A racist perspective

2014-08-11 00:00

IN my gender equality endeavours, I have sought to reach out to men to make them understand feminism and realise archaic discriminatory systems of valuation have the same origin and affect us all.

As much as we sometimes wish it, no man is an island and we need to continue to find ways to meet each other in the middle.

Now, in a post-racist, post-sexist and to a smaller extent, post-hetero-normative society, we do not expect bouts of racism, sexism and the like to occur. Given the time lapse between history and the present, we are expected to know better and yet this is simply not forthcoming. From a feminist perspective, I have sat with men who openly shun the need for feminism and yet when I tell them stories of Arabic fathers burying their daughters alive out of fear that women bring curse and adversity, they are shocked that sexism runs that deep.

The last thing a guy who is so entrenched in privilege needs is another angry, feminist mob down his throat demanding rights that, as far as he can tell, they already have.

That is why I believe feminism is dormant without the support of men and that black consciousness remains ineffective without the surrender of white privilege.

The last thing privileged white people need is another angry, black mob down their throats demanding rights that, as far as they can tell, they already have.

In light of the recent blackface saga at Tuks, an opportunity has been missed on social media to get to the root of the problem. Emotions ran sky high, producing nothing but conflict over something Team A swears is wrong, but simply can’t or won’t explain to Team B. From all the tweets, blogs and Facebook posts I sifted through, not a single person addressed the root of why blackface is fundamentally wrong.

Blackface was a feature of minstrel comedy and music shows in slave-trade United States.

White actors would paint their faces black, speak appropriate “plantation dialect” and in layman’s terms, act like a damn fool. It was during the minstrel sensation that derogatory words like coon became mainstream and common practice.

The racist stereotyping of black people spilt over into cartoons. The devil’s advocate may present one of three cases.

“But black people were slaves, are maids, etc. We are not mocking society, this is simply what it is.”

I agree. There are more black maids than white ones. This is how society really is. Society also caused this statistic because for a long time that was all black women were allowed to do. Perhaps if black women chose housework from an array of other opportunities, they would have no right to be offended. But they didn’t. And many still don’t. And that is why this argument must be dismissed with immediate effect.

 “But Leon Schuster …”

It may surprise you to consider Leon Schuster as a racist. Some have postulated his use of blackface is admissible because he portrays a variety of characters of colour. This is extra racist, because blackface was used to portray Mexicans and native Americans in the same derogatory fashion as the black slave population of the U.S.

To suggest it’s okay if you mock coloured and Indian people too, makes racism qualify only if it is aimed at black people. Do I really need to explain why that’s wrong?

“Fine, so what about ‘white chicks’?”

The Wayans brother’s White Chicks comedy will never be offensive. Let me illustrate once more using sexism. Have you ever been told you run like a girl? How did it make you feel?

Have you ever been told, even as a woman “wow, you’re the man”? You knew that was a compliment.

It’s time those who are privileged by systems of valuation own up and become sensitive to symbols and representations of those who have experienced discrimination. Remember the school of white supremacy dictates white is normative, so the more people of colour emulate whiteness, the better.

I encourage you to have a white friend read this today and, if they learn something, then you, too, would have learnt something. We will never achieve equality if we get caught up in emotions and abandon our reasoning. Let’s do better.

— Voices24.

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