Thank you Stan Grant but why does it take a coloured person to write this?

Royal wedding: Meghan Markle’s race is not a question worth debating

Tight shot of Megan Markle smiling and looking past the camera.

What race is Meghan Markle? The world has seemed obsessed with the question.

The Royal wedding commentary returned to it time and again, as the bride was referred to as “mixed race” or “biracial”.

One British commentator part of ABC’s coverage, even wondered ridiculously about the future children of Meghan and Harry who, in her words, could be “all sorts of colours”.

Race does not exist

Race is a strange subject. It is an utterly discredited notion; scientists know it is nonsense to even speak of race.

We belong to one human family, and advances in the study of DNA show we all draw our heritage from different parts of the globe.

In this way, we are all “mixed” race.

As geneticist David Reich says in his recent book Who We Are and How We Got Here, “the genome revolution — turbo charged by ancient DNA — has revealed that human populations are related to each other in ways that no one expected”.

Reich says “if we trace back our lineages far enough into the past, we reach a point where everyone descends from the same ancestor …” The evidence of human remains tells us that ancestral “Eve” was from Africa.

Yes, the Queen is an African and Harry and Meghan — like the rest of us — are distant cousins.

Meghan Markle was no more “mixed race” than anyone else at her wedding.

Race has us trapped

Scientifically, race is rubbish: yet, it matters. It matters because as a society we have made it matter.

Ideas of “race” have brought out the worst of humanity.

They have inspired — and continue to inspire — genocide, holocaust, war, dispossession, colonisation, imperialism, slavery, lynchings, segregation, mass incarceration.

Personally and individually it ties us in knots.

Meghan Markle’s mother is considered black and her father white.

Until very recently, America’s “one drop” rule — one drop of “black blood” — made the Duchess “too black”.

The American census now allows people to self-identify in ever-more convoluted and exotic abstractions and hyphens.

The golfer Tiger Woods has gone to ludicrous lengths to describe himself, inventing his own category “Cablinasian” to reflect his Caucasian, Black, Indian, Asian roots.

Meghan herself, in an op-ed for Elle magazine, wrote of how she has embraced “the grey area surrounding my self-identification, keeping me with a foot on both sides of the fence”.

Race has us trapped.

It is all but impossible for us to think about ourselves or articulate a sense of identity without referring to race.

More than a check-box

I identify as an Indigenous Australian — there is deep indigenous heritage in my mother’s and father’s families.

Historically, we have been categorised as “Aboriginal” or “Indigenous”, or more colloquially or disparagingly as “blacks”.

That has meant at various times being subject to government policy that has restricted our liberty; has told us where we could live and who we could marry.

Families have been divided on arbitrary rulings of colour.

The Australian Law Reform Commission lists historically more than 60 different definitions of who was considered as Indigenous.

Today, I am asked to tick a box on the census form identifying whether I am Aboriginal. It is an entirely invented category that erases the complexity of my heritage.

I am descended from Wiradjuri and Kamilaroi people but I also have an Irish convict ancestor and my maternal grandmother was European.

How can that census box possibly contain all of me?

See how quickly we become bogged in the swamp of scientifically meaningless racial categorisation: was my grandmother “white”? My grandfather black? Are both of my parents “biracial”?

Genetically, none of us are “pure”. “Whiteness” is often normalised and “blackness” seen as something “other”. These are relationships of power not science.

Can we be truly post-racial?

This was the tantalising possibility raised by the election in 2008 of Barack Obama as America’s president, a man with a white mother and a black Kenyan father.

His election was hailed as the fulfilment of the Martin Luther King Jnr promise of being judged not by colour but character.

The writer Toure challenged the whole idea of “blackness” in his book Who’s Afraid of Post-Blackness?

He said “the point of fighting for freedom is for black folk to define blackness as we see fit”.

As he made clear, there are forty million blacks in America and forty million ways to be black.

Historian and social scientist David Hollinger has called for Americans to “push yet harder against the authority that shape and colour have historically been allowed by society to exert over our culture”.

Hollinger, in his book Post-ethnic America, dismisses the idea of “fixed” identities, he favours making room for new communities that promotes solidarity between people beyond definitions of race or ethnicity.

As he says we “live in an age not of identities but affiliations”.

It is a worthy idea that remains a work in progress.

Obama spoke of a “nation where all things are possible”, yet, as historian Garry Gerstle points out:

“If Obama’s election produced spasms of racial vertigo, the reality for millions of African-Americans who cheered his victory, continued to be contoured by the very forces of racial segregation, police brutality, poverty, unemployment that in some quarters, Obama’s election had suddenly made irrelevant”.

