I was going to let this post go. I wasn’t going to do this one. But after I received a tweet last night which read:
“fuck you black cunt. Nigger go pick my cotton whore”
I thought “yeah…maybe I will write about racism and ting.” (Ironically, after I flagged it up to twitter, said tweeter has not only deleted the tweet, but also changed their name. Hacked account or not, I should think comments like that are unacceptable, no?)
A while ago on twitter, I asked people if they found words like “darky” and “honky” offensive. Me? I don’t find them offensive. In fact, I don’t find many words to describe someone’s race or colour offensive. It takes a LOT for me to be offended. Growing up, I was called just about every “offensive” name under the sun. The words were offensive because they were MEANT to be offensive.
Much like that tweet at the top of this post.
I confess I laughed when tweeters said their grannies and granddads used terms such as “jungle bunny”; I laugh because I knew they weren’t being offensive intentionally; much of it comes through ignorance (and generations of what they’ve known and grown up with). Of course, my guess is that none of my friends today would call me a jungle bunny. Would I be offended? I honestly don’t know. Probably not, because I know it would either be ignorance or jest in context.
Should I be offended?
..well that’s a whole other thing. I probably should, if we are to stamp out racism and educate the masses.
I shrug off so much of it now, because it’s almost second nature to me. The ignorance of others, that is. My “favourite” subjection to racial ignorance was while doing classical performances as principal cellist with youth orchestras. Lovely little white ladies would be coming up to me, asking “so, tell me, what’s it like being the only black person in the orchestra?” Or another favourite, whilst pointing to a small huddle of black people sitting at the back of the audience (whom I’d never met in my life), “ahhh that’s so lovely, you have your family here with you. They look just like you!”
Ignorance is an amazing thing.
I couldn’t be offended. Even at 13 years old, I would laugh it off. I had no choice, did I? How was I to explain the extent of that kind of ignorance to someone in the short space of a 20 minute interval (during which, I would much rather go off and practice a hideous solo to be performed in the second half)?
Something else which was flagged up during the twitter discussion is the use of the term half caste. I use it all the time. However, friends and strangers have told me I shouldn’t use the term. The internet says this:
an offensive term for the offspring of parents of different races or cultures.
Doesn’t say why it’s offensive though. (I should stress at this point, I already know the meaning of the term half caste; I was curious to see what other people knew). Many thought the term offensive, but actually didn’t know why they thought it offensive. Amusingly, I don’t find it offensive, because I find it to be very true. Caste is the Latin for “pure”. Half is pretty self explanatory.
Half pure – surely that makes sense? My kiddos are neither pure black, nor pure white? They’re not purely Jamaican, or British, are they? And neither am I for that matter? So how can I take offence? How can I be offended by the truth?
Some tweeters mentioned that they did not like describing black people as “black”, as they saw no need to refer to their race. Soooo…I’m in a room full of white women, all the same age, size, height, wearing exactly the same clothes – hell, they all have dreads like me too. How would you pick me out now? “The one who is from a different country than the other ladies”? (Which might not necessarily be true; genetic skin pigmentation could really screw things up for you…) I’m pretty sure that I am black, and the rest of the women are white. Why would one be uncomfortable to use this as a reference to pick me out from the others?
One would be uncomfortable because that’s what they’ve been taught. My guess is, they wouldn’t actually know why it’s supposedly offensive. It’s not offensive, by the way.
Aside, I tell you what single racially descriptive term I cannot STAND – “coloured”. For the sake of fuck – I am NOT coloured. In fact, with all due respect, white people are more coloured than me.
Embarrassed = pink
Sick = green
Dead = purple/grey
Cold = blue
Hot = red
Frightened = white
Tanned = orange *snort*
And ironically, white people will then go to some fucking extreme lengths to be brown. Almost as dark as me. Black.
I’ll ask you to stop and think about all those colours for a moment. Because what’s really funny, is I’ve only been one colour my whole life. And also? I’m not an “outline” who has been “coloured in”. Geeeeeeeze.
As my kiddos grow up (assuming they make it to their 4th and 5th birthdays, because they’re driving me batshit, bless them), I would hope that when they are subjected to racial slurs (notice “when”, not “if”) they don’t fly off the handle at whomever is speaking to them. I would hope that they are able to address the person in question, highlight their ignorance and flag it for future reference. I also hope that they understand why the person said what they said.
Understanding racial slurs and other such vitriolic behaviour like that in last night’s tweet, is actually the biggest step to lessening racism. Stop being offended and upset (I wasn’t upset last night, but I was cross; there is a difference which is important), open your eyes and see what is happening, and try to understand it. And then when you understand why people are being racist, unintentionally or not, educate them.
Until then, I’m going to take my non-pure Jamaican, part Indian ass out of here, and go feed my non-pure Jamaican/Indian/British kids before I go insane.