to things like preferential fishing laws, scholarships specifically for Maori’s, quotas on numbers of specific groups which must be employed and things like that. Please correct me if I am wrong with my assumption here.
These types of intiatives are corrective initiatives in order to redress the imbalance. I can see how individual whities may feel that if they are somehow more qualified, or better at a certain job and are overlooked, this is unfair and a sort of reverse privilege. Let me use a non-racial example of another group that ‘benefits’ from such mandates in order to redress an imbalance: women. Women are still struggling for equal pay for equal work across the board and are overlooked for promotions time and again. The disproportionately low numbers of women in board positions and top executive positions is a case in point. Many countries have had to legislate mandatory numbers of women in the workplace and in management positions in organisations for a certain size because despite women being just as educated and experienced, they often languish in the lower level jobs and are overlooked for promotions. Let that sink in. We have the LEGISLATE to make this happen even for women before you even get to race or ethnicity. Then when a woman is appointed based on these legislations, they are often looked down on because they wouldn’t be there if the organisation didn’t have to put them in and are taking the position away from someone ‘more qualified’. The measures I think you are referring to as reverse discrimination fall into the same category for me. Is legislating something like this perfect and without abuse? Probably not, but it is one way to try and tip the scales a little closer towards balance. Clearly the market was not correcting itself.
Your second point was that the concept of white privilege can restrict a person’s individual agency in the world. Again I will make an assumption here that you are referring to people in Western nations who are not white potentially thinking in the imortal words of Homer Simpson, “If you can’t win, don’t try.” That maybe they are just not trying hard enough or as hard as their white counterparts to get that job or get into a non-traditional career for their ethnicity. Typically you will find a few who break through and typically they will have to work harder than everyone else and potentially endure more discrimination to get there. Let me again take the racial charge out of it and use women as an example, but this time in the legal profession. The legal profession is rife with sexual harassment and misogyny and I dare anyone to claim otherwise. For a woman to progress in that field they are almost certain to endure discrimination and often sexual harassment from colleagues in a position of power. The latest example in Australia is here https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-06-22/former-high-court-judge-sexually-harrassed-several-associates/12381236. Any woman who makes it through this entitled, often abusive behaviour to make it to the top, undoubtably has to be a lot stronger and thicker skinned than her male counterparts. Many won’t put up with it and leave for other professions, or accept staying in lower level positions is their lot. In this profession, this is not a fantasy in these women’s minds, and they only have themselves to blame for holding themselves back, it is very much a reality. If this is what is happening based on just gender, imagine what happens when you layer race on there as well.
Your last point was that in my last sentence I was being harsh on people who are not 100% positive with their judgements of others. To recap:
“Are you racist and judgemental? Of course you are. But it is whether you look on people who are different to you with wonder and curiosity, or disdain and fear which determins whether or not you are an asshole.”
This sentence is not written with that intention. Looking on something with wonder and curiosity does not mean you should ignore potential danger. It may lead you to look at the reasons behind that danger differently, but you should still act accordingly. I watch a lot of YouTubes about serial killers, mass murderers, and family annihilators because I am weird and it fascinates me. Guess what? It is messed up whities who do that stuff. It is the messed up white kid who goes to school and guns down his techers and classmates. It is the white guy who goes to work and takes out his colleagues. And it is the white guy who gets a new girlfriend and decides to wipe his old family off the map. Why this occurs may even be explained in the words of comedian Dave Chappelle. “Do you know the difference between poor white people and poor black people? Poor black people think they deserve it.”
As white people many of us feel attacked by being told we have ‘white privilege’. I wasn’t responsible for restricting property ownership, torture, illegal experimentation, and slavery so why are they attacking me? I’m not racist so why are they attacking me? Well, just because I didn’t do it, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. And thinking white privilege is about attacking white people is again making it all about white people when really, it is about what happened to collective indigenous groups, and migrated slave groups, at the hands of white people. Horrendous attrocities were committed on a frightening scale over multiple generations. That happened. Denial of that still happens. Discrimination still happens. You might not be the whitey that is doing it, but others are. Regardless, it is not about whities feeling verbally attacked by being called racist or being told we are ‘privileged’. It is about redressing the issues of black people and other ethnicities who WERE physically and mdentally attacked and accepting that they can’t just ‘get over it’, especially if we keep telling them it didn’t and is not happening.
