Saturday, February 09, 2013

The Black C***

ABC newsreader Jeremy Fernadez in the company of his two year old daughter was on a bus yesterday and a woman called him black c***. There was some to-ing and fro-ing between them before she resorted to such offensive words. The tale is here.

I've mentioned this before, but a long time ago I did have a best friend. He was Anglo Indian and had attended the poshest English school in Calcutta and spoke as you would expect, with a deep and mellifluous voice and ever so clearly, courtesy diction classes at school.  I worked with him and we, R and myself, became friends with him. Although something happened to end our friendship, we met our Brother Friends through him, also our ex NT politician/policeman friend through him. He was not very dark skinned, just exotic looking. Nevertheless, exotic enough to be called a black c*** by a customer at work. I think I made the right call by pretending to not hear what was said. It would have embarrassed him had I said anything. Down to the last, I know every Indian born workmate I have has been called a black c*** at some point during their career. Some deal with it better than others. I suggest to them that they replace the black with gay, or red haired, or pointy nosed, or fat.

Back to Jeremy. He decided it was his Rosa Parkes moment and made a stand. In my opinion, he made a wrong call. The woman was clearly a vile type who one sadly comes across at times. I saw one just today. She had a beautifully dressed toddler with her, a gorgeous looking kid, but the mother was truly scary. She had drug addict written all over her. The tram I  was on was slightly delayed as she tried to finish her cigarette before getting on the tram. Her hair was so tightly pulled back, it had stretched her face tight.

What do you do when you come across someone as unpleasant as the woman Jeremy encountered, especially if you have your two year old daughter with you? You remove yourself from wherever the unpleasant person is. You get away from them. If they are at back of the bus, you move to front.

Frankly, I am disappointed in Jeremy. This was not a Rosa Parkes moment, the right for a black person to sit anywhere on a bus. It was about protecting your child and avoiding an obnoxious woman who is no doubt at the very bottom of the social scale. If any pity is to be felt, feel for the two children she had with her who will perhaps grow up like her.

I suppose at least Jeremy did one positive thing, he drew attention to the great middle class white Australia of the random racial abuse people with dark skin or even not pure Anglo Saxon looks have to deal with often.

22 comments:

  1. I saw him interviewed and squirmed with embarrassment, and do agree with you about getting the child away from her abuse. Some people are just vile, and there is no point in making a stand because their vileness becomes more pronounced. It was like the creeps that abused the woman a while back for singing a French song on a bus. Ewww!

    The world's full of crappy people and all you can do is distance yourself from them.

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    1. Bliss, there is nothing more than people like her enjoy than a verbal barney. They never use logic and twist words to suit their purpose. By removing yourself from their presence, you send a message to them that their behaviour is not to be tolerated and you don't want to be near them.

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  2. There is another way of looking at this - had he moved away without saying anything, his daughter may have believed the woman was somehow right to abuse her father.

    These kind of vicious racial attacks seem to be on the increase. If people don't say anything, they will only continue. Perhaps onlookers also need to make these people aware their behaviour is not acceptable. Staying silent can make matters worse because silence can be seen by perpetrators as a kind of agreement or acceptance of their actions, which does nothing to stop them.

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    1. Wombat, like many things now, I think it is down to reporting, fast media and social media that we hear about such things. I doubt overt racism has increased, in fact the opposite. It has become very socially unacceptable.

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  3. There are times when the world is just plain depressing - at the bottom of everything draining is a human. Yep, the world is full of crappy people. Incidents like this do not make me ashamed to be Australian - they make me ashamed to be human.

    To be fair to Jeremy, he acknowledged in his article the very point you make yourself. Black, gay, fat, pointy-nosed and other insults are interchangeable. The best weapon a pig can use is anything that might make the victim feel vulnerable.
    The Rosa Parkes comment is also open to interpretation. It might not have been so much about the right to sit in a specific seat on a bus so much as Rosa's explanation that on the day she refused to move it was purely because she had reached a point where she was just plain tired of being treated badly. The last thing she cared about was what the consequences might be. It was an accident of history her decision expressed itself as what we now call a great moment of non-violent non-cooperation.
    It wasn't about the right to sit anywhere on a bus, it was about the right to be black.

    Perhaps if Jeremy had not said anything to the child it would have been a great moment of "you do not exist or matter to me". Pigs can be quite feral when their children's behaviour is questioned.

    It's not so much a matter of not tolerating someone's behaviour as not giving that behaviour any power. At the risk of sounding pie-in-the-sky I would say it's a way of mentally distancing oneself rather than physically.

    How do we choose our battles? We can't fight them all - if we did we would end up with nothing. Is it better to be unemployed than insulted? Better to go hungry than listen to crap at a supermarket? On and on.

    Perhaps Jeremy used Rosa Parkes as an example because race was an issue in his case, but even though I'm white Rosa's example is often a benchmark I use when people give me a hard time. Sometimes I just get tired of being treated like crap so I fight back. Other times I have no fight left in me and resort to flight.

    I've no idea what I would do if I was on the receiving end of the relentless abuse black people have to take - and I've no doubt it is far more frequent, and much more vile than any discrimination I've experienced. I've also no idea what I would do if I had a small child on the receiving end of such crap. How would one deal with it over time? What could one say to a child about the best way to deal with it? There will be times when it's not something you can walk away from.

