Saturday, February 16, 2008

The race thing again

This may be a repeat but worth repeating I suppose. I don't want any reader to think of me as any more racist than your average young educated person.

I had a work mate who was Indian. It was not long after he started working at the same place, we discovered that each of us was gay. We both had partners and one of them was one of the brother friends who we are still friends with. We all used to socialize a lot, went to Mardi Gras, Sleaze Ball, dance parties, bars, clubs, picnics, plant nurseries, cafes etc etc. We were pretty close for a long time and after they separated, we remained friends with both and my workmate's various boyfriends along the way.

One day about ten years ago when he was stopping working at the same place and bought a modest house in the country, for reasons we can only speculate on, he told R that he did want us to visit him the country, if fact he did not want to see us again. He did not tell me to my face, just to R for him to repeat. We were shocked and very very hurt. We did not know why and nor could we find out. He also ditched any contact with the brother friends, one being his ex lover. We think we worked out why, but it is only speculation and it took us some time to recover, perhaps a year or more. I became a little bit of a harder person that day.

But that is just background.

One day in my work place, I heard someone call my friend a black c***. I felt like I had been punched in the stomach. He wasn't a black c***. Ok, he wasn't born here, but he is a perfectly respectable Australian and my friend and workmate. I wasn't in a position to intervene or say anything and even if I was, I am not sure that I would have. I pretended I didn't hear and my friend pretended that I did not hear.

I was given to wondering how often has this happened to him? He wasn't particularly dark skinned so I would expect it happened more often with darker skinned workmates. How must it be to go through life being called names like that?

Ok, I have my fair share of being called a poofter, but as I get older, I am clearly a less obvious poofter. In fact I haven't heard it for ages. Now, like many women over 40, I have become invisible. I am not noticed or seen. Back then, I could butch it up and not be seen as a poofter.

But if I was black of skin, I could never cover that up. It would be with me from cradle to grave, unless my name is Michael Jackson.

Racism is still alive and well in Australia, but thankfully it is far less obvious and blatant.

Even Muslims and the dislike so many feel towards them, is not racism. It is dislike of what is done in the name of religion and attitudes.

While it is not inconceivable that people in Australia still get called black c****, I hope and think it is much less common.

Yes, I am bit racist and so are you dear reader. We all are. But I would not like to be thought of as a racist person.

When I was twenty five years in my workplace, I had to give a speech at my presentation. I pretty well ignored management pricks, but I deeply thanked my workmates from perhaps thirty different countries for the world education that they have given me. From the killing fields of Cambodia, to Rhodesian refugees, the war in The Lebanon, the French in Mauritius, Pinnochet's Chile, white Russians in the old Russia to asking a Jewish person what the word Levantine meant. (I did not even know he was Jewish until later but he was an intellectual type and I knew he would know).

I'm afraid I don't connect so well with new people at work. But the ones I have known a long time I treasure and they are from all over the world. I find I am often ignored a bit by new people from foreign climes at work and then something happens and then suddenly they are really friendly towards me.

I expect they speak to one of their countrymen who I have worked with for a long time and they are told that although I am gay, I am ok. I don't mind being thought of as 'ok'.

23 comments:

  1. Andrew.. I hear ya :)
    I have 1000's of Team Members and probably speak to 100's a day,they are from all walks of life.
    I know who I can joke with and yes that counts racist remarks.
    I cannot and will not believe anyone that says they have not/never made a racist remark
    On that note I'm SORRY I voted for Rudd

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  2. I suspect that your sexuality hasn't become 'less visible' as you've grown older, just that the people surrounding you have matured...a bit...perhaps. Hopefully that goes for society as well.

    As for the racism, anybody calling somebody else a 'black c***' or indeed a 'white c***', 'yellow c***', 'pink, purple or green c***' in the workplace in Blighty would be breaking the law.

    I can't help feeling, however, that racism is dying out across society now because we all have a new scapegoat...i.e. Muslims. The idea that 'It is dislike of what is done in the name of religion' can't possibly apply to all Muslims, but it's amazing how often nowadays it is.

    It all comes back to the fact that we ought to be treating everyone as individuals really, regardless of race, creed or colour.

    Apart from the French of course. They're just c***s no matter how you look at it.

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  3. Andrew if a straight person opposes the odd gay thing -for instance, same-sex couples raising kids- but is accepting in most regards, can he be considered gay-friendly?

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  4. Good point, RH. Australia is one of the most racist countries in the world, not least because Howard imbued his policies with it and established an impetus for it (for instance, labeling the Cronulla rioter's concerns as legitimate and not racist) - but also because of our history. We are one of the latest groups of settlers to apologize for indigenous wrongdoings and our view on refugees is disgraceful.

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  5. I'm trying to find out how easy, or uncompromising, gay attitudes are.

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  6. Yep Robyn, I reckon you are correct.