Race matters, even if the evidence tells us it should not.

Shifting our language is not some kumbuya, all-hold-hands fantasy — it is urgent: race exacts a terrible human toll.

Race the new witchcraft

Historian, Barbara Fields and her sister, sociologist Karen Fields, remind us that “race is the principle unit and core concept of racism”.

Racism, they write, is a social practice that “always takes for granted the objective reality of race”.

Race is voodoo; it is no different, they argue, than witchcraft. In their book Racecraft, they point out that:

“Neither witch nor pure race has a material existence. Both are products of thought and of language.”

Witchcraft they say only exists when people “act on the reality of the imagined thing”. It is the action that creates the evidence.

There is nothing in the hue of a person’s skin that creates segregation and suffering; it happens when people act on ideas about that skin colour.

The Fields sisters say we have moved beyond fears of witchcraft, but “racecraft” persists.

They reject the language of race, even terms like “mixed-race” or “post-racialism”, which draw from the same well as racism.

A better way to approach Markle

That’s what all the discussion about Meghan Markle’s “race” was really doing — perpetuating voodoo science and fuelling the same old fears of difference, as if that has not done enough damage to our world already.

How much better to celebrate that wonderful cosmopolitan meeting of cultures, sharing the joy of Harry and Meghan, and reflecting on Bishop Michael Curry’s message of the transforming power of love than the discredited notions of race ands colour.

 

A Double Standard for the Coloureds

As a coloured female in Australia, I am very familiar with the double standard.

One notion that has really impacted on me as an adult trying to engage in commercial activities to improve my quality of life (i.e earning an income) I have come to realise something about Australia. I do wonder if it is uniquely Australian?

My realisation: Non white migrants were not meant to sit on top of the dung pile with Anglo Saxons. Ah-ah, no no.

Why? Because the Restricted Immigration Act 1901 did not want coloured people making any economic gains in Australia that may increase their participation in power making decisions. This was true of Chinese people and the Kanakas in Northern Queensland. Let’s get it plain and straight: Non white people were/are brought into Australia because Anglo Saxon Australians are lazy. Too lazy to come up with economic policy to increase productivity other than to dig minerals out from the ground. So the easiest and quickest way out is to get all those rich non whites into the country to increase the tax base- the truth of this is that migrants are hungry for socioeconomic mobility. They will work hard to ensure they aren’t on the dole queues and that their kids are well educated and professional. They are hungry to provide their kids a life they didn’t have. There was never ever, for one moment in Anglo power thinking an inkling that Australia would be represented by an Aboriginal face , a mixed race face or a non Anglo face. Never. Which is why so many government policies, institutions and media companies made sure that mixed race / coloured people would never advance to take up any position of power and would never come to be an ‘Australian’.

Snapshot to the Brits and whites (read South Africans) from elsewhere- why do they come here? So they can take all the plum top executive jobs in banks, government, media companies etc and have a ‘lifestyle’ – live in affluent leafy suburbs with harbour views, drive expensive cars, kids in private schools and of course the mandatory size 10 blonde wife.  The more ‘charming’ she is, the higher the brownie points.  For a white person Australia is a ‘lifestyle choice’.  The red carpet is rolled out- the more you look like ‘us’ (read Anglo), the more you’ll have economic freedom to rise to the top of the dung pile. The ‘White Entitlement’ from white migrants in other countries to Australia never ceases to astound me, their arrogance and confidence only reaffirmed and supported once they reach Australia.

For most coloured people, Australia is represents a stable government, a sense of freedom (albeit covertly limited) and running away from persecution (religious, ethnic, linguistic etc).  Many coloured migrants have given up status and respect from their home countries to give it a go in Australia and many end up realising Australia is great but will never afford them the same status and respect if they are non white.

Sadly, this is definitely the case for Australian Aboriginals. How much of a slap in the face is that for people who have every right to be here and every right to sovereignty and power but denied this everyday?  There in lies the double standard here in Australia- you’re not white enough you don’t stand a chance and especially if you are an ethnic female or an Aboriginal, the original First People of this country. Why is this truth lost on so many people in Australia?

Like ‘Terra Nullius’ how unbelievably convenient.

Creating the white majority in non-white countries

OK as you’ve guessed from my blogs, I touch on discrimination heavily. It’s because my activities of daily living are heavily punctuated by events of discrimination- shopping, driving, picking kids up from school, working as an allied health professional etc.

