We’re not there yet. Not even close. There are voices trying to get the message through. And there are still those that show they haven’t been listening.
In less than a week in Australia alone we’ve had Mia Freedman, Red Symons and oh yeah, the Australian Federal Parliament, demonstrate inarguably that they haven’t been paying attention to the discourse on social, racial, cultural and sexual equality that’s been playing out on a national and international scale for YEARS.
Yes, even supposed lefties put their foot it in from time to time. And yes, we all do it. In 2017, however there is really only one explanation for these “faux paus”, and here is it:
“Sorry but I actually wasn’t listening .”
Don’t give me “but my intentions…” or “comments taken out of context”. We’ve seen time and time again public figures demonstrate a lack of understanding and sensitivity, which can only come from not actually LISTENING when a huge and vocal chunk of society say “not cool”.
Countless celebrities like Katy Perry and Kylie Jenner appropriating cultures for the sake of a music video or magazine cover. Figures like Eddy Maguire making inexcusably racist comments (while trying to excuse them) and Andrew Bolt trying to tell marginalised groups what to say when they start getting an audience. Right at the top the USA hired a man to lead them, knowing previously he’d made remarks including: “grab them by the pussy” and “When Mexico sends it people, they’re not sending their best…. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people”… Uh huh…
The internet has been kind of a big deal for a few decades. And with it, comes the almighty power of the share, meaning an otherwise random thought can now become a part of history in a way no other generation has seen. A relative nobody can launch a career on the back of a YouTube video. Ideas are discussed and debated from a range of views on multiple platforms. And once it’s there, it’s there for good. It can’t be erased, and for that reason, it can never be forgotten. Which is why it continues to be so frustrating when public figures think they’re immune to this, or, lack the foresight and empathy to think some comments are still ok.
I’ll share a simple story noting my own ignorance, which came from my white privilege.
Sitting with a friend for a few drinks one night discussing this very issue. He made a good point that even if you don’t find something offensive, but someone else does – does it really affect your life to stop saying it?
Think about the term “Spirit Animal”. Full disclosure: I had no idea it was a reference to (predominantly) First Nations spiritual beliefs, embedded deeply in their cultural history. It has since been appropriated by white culture and with the help of the internet, spread to become part of the modern day meme-centric vernacular. At least, that’s where I thought it came from.
“Beyoncé is my spirit animal!”
Pretty standard to see some version of this sentence somewhere online, which is probably why I associated it as such – plus, you know, ignorance. So when a friend told me otherwise, I was a mixture of emotions: embarrassed, saddened, then resolved not to use it inappropriately again (apart from the above – to demonstrate a point). And that was it. My life is no less for not being able to label someone or something my “spirit animal”. But it makes a real difference to those who are routinely hurt and their culture appropriated so basic white peeps can have their funny memes, “cool” outfits at Coachella and whatever else we use to justify our casual racism.
The point is this – you don’t get to decide what someone is offended by – but if they are, will you really be less off for changing a few habits? Saying a few less offensive things? If you can’t think of any other way to be: expressive, funny, satirical, creative or viral without having to resort to culturally insensitive jibes and jokes, then TRY HARDER. Laziness is not an excuse. Remember, your intentions don’t matter, your response does.