    But there is nothing you have said I can really take issue with. There are some truly scummy people out there.

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    1. FC, R reminded me of a flight we took from Sydney to Melbourne where a kid about four was kicking the back of my seat. I very pleasantly asked him to stop, in front of his parents. The kicking continued and the second time I was much firmer. I never looked at the parents but R told me stared daggers at us for the rest of the trip. How each person reacts in such situations depends very much on personality.

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  4. Hi Andrew

    I'm afraid I disagree. I'm with the wombat on this. Passivity is much more likely to be taken as compliance. As a recent victim of workplace bullying, I can tell you that silence only emboldens an agressor. As a victim, if you find yourself on your own, you are in big trouble. The white people on the bus should have backed him up.

    I've had some experience in seeing active opposition to racism work in London, where I lived for nearly three decades. The only way to defeat it is to fight back. The fight must be led by the oppressed minority - just as it was by women and gays. Then the general population must support them. I also agree with the wombat that accepting abuse is a bad example to set to one's child.

    We like to think of ourselves as a tolerant people but everywhere there is evidence that this is not the case. We need some genuine soul searching and clear-headed self-criticism to make sure that we don't descend into a nation of bigots by default.

    On a lighter note I have a funny London bus story. There was a shout from the back of a bus I was on after a few minutes of idling at the stop, 'get moving n**ger.' The black driver sprang from his seat immediately and roared down the bus demanding, 'who said that?' 'Me, n**ger,' said the 14-year-old black kid in school uniform. 'That's alright then,' said the driver and resumed his seat. Solidarity.

    xxx

    Pants

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    1. Pants, I don't think Wombat was suggesting passivity. But your work situation is rather different to a half hour bus ride and you may never see the protagonist again. These feral types in our society are just not worth arguing with as they will never see the error of their ways. I do agree it is good if others support the person being abused. I think the London bus driver should not have accepted such disrespect. The last thing we want is for nigger to become socially acceptable just because black people us it among themselves. Although, I suppose it may have its power removed by such use.

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  5. You're right there are plenty of vile people/women in this world. Including the complete random stranger who attacked my gay friend in front of his twin daughters at the Pride March last weekend. He ended up with a bloodied face & the police are reluctant to press charges. I think he did the right thing, NO ONE should get away with such disgusting behaviour, vile person or not.

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    1. Fen, that is awful, and no report of it in our finest gay media that I have seen. I hope he presses the police to charge the person.

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  6. I feel for all the children involved. I agree it is not worth getting into a verbal with these people they can't see straight.

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    1. Diane, I think that is the real point. They can't see straight and don't use logic or have empathy. Yes, god help her kids. They are off to a bad start.

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  7. The great white middle class of Australia is more refined than the racists, but apparently no more caring. Time for a wakeup! People are being verbally attacked for being black, gay, muslim or whatever seems unAustralian at the time. In the 1950s, Italians were Wogs - now Italians are fine but the Vietnamese are awful.

    Blogs can be racist as well, but you can always turn a blog off. What do you do on a tram?

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    1. Quite true Hels, and while they would never behave like that, their private conversations would be revealing and they VOTE.

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  8. Andrew

    I half agree with you.

    When you listen to the interview it is quite a complicated story. What got this woman offside was when JF presumed to speak to her child about that child's conduct. Personally, that's not a risk I would have taken and he should have moved then (ie, before he spoke to the child) if he could - to get away from the objectionable child. That's easy to say from hindsight.

    When you look at it that way, it's just another of those "parents behaving badly when somebody says something about their child misbehaving" stories. Yes, she was racist, but that was just part of her abusiveness.

    I don't think this woman abused JF because of his race, but rather that she used his race as a way to abuse him. Probably it was something similar with your Anglo-Indian friend (I'm guessing that he faced abuse in some public-sector client-service context).

    The half where I don't agree with you is that I wouldn't say I was disappointed with JF for staying put. I bet that there have been many many times where he has just walked away from such a situation. This was one time too many for him. You are thinking of his daughter's experience then, but he was thinking about how many times she might have to walk away humiliated in the future. Of course, his own potential humiliation played a role in this, but that's not all it was about.

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    1. Marcellous, it did sound very much like she looked for his 'weak' point to attack. I understand the verbal abuse went on for fifteen minutes. Regardless of high minded ideals, I just would not subject my child to that.

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  9. So weird, I just can't imagine ever, even if I was really, really mad, calling someone by a demeaning name..it's just too hurtful and totally irrelevant! On the other hand if I do something to annoy myself (like dropping a box of a dozen eggs) I'll call myself every bollocking name under the sun haha!

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    1. Grace, dropping the eggs is only an example, isn't it? You didn't really? Nice to end on a lighter note.

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  10. I did...and then the fighting started haha!

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  11. I agree with you, Andrew. You get a split second during these occasions to decide whether it's worth taking a stand or if your safety (and those of your kids or friends of family) *and* the attitude of the Tool you're facing is worth it. 'Pick your battles' rings pretty true.

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    1. Kath, with family and friend you have to remain nice, but out in public, slightly rephrased, you pick your marks. There was no point battling against that woman. There was something about it on Q & A tonight. I have recorded it.

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