Thanks again for your comment and I look forward to hearing your thoughts.
Claire, thanks for your reply. Stepping back for the moment to your essay, I was originally drawn to your theme that we humans are all prejudiced and racist to varying degrees. I thought, wow, honesty and the truth – this is Claire the staunch, free-thinking individualist who cuts through the BS of conventional, politically-correct thought. Thus, when I saw your reference to “white privilege”, essentially a conventional, identity politics concept with strong overtones of collectivism, it seemed strangely dissonant.
First up, your assumption regarding my opposition to “white privilege” is actually off the mark. My point is that here in NZ there are some Maori who are wealthy and highly educated and there are many white people who are trapped in poverty and welfare dependence. These wealthy Maori and poor whites buck the general demographic trend but they nonetheless exist and their mere existence shoots down the 100% racial identity basis of the white privilege concept. The exception breaks the rule. Privilege or lack of it is ultimately an individual or family attribute. Of course, there is a core of truth to Maori being less-privileged (as a generalisation) but conflating that to a universal statement that all white people are privileged because of their skin colour is a massive and racist distortion.
As it happens, I don’t have a problem with special Maori fishing quotas. They are an outcome of TOW “customary rights” being legally honoured as a result of the Waitangi Tribunal process. They were not introduced as a corrective measure to address societal imbalances and in fact they do not achieve that either. They have created a tribal corporate elite, as benefits do not flow to poor urban Maori who have lost their tribal connections. I am also very comfortable with special scholarships for Maori (and Pasifika) as they are an attempt to provide genuine equal opportunity – some groups need a helping hand to actually get on to the level playing field of education. However, I admit I oppose “diversity quotas” in employment as they are inherently anti-meritocratic and also discriminatory on an identity basis. “Let’s fight discrimination by discriminating” strikes me as deeply contradictory, no? So, whilst I am totally into equality of opportunity, I oppose forced equality of outcome (“equity”) as it is a social-engineered distortion of the market economy and of fair and equal treatment of individuals. However, I know my position presupposes a genuine meritocracy exists, not one compromised by under-privilege and prejudice. Removing those barriers is where I think efforts must be focussed for lasting change to occur.
Yes, I believe that for people of colour (“POC”) to view their problems as due to whites having an unearned basket of privilege from birth (White Privilege), due to skin colour alone, can be debilitating. It encourages a victim mindset leading to loss of self-belief, destruction of individual agency, descent into helplessness and sometimes meth addiction. It is hard enough for POC to succeed without adding the additional toxic emotional nonsense of “white privilege”. These links add meat to the argument;
Coleman Hughes (one of the authors above) is a brilliant young African American man with powerful insights into black America. He may become the spiritual successor to the great black philosopher Thomas Sowell. Another voice I put great stock in is your namesake, Claire Lehmann, Australian, female, age 34 and founder of Quillette magazine, my favourite internet site.
You point out that mass shootings in the US seem to always be crazy white guys. Availability bias due to MSM reporting bias notwithstanding, sure seems that way. I don’t know why, and you don’t offer a particularly credible reason either by saying they are “messed up” and implying that they are bitter that they are poor and life is treating them badly. Dave Chappelle is a great comedian and astute social observer but I think that quip was tongue-in-cheek. I doubt that there is a correlation (let alone causation) between white poverty and white mass murderers. Prove me wrong if you can. However, there is no question that gun murder in the USA is overwhelmingly and disproportionately young black men murdering young black men in certain under-privileged urban areas. Why? An extreme honour culture is an explanation that makes sense to me. So, if your point was to demonstrate how dangerous white people are, sure, Hitler, Stalin – both white. Adi Amin, Robert Mugabe – black. Mao, Pol Pot – East Asian. No ethnic / racial group has a monopoly on murder, genocide, oppression and creating fear.
