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.

 

Well you have every right to….

So currently there’s a lot of talk about how offended people are in Australia with ‘white privilege’ and tarring everyone with the same racist brush. The standard comment is ‘I didn’t do what my forebears did so why are you saying I should have guilt?’ ‘ I am not a racist.’

You are completely right. The British people came here, conquered and took over the land from aboriginals who still exist on it today. They built the country following the paradigm of a Western economic, capitalist, patriarchal agenda. And yes, they deserve the spoils of the country and dare I say an entitled, privileged status.  So if you don’t want to share outside your kith and kin, if you don’t want multiculturalism, if you don’t like seeing different people experiencing the same privileges as you,  then please return the White Australia Policy, please bring in economic protectionism so you don’t have to be impacted by a global economy and foreigners, make your cities smaller and more live-able, the air cleaner , the waterways less congested, the price of real estate less. Throw us ‘the others’ out. Tell all the wogs, the chinks, the Muslims, the ‘others’ to go back to their countries of origin. Make it fortress Australia again.

Now how do you think the people and country will go? How prosperous will Australian society and its economy be?  Who do you think then will be the most affected by such actions and policies?  Think Australia.

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. 

To Thyself Be True

At an airport customs line in Sabah last year I was chatting to my daughter. We were about three metres behind an English family. They heard my accent and looked around to try to see who their fellow countrymen were and shot disappointed looks when they saw me. You see I speak with a bit of an upper middle class English accent and that’s because my grandfather was English. But I don’t look English and it pisses them off greatly, especially the Essex Men.  In Australia I’m accused of being ‘Posh’ and sporting a toffee accent (ha?) but that’s how I talk. I’m not trying to be a Mrs Bucket (from Keeping up Appearances).

Apparently I’m suppose to be Turkish, Lebanese and Greek. A Turkish taxi driver in Melbourne thought I was being dishonest when I told him I have zero middle eastern nor Mediterranean blood in me. I might be olive, dark haired and dark eyed and short but I’m not from that part of the world so it’s not that I’m embarrassed about my identity, it’s just NOT my identity. Likewise some Lebanese neighbours cut off niceties when they heard my true ethnic heritage. The hummous and baba ganoush promptly stopped being handed over.

Likewise I get South American and once someone thought I was a Pacific Islander. Wow, I could work in espionage!

Absolutely no-one picks my heritage and that’s fine with me but don’t accuse me of being someone I’m not.

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?