    Breaking the law here too Brian, but you are correct, it is disappearing. And in the fine tradition of Anglo French relations.......

    Gosh Robert. I would have to think about that and it is a non thinking day. I suppose it depends on the reason for not approving of same sex couples raising children.

    I don't believe Australia is the most racist country Reuben. Have you heard the way some English talk?

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  7. What if no reason were given, or known?

    People don't always give reasons.

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  8. One day on a train I sat down on the middle seat of group of three, someone was already at the window seat. Instantly I decided I was a bit cramped so I moved across to the aisle seat for more leg room. It was then that the person at the window spoke up and said, "it's OK I won't bite". I looked up, and he was an African man. I then realised that a few of the people in the surrounding seats were looking at me. I remember feeling quite embarrassed.

    The comment was made in good humour, and I don't think he actually took offence at me moving seats. My action certainly wasn't made because of his skin colour, but I doubt a white or Asian person would make a comment such as this. I still think about this incident frequently when I'm on public transport. It is quite funny looking back at it.

    I guess the point is that everything comes down to intent and perception. You're never going to get both to agree 100% of the time.

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  9. Its actually quite funny Ben. While he was wrong, it makes you think. While I will quickly move away from someone who smells, in your case, I would deliberately stay there in case of what they might think. Bit weird isn't it.

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  10. Robert, do you always have to be such hard work? My personal opinion is that any child brought up in a loving environment is heading in the right direction in life. So many aren't. This is a bit of a cop out I know.

    Btw, do you remember the abattoirs in Chapel Street South Yarra near the Jam Factory?

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  11. Perception is a funny thing; what one person deems racist can be a simple misunderstanding or a deliberate twisting of another's actions and motives.

    A few years ago Serena Williams kept her opponent waiting unnecessarily on court for a lengthy time and when she deigned to finally appear the Aussie crowd booed her for her unsportsman-like behaviour. After they returned to USA her mother held a press conference claiming the Aussies were racist towards her daughter because she couldn't or wouldn't see past her own skin colour.

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  12. I'm a little envious of your multi-cultural work environment: what an excellent opportunity to learn that we are all the same, despite our differences in appearance. Other than the assholes, of course, since we don't want to know anything else about them.

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  13. RH: I would say this on your blog if you had the guts to have one - there is absolutely nothing disadvantageous for a child to be raised by same-sex partners. NOTHING! get a grip man FFS.
    My parents were emphatically heterosexual and never divorced, but my childhood was a fkn nightmare. Go rent '3 Men and a baby' from Bustblocker and watch it twice please.

    A: There was a brickworks where the Como hotel is now, and the abbatoirs near the Henry Jones IXL jam factory would explain why The Imperial Hotel had a shockin reputation as a brawlers bloodhouse in the 1960s when I lived in SY.
    Diagonally opposite the Como was The Newbridge Hotel and I used to have counter lunches there regularly for 7/6 ... in 1966 that turned into 75c

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  15. I don't remember any abbatoirs in that area at all. I do remember Richmond tip, just to the right over Church Street bridge, my old man scavenged there regularly. Most abbatoirs in Melbourne were along the Yarra and Maribyrnong rivers so that blood and guts, hide scrapings etc could be tipped straight into them.
    The State Governor actually had a pipe running straight down to the Yarra that he used to piss in from Government House.
    No wonder those rivers remain sewers today; full of old bones and ancient cow guts.

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  16. Jayne, it is why people are so fearful of talking openly and the case you cite is a classic example.

    Daisy Jo, while I don't like my job overly, it has been very interesting for sure.

    Ann, the Newbridge later became South Yarra Arms?

    I read about the governor's sewerage pipe Robert. At least he had a pipe, most of it flowed down the streets.

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  17. The State Gov's pretty porcelain piddle pot is on display in the City Museum...tide marks and all lol.

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  18. Well that is and added bonus when visiting the Museum Jayne, not.

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  19. Having my own blog Miss O'Dyne would trivialise my talent.
    I don't hide behind a false identity, and have proven my courage in hard situations.

    Robert.

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  20. Robert, I just read your comment on Pants blog. I can't wait to hear what she has to say. I pretty well agree with all you said. But some of us have to function in the real world, like now. We can't function in day to day life with such baggage.

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  21. You can't function in the real world without retaining the baggage, denying it is how people become schizophrenics.

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  22. And I really am sorry Miss O'Dyne because we've been good friends, but all I was doing was trying to find out how tough the barrier is between gay and non-gay people and what their terms are for compromise.
    And Andrew you are an asset to all gay people because no one except the most rabid anti-homo wouldn't have respect for you.

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  23. Dear RH - I missed your remark, and I do regret that, as I find you very entertaining, always.
    I am not 'touchy' at all, whatever you said, but I love a good verbal stoush for the sake of it and have a Black Belt-standard - the permanence of this interblog thingy curbs my full sway.

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Whenever I wish I was young again, I am sobered by memories of algebra.