I will not feel attacked if someone says to me “check your privilege”, though I admit it hasn’t happened yet. I certainly do enjoy privileges of wealth, health and education that many others do not. But it ain’t “white privilege” and it doesn’t immobilise me from speaking out about anything I want. I get belted around for speaking my mind though and that goes with the territory. Your generic statement that “I wasn’t responsible for restricting property ownership, torture, illegal experimentation, and slavery so why are they attacking me?” is bang on but relates more particularly to “white guilt” in my opinion. I first heard about white guilt in 1989. The concept had doubtless been around for a decade before but didn’t find its way to my ears till then. I was at a friends place for dinner, the friend’s wife, who had quit nursing and gone to Uni to study sociology, loudly proclaimed during the meal about our collective white guilt. My reaction was, FFS, what is this person on about. To this day I have searched endlessly for this white guilt but have been unable to find any in my soul. What’s wrong with me? Well nothing actually. I just do not take responsibility for the actions of my colonist ancestors and fellow immigrants, only my own actions. I also don’t see myself as a member of a multi-generational, white colonist / post-colonist identity collective that operates as a moral / ethical unit extending far into the past and presumably the future. Doesn’t mean I don’t acknowledge the historical injustices and atrocities suffered by indigenous peoples or don’t have compassion. The Waikato land grabs, Parihaka and Maungapohatu on the Maori side spring to mind, the Matawhero massacre on the colonist side – these are stains on NZ’s history but they are just that, historical. Being honest and balanced about history is essential but viewing these events through the lens of present day ethics and social norms (“presentism”) and thereby giving them emotional oxygen again, is not only a logical fallacy but also an idiotic and divisive policy for building a more unified nation. Forgiveness and mutual respect would take us in a better direction than going deeper into Grievance Studies and Critical Race Theory.
So, now to your claim about “white people making “white privilege” all about them when it is really about what happened to indigenous peoples and slaves”. Acknowledging the slavery, colonialism, Jim Crow atrocities of the past and ongoing discrimination, does not constitute support for the “white privilege” concept. I have already explained why the concept is flawed and needs to be dumped. The atrocities were real but “white privilege” doesn’t go anywhere near putting them into a correct context. Also, if “white privilege” is not really about white people as you suggest then it should be renamed “black under-privilege” or “POC under-privilege” etc. But of course, it really is about white people. In accordance with neo-Marxist dogma, it is about naming the hated “oppressor” (whites) and focussing resentment thereon. This is a key link between classic Marxism and Critical Race Theory. All human interaction is reduced to power imbalance between the only two classes of people … oppressor and oppressed. This is not only utterly cynical as it makes no allowance for love, common humanity and altruism (not to mention wonder and curiosity) but is totally simplistic and toxic. The individual and family are hugely reduced in status in favour of faceless racial identity collectives such as Blacks, Maori, Hispanics etc. Whites replace the hated bourgoisie and kulaks of classic Marxism. There is no resolution of our remaining societal problems to be gained from such a model based in hate, revenge and ultimately, a ruthless and underhand quest for raw power. Critical Race Theory and Critical Social Justice Theory are aggressively adversial, negative and irrational. Rather than providing answers, they just deepen the problems by setting identity groups against each other. This is happening throughout the west but particularly in the USA now. Some scholars believe they are headed for civil war – it certainly looks that way.
That leads us to the Black Lives Matter movement which is a very different entity compared with the humanist statement that black lives matter (the people). Everyone knows African Americans have had an unbearably difficult 400 years and it is getting better too slowly, but it has nonetheless been improving (see the book Enlightenment Now by Stephen Pinker, acclaimed Professor of Psychology at Harvard). However, the movements Black Lives Matter and Antifa are not actually helping the cause. They have a hard-core of radicals and anarchists whose ultimate goal is to collapse the entire social / political / economic structure of the USA. It certainly needs a major upgrade but destruction, no. And they have no plan on how to put it back together. They are radical utopians without a plan, just a thirst for tearing it all down. The BLM movement is actually a Trojan Horse for Critical Race Theory. Anyone with any moral rectitude whatsoever would be sympathetic to a movement with such a righteous name and I think that is all most of the well-intentioned young supporters actually see – the slogan in the name. But it has a very dark heart underneath.