It gets tiring doesn’t it to hear your own kind being brandished as racists all the time when you personally feel you are not? But that’s the catch. We’ve moved away from criminalized racism like the KKK in the US at the turn of the century to now more subtle forms of discrimination that still impact on the daily lives of individuals- it’s the nuanced difference of having a good or bad day, of getting that job without sitting through fifty interviews, of general politeness, courtesy and respect from your fellow human. And I agree with many observers that this theme is getting tiring especially with all the anti- discrimination legislation, civil rights movements, progressive and somewhat ‘leftist’ teaching in our schools and universities. I wonder though how much is ‘preaching to the converted’. Brexit still happens, Trump gets voted in and Pauline Hanson sits back on the Senate, so what changes? We keep going around in circles.

Specifically talking about Australia the cynic in me says well done governments of yesterday! You’ve done a beaut job in creating the white majority here. Pat on the back, couldn’t have done better, pity it hasn’t prepared this island to deal with a progressively more connected world and international community…keep saving your lower class, poorly educated albino bethren, keep ensuring ‘they’ will always stay on top of the dung heap of Australian society. No sympathies when socially things really get pear shaped- you have yourselves to blame- but you can always tell the rest of the non white migrants to ‘leave it’ and bring back the Restrictive Migration Act and see how well this cess pool survives- go on, do it. Or just blame multiculturalism- that’s an easy scapegoat as it doesn’t require anyone to grow up. It will be the most popular government election policy – you’ll join the ranks of Trump and Duterte and quite frankly this country deserves a ‘leader’ like that. Appease the bottom white trash – after all they are the people looked after the best here so why change? And be aware of giving this demographic power and freedom of speech because a dangerous leader with low EQ will incite hate and violence as we saw today with the storming of the US Capitol https://www.smh.com.au/world/north-america/us-protests-what-we-know-so-far-about-the-storming-of-the-capitol-20210107-p56sa1.html.  Mental Note: we don’t want to be like North America. In this article, see how much race and racism had a lot to do about White people feeling their entitlement is being usurped: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/08/us/politics/trump-georgia-capitol-racism.html?smid=em

And don’t bleat the white majority line to me either- that was socially engineered from the time Australia was conveniently deemed ‘Terra Nullius’ and yes we’ll have all the legal buffs putting their moot points on that so that Whitey can always come out on top. Please, you’re a white majority because it was constructed that way. Would you like some examples? The 10 pound Poms, Restrictive Immigration Act, taking 1000s of British orphans and children (some without their parents knowledge) and dumping them into Australian childrens’ homes, the continual genocide of Aboriginal people etc. The whites are not indigenous to Australia and their ‘ownership’ is tenuous at best. You really don’t have a strong platform to dictate ‘we will decide who comes to our country’ when you’ve effectively stolen it from another people and continue to side line everyone else here as ever being Australian.  I don’t see a great deal of ‘ethnics’ in leaders, our government, our CEOs and on our TV despite the vast numbers of smart ‘ethnic’ people I grew up with. If you want to talk about proportion of representation then I don’t believe the representation of diversity is proportional at all. Some of us ethnics can hide behind our phenotype better than others (think Mathias Cormman). Again, Tim Soutphommasane speaks about this in his article: https://www.smh.com.au/national/why-being-an-australian-citizen-doesn-t-mean-others-will-believe-you-truly-belong-20190205-p50vus.html

Well done! A really good job for letting the rest of the world know that this island broke off from the UK floated all the way East and South and landed where it is today- because that’s how you’d want history to tell its story to give you legitimate hold and place here.

In the New World countries of North America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, it especially irks me that the hypocrisy is lost on many white people. The entitlement attitude still remains even though the facts of history blatantly show up the disposition of indigenous people from their lands in order for the white colonialists to take power and possession. I understand that we can’t blame modern day white people, often generations away from their invading forebears, but this group doesn’t seem concerned about righting things either in modern times and they are way too proud and arrogant to ever succumb to the humility of guilt. It’s still about maintaining their birth right of privilege and power in countries that are not originally their forebears native grounds. And they happily continue with the  genocide and disposition of indigenous people without question, without inquiry and certainly without legal recourse.

I completely get that if it had not been for the these white forebears, many, many ethnic people in these New World countries would not have the affluent and free lifestyles they are able to enjoy and that includes me although my opportunities compared to a white counterpart need to be gained through an extraordinary amount of effort (read miracle). It is absolutely a show of resilience and persistence that a penal colony could produce an economically thriving first world country like Australia. I’m almost certain the original penal colony got help from the local indigenous communities but we can’t ever let that become another inconvenient truth if it were the case.  

