Opinion

OPINION: What part of racism don’t you understand yet?

WHAT A DOLL: Racism comes in many shapes and sizes, even cute and presumably innocent forms.
WHAT A DOLL: Racism comes in many shapes and sizes, even cute and presumably innocent forms. Margo Harrison

WHO has a golliwog at home? Guess what? It has its roots in racism, an anti-black caricature of people of African descent. But then you probably explained that to your three-year-old when you handed it over during those birthday celebrations.

Or that time you innocently dressed up as Michael Jackson for that party back in the 1990s because you thought he was cool, or tuned in weekly to the Black and White Minstrel show because it was your favourite light entertainment show in the '70s.

At the time, it was no biggie because it was no biggie to white people.

Now it is considered racist, so best we suck that up and move with the times.

The BBC had the sense to get rid of the Minstrels from telly, now we're just left with the odd blackface party faux pas (google Opals ) and references like 'coloureds' to work our way through.

Using ignorance or the passage of time as a way out of explaining your poor taste doesn't cut it these days.

Ask social media. It's a good measuring stick for where we are at with issues of racism and what exactly that entails in a whiteface world.

Personally, and ironically as a white person, I find the easiest way to test whether something is racist is not to ask a white person what they think, but rather see if the people directly affected by a particular brand of racism are insulted or hurt by something you do or say. This includes running it by black people, American Indians, Asian, Hispanic, Middle Eastern, and other non Caucasians if you can locate one.

If they are insulted, stop doing it and maybe do an internet search to see why they find something so offensive and hurtful.

Then try and understand why it is impossible for those same people to be racist back at white people no matter what hypocrisy and reverse racism you may dredge up to throw back in their much pilloried faces. And no, you don't get to say how much time it should take them to 'get over it', particularly when it is ingrained in their culture and not yours.

Of course some things change, others don't (and rightly so), but it's not up to those of us who have never ever experienced genuine racism to make the call on that (that time you weren't allowed to dance in a corroboree doesn't count I'm afraid).

It can be confusing, but once you understand those nuances of feeling absolutely gutted because of the colour of your skin, the better the grasp of racism you will have.

Unfortunately that does include accepting that Enid Blyton and those cute rag dolls, and those jokes that always get a laugh at barbecues are not appropriate, even though that's what you grew up with.

I know it's going to hurt you as much as it hurts them but come on, why not be the bigger, tougher, whiter person and help your fellow non Caucasian man feel more inclusive.

It's a sure fire way of ensuring that sometime in the future the only black faces you should see at a fancy dress party will be real ones mingling with white ones.

Until then, if a black person, for whatever reason, wants to paint their face white, and dress up as Taylor Swift, there's nothing wrong with that, but if a white person wants to paint their face black and go to a party as Kanye West, there is something wrong with that.

If you find yourself confused again, go back to the golliwog and start again.

Topics:  black and white minstrel show, golliwog, michael jackson, racism




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