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Back March 21st, 2009 Forward
On the whole "Race" issue.

Okay, sticking my head out of my cave to just comment on the whole damn thing from go to whoa.

First up, let's be clear on this: problems with using skin colour as a measure of relative humanity are endemic to all societies which have a strong Western European cultural background. This means debate about race is not just something which is limited to the USA - it exists in all post-colonial societies, and all parts of the world.

Having said that: the US version is the one which tends to get all the screen time.

Secondly: the debates change depending on where you are. For example, in Australia, we're starting to see a different sort of race debate happening as our population starts to include a socially visible number of African immigrants. These are people who have left the African continent to come to the Australian one, for reasons which can include things like wanting to raise a family outside poverty, or war, or constant threat of the two. Some of them have paler skin. A lot of them have dark skin. We also have a dark-skinned indigenous population, whose treatment by the white invaders has been less than polite. It makes the term "black" a rather interesting one to use here - am I referring to a recent immigrant, or one whose background extends for forty thousand years on this continent? Where do people whose ancestors were from South-East Asia fit into the mixture? There's no doubt they're "othered" within the Australian context, but since the "othering" tends to emphasize what the white population think of as socially desirable characteristics, does this necessarily mean it isn't as bad? There's even the questions about different European ethnicities and how Australian culture views these. All of those are part of the local race debates here in Australia.

Sub-point: there will always be more than one debate occurring on matters of race and ethnicity occurring within any given society; the debates may or may not be interwoven, but they will all be matters of importance to the people affected by them. No one debate is objectively more important than any other.

Thirdly: people tend to view all of the debates depending on their local context. This means when I am talking about issues of race, I will be speaking (with all my white privilege) about things like the Stolen Generation, or the systematic vanishing of darker-skinned people from Australian colonial history (or even the definition of "Australian history" as being that which started approximately two hundred and twenty years ago), or the way our current social systems interact to ensure that people of indigenous Australian heritage are not given as much of a "fair go" as those whose heritage on this continent starts a lot later. I could even be talking about things like the interaction between a tribal society which had reached a delicate balance within the ecosystem they inhabited (and consequently did not value social change), and the impact upon this society of having a patriarchal monarchical society which had evolved within a far more robust ecosystem which allowed greater levels of technological expansion (which therefore did value social change) burst in upon them unannounced; the problems this caused, and what's happening within the Australian indigenous cultures as they try and cope with this kind of shock.

What I probably won't be talking about is US plantation slavery and its after-effects.

I could be tremendously well-educated about the US race debate and still be a phenomenal nitwit about the various debates on race happening here in Australia (which is probably the case) because PoC are all different too. Individuality is something which isn't a white-only thing; not having to see this is a part of our privilege, and it's one we have to get past.

Finally: seeing the entire debate as beginning and ending with the one which occurs in the United States of America is blinding the world to the effects of the multiple wider debates and the greater assumption which underlies them all (namely that skin colour, tribal affiliation, national identity and similar are all appropriate ways of determining relative humanity).

I shall now retreat into my cave again, and await the people who are going to inform me that I am racist. (I shan't deny the charge - I feel it's impossible to grow up in a human cultural context without being racist. We all feel the need to delimit our list of "true human beings" somehow, which is the core of what racism is. My only comment is I am attempting to become aware of my privilege and entrenched attitudes, and work beyond the racism I learned from my culture).

Current Mood: uncomfortable uncomfortable
Back March 21st, 2009 Forward