Thanks for your response! This issue has clearly struck a chord and is something you have researched thoroughly!
I accept that since leaving the Land of the Long White Cloud I have not kept up so much with Maori issues in the nation. I also note that unlike the Indigenous Australians, the Maoris negotiated for white settlement, and have had a very different collective experience with white settlement because of it.
I also don’t recall talking in absolutes, but I may have to check that. I do not think that just because there are Maori kiwis who enjoy monetary privilege, and whites kiwis who are underprivilaged, the concept should be thrown out in its entirety. I am sure rich black people the world over have experienced being looked down on by rich white people in Western countries, no matter how they came by their fortunes. From my time in Egypt, I can say that if I walked into a room, and an African national walked into the room at the same time, we would be viewed and treated very differently. They would assume that I had money and/or was there with some big successful company, and they would assume the African either had no right to be there, or was the hired help. This is not in a Western nation, but the perception bias is very much there.
Regarding ‘diversity quotas’, I think you made an important point when you stated: “I know my position presupposes a genuine meritocracy exists, not one compromised by under-privilege and prejudice. Removing those barriers is where I think efforts must be focussed for lasting change to occur.” A utopian genuine meritocracy would be lovely, but it is, unfortunatly, far from a reality from my observations the world over. Even if you take race or colour out of it, there is systemic bias towards the already wealthy. One can outlaw things like nepotism (which is identifying with and progressing your own at a much more individual level), but can it really be erradicated without intervention?
Your following few points seem to focus on how our ethinicity, and what has transpired in the past, should not affect how we feel about ourselves and our access to opportunities now and in the future. That is, whether we refuse to feel guilty about attrocities committed by our ancestors, or refuse to feel disadvantaged because of attrocities committed against, and opportunities denied to our ancestors. On an individual level, this is clearly the most healthy way to live and ensure you have the best life available to you regardless of which side you are on. Collectively, like in the US and in Australia, when systematic racism and abuses are continually tollerated, it can’t be a surprise when there is a collective uprising.
I have some controversial views on #BlackLivesMatter and an agenda which is totally unrelated to the movement, so I won’t delve too deeply into that rabbit hole here. Something that came out of my most recent post (at the time of writing this comment) is a perception by even some liberal white people in the US, that a lot of the current divisiveness and fanatical support for Donald Trump by mostly white people, is due to the world changing around them in ways they are not comfortable with. Whether it is the racial diversification of the countryside, or the increased visibility of the LGBQTI community across the board, there is resistance to this from a significant minority who do not wish for things to change.
But Western societies are changing and becoming more culturally and ideologically diverse. That train has left the station, and the former majority is fast on it’s way to minority town… Appreciating and accepting the rich tapestry of humanity around us in all of its forms is as healthy to this former majority, as setting aside past bias is to individuals outside of that former majority. Don’t mistake ‘in all of its forms’ as being absolute. There are a number of cultural practices I view as being 100% wrong and not welcome in any society, let alone Western ones, such as female genital mutilation, but that is not what I am talking about here. Sometimes, and right now according to many who support the #BlackLivesMatter movement, the dwindling majority needs a significant wake-up call to ‘help’ everyone move forward. Are they going about this the ‘right’ way? Are there better ways to go about it? Most definitely, but that is a whole other debate!
Claire, Thanks for posting my comments on your blog and for taking the time to respond, particularly as I know you are a busy person trying to earn a crust. It has been an interesting exchange on sensitive, even taboo subjects. I have a lot more to say on issues raised in your last reply but putting any more thoughts out in the public domain may not be the cleverest choice. As we are family, how do you feel about direct email instead. Let me know. You have my email address.
Happy to continue engaging on this privately.
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