At the end of the day, we’re here in modern Australia and we may not be able to change history but we can change our attitudes and for most people who are sheep-like in their adherence to ideas, this needs to come from the ‘Top’. Too bad the ‘Top’ is still represented by Low EQ white men with low empathy and a penchant for narcissism.  We’ve a while to go yet here in Australia. 

Challenging the Status Quo

It stands to reason that I challenge the status quo here in Australia.

Firstly, I am ethnic and young and I really shouldn’t be living in a mostly white upper middle class suburb. Secondly I drive an expensive European family car (how many times have I had disparaging looks from older Anglo folk!). Thirdly, I work in allied health and I don’t act nor look the part.

However, one particular event in my life stands out of when I really pushed the boundaries. I was twenty something and I was going to become a corporate woman. I had just met my then boyfriend who in years to come would be my husband. He was a young, white successful upstart in the management consulting industry and he put me in touch with the owner of a large recruitment agency. Not everyone had the personal details of this multi-millionaire owner of the only large recruitment firm in Sydney in the 1990s, so when Mr Wealthy received my email, he immediately thought I was referred to him by one of his important networking mates.

He organized for an interview with one of his senior recruiters for a position in their recruitment team. Boy were they disappointed. They knew I was a female but they didn’t expect me to look so young and so ethnic. Needless to say the interview lasted all of 20 minutes. But wait there’s more. I get a phone call a week later asking for me to attend an interview out at their Parramatta office for a potential role in their outsourcing department. Mr Wealthy White Man was going to make sure that I paid for wasting his time.  I was interviewed for one and a half hours by some old codger who talked mostly of his time doing voluntary work in out flung places in the world. On several occasions I got up to go and was told to sit back down if I wanted the job. In the end I did end up just leaving (no I’m not slow -after 1/2 hour talking with this person I realised it was pay back).  My point is that I didn’t look the part, I challenged the status quo and I am an ethnic female who is suppose to have no access to those jobs and I shouldn’t have used a boys network to get an interview. That is how we keep people like me in my place-‘ get to the back of the bus, shut up and sit down. ‘

On the other hand, stupid ambitious white men can be bolstered purely by their gender and race. I take Tony Abbott and George W Bush as examples. Due to family connection and/or the boys club these average intelligent men made it to the top job of their respective countries not on merit alone.  Tony Abbott even scored a Rhodes Scholarship and I wonder about all those bright females who topped the HSC in the past years having a shot at it too. Sexism plays a huge role in Australia so I get a double whammy being racially ‘other’ and being a female.

Taking Julia Baird’s quote I now have a Mantra “Carry yourself with the confidence of a mediocre white man.’ I have to say it’s working.

Advance Australia Fair and a Fair Go

Do you notice how many times the word ‘fair’ is mentioned in ‘Australian’ vernacular, illuminated in the national anthem?

Of course a double entendre is not intended here? The choosing of words and syntax speaks volumes about the writer, the audience and the intended message. My apologies for the Captain Obvious statement, however most people lack awareness on how language can send a sentiment or tone of what is the ‘norm’, acceptable and expected.

Australia was ‘settled’ by the British. Never invaded or occupied. This land was deemed empty;  ‘Terra Nullius’. How convenient!

Advance Australia Fair- fair as in just or fair as in albino like people?  ‘Fair’ in a ‘fair go’ is intended to be an action that is reasonable and just, a layman’s term for due process?

I’m intrigued by this notion of a fair go because I firmly believe the one thing the British were pretty good at was ‘due process and a legal system’. From this, an individual could expect order and rights, so to speak. I’m not a lawyer and I certainly am not intending for legal arguments here; however I wonder from a cultural perspective who the real recipients of a ‘fair go’ are in Australia? Indigenous Australians, a non-white migrant? Does a fair go really exist when you hear (researched fact) that it takes over 100 applications for someone of Indian heritage or a muslim name to land a job interview than a person of Anglo Saxon background?

I’m really conflicted with this one because a fair go raises many contradictions for me here in Australia. From my personal experience I have been both the recipient of a fair go and someone who hasn’t received a fair go. From my experience and observations,  I can see a fair go is given if it doesn’t upset the apple cart. As a non-white person, if you’re not going to threaten anyone or take a resource/opportunity from anyone , you get a fair go. However as soon as you enter the upper echelons of privilege your access to having a fair go seems to diminish and more so if you are a young ethnic female of colour.

I have a friend who is a speech therapist of Asian background. She has often come across rude parents who don’t readily credit her for her skills because they question if her English is good enough, despite English being her native tongue. She may not have such an issue in migrant rich areas of Sydney, however in ‘whiter’ suburbs of the upper middle classes, many parents may take issue with a person of colour instructing their child about their own native tongue.  How dare! She has been the recipient of disrespect from parents and other allied health professionals who deem her phenotype incompatible with being a speech therapist. Is this a fair go?

The Media Making ‘Australians’

I have a number of observations on the continual portrayal of who and what is an Australian in this country and continual media bias. Let me use Nick Kyrgios as an example. Not withstanding bad behaviour should never be condonned, Corinne Grant, a white Australian woman wrote an article about this on Hoopla:

“Nick Kyrgios is un-Australian Apparently Nick Kyrgios is too rude. He swears, throws the odd tantrum, and his clothing is way too loud. Many Australians are tut-tutting about this young man and his potty mouth. How very un-Australian! Acting like a self-entitled dickhead is the preserve of middle-class white men, not young upstarts with Greek-Malaysian heritage and less than lily-white skin. Rage Level: Deep indignation. Whatever happened to tennis stars with names you could pronounce and acceptable skin tones? What about that nice John McEnroe? Or that Lleyton Hewitt? Sure he was a bit arrogant, but that was different. He was white. That lovely Andy Murray dropped the f-bomb quite a few times sitting side of court after losing a game the other night, but he’s Scottish. It’s so cute when a little white-faced ranga goes off tap. It’s rather different when a brown boy with a mohawk thinks he has some sort of right to belong. We decide the tennis champions in this country, and the manner in which they win.”

In fact just in today’s SMH there was a report on the expletive laden barrage of Andy Murray’s girlfriend. But I guess when you’re white and beautiful, it’s more permissible.

The media certainly know who to prop up as our nations faces and who we would rather sideline. The treatment of Michelle Leslie and Shapelle Corby is a another case in point. You could argue that Ms Leslie donning female muslim attire to curry favour with her prosecutors didn’t exactly warm her to Australians but the treatment of her in the media and the response by the Australian public was vastly different from Shappelle Corby. Yes the facts of the two cases did differ however I do know that Michelle’s offense was much less than Shappelle’s and yet on talk back radio the vitriol towards Michelle Leslie was quite astounding and disproportionate to her ‘crime’. Ms Corby on the other hand was deemed ‘one of us’ and therefore worthy of the attention and sympathy from your average Australian. I’m only gathering this from the tone of talk back radio and newspaper comments sections and the fact that Channel 9 thought her ‘Australian’ enough to retell her story in a telemovie.

A few years ago in a baby photo competition by a well known Australian brand, a multiracial couple sent in their photo of a Eurasian baby; part Chinese and part Anglo Australian. The awful amount of name calling and questioning whether that child was truly Australian enough to win an Australian baby competition was really disgusting. That baby was born in Australia and her identity and worth as an Australian should never be questioned nor based on her phenotype. The fact that the general public saw fit to abuse this couple highlights a couple of issues : a) the general lack of manners and respect in Australia towards difference b) the publishing of such commentary by the media and allowing it to take place c) the lack of media advocacy and support for the family. It kind of slaps in the face of a ‘fair go’, a supposed unique Australian value.

There are many examples of how a white face is chosen to be splashed across the front cover of popular women’s magazines (e.g The Australian Women’s Weekly), how a white story is more relevant and important than a person of colour and how indigenous news is treated by mainstream media (read articles by Celeste Liddle).

Even in popular television programs, you’d be hard pressed to find a non-white face. A very good play on the issue of media and it’s whitewashing in Australia is one called ‘Lighten Up’ performed at the Griffith Theatre in Sydney. It challenges the over use of white Australia in film. Even in media outlets like Foxtel, its own productions still cling to a white Australia but they feel good about themselves inserting ‘foreign’ channels for the rest of us. Why can’t a non white Australian face be used in Australian drama? What’s so uncomfortable about that when you walk down the streets of Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane and Darwin and see many non white Australian people?

If we are to accept differing phenotypes as being Australian then we need to have responsible and fair portrayals from our media, and we need the heads of these mainstream media organizations to re-engineer who is an Australian. As challenging as this is for Anglo Australians to let go, putting your head in the sand long enough will only lead to suffocation.