March 28, 2011 § Leave a comment
My experiences in Melbourne over the last few months have underlined for me the absence of considered racial politics and the lack of acknowledgment of privilege by many of my peers in supposedly radical communities. I wrote and performed the following piece for POC the MIC II a few weeks ago, a (personally inspiring) night of spoken word and performance by people of colour.
Dear person of whiteness
Would you like me to share my experiences with you?
If I choose to
Treat you with suspicion;
Deny you the respect you assume you deserve;
Deny you the benefit, of the doubt, of my trust;
Never rank your esteem too highly:
Would this be sharing my experience?
I wish I could.
But it’s only going to be a sip of what I swallow everyday.
You may have tasted similar experiences before
Manners of speech
or other elements we may not have had choice in and that I haven’t imagined here
And my life has taught me empathy that I do offer
But you’ll never share my experience
Being a person of colour isn’t
A tattoo I inked onto on my body
A political patch I sewed onto my clothes
An outrageous outfit I selected
A behaviour that the authorities don’t approve of
A lifestyle my parents frown upon
You may have chosen some of these things
And good for you to try to feel empowered
Express yourself against a system that seeks to oppress us all.
But just because you’ve chosen these ‘struggles’ doesn’t make you
nor a revolutionary.
It doesn’t discount the white privilege you were born into even if you seemingly wish to deny it.
March 21, 2011 § 5 Comments
A usually unacknowledged racism I have experienced not only from strangers, but regularly from friends and lovers is that of being exoticised for my race and skin tone. I quote, paraphrase and relay with barely any poetic license some of these experiences in the following verses.
**profanity and sexual content warning
You’re not racist, you love brown people!
I’m not your erotic exotic
Not coffee, caramel or chocolate
You want to eat me so you can grow
But I’m a wonderland you’ll never know
You do yoga? You’re spiritualistic?
Want to seduce me to sitar music?
Your third eye’s open? And fixed on me?
Now light your incense to incense me!
You love world music and ethnic food?
What a multi-culti attitude!
You can’t be racist, you only fuck Asians!
You don’t even want to be Caucasian!
You’re brown on the inside? ‘Cause you’re full of shit!
A deep tan don’t mean you understand it
You say that I’m lucky to have my skin
But would you trade where white gets you in?
Thanks for noticing we’re not all the same
Asking me where I’m from before you ask my name
I say Oh Melbourne, Sydney, originally Perth
But you push to locate my ethnic worth
You’re always looking to have an edge
You think you’ll find it in my heritage
Oh so curious about minorities
We make such radical accessories
Up high on my shit list
Mac daddy mactivists
Wanna fuck the system but cum on my tits?
You think you’re god’s gift, but I’m an atheist!
Fuck oppression by fucking the oppressed?
Your cultural fetish doesn’t dress to impress
I’m not flattered by your directed obsession
To put me on a pedestal for your condescension
When you don’t even try to sweat it
How will you ever come to get it?
Don’t turn to me to turn you on
Turn on yourself, it’s your white norm
* please note, I have updated this poem as I realised I had used ableist language regarding visual impairment. The poem appears in it’s old version in my zine/chatbooks printed before May 2012 but will be updated in future publications. Apologies to anyone who may have been alienated by my insensitive use of language in print or at readings in the past.
March 10, 2011 § Leave a comment
I’ve changed my mind. I am for the moment, NOT OPEN TO CONVERSATION with friends who express crap racial politics, though this post is directed your way*. I have, for the moment, lost faith that shared humanity can open possibilities for real change. Perhaps in time you can prove otherwise, but you cannot have the benefit of the doubt that you deserve my trust. I have lost a faith that has sustained me in circumstances that I am now finding overwhelming. A faith that I thought was at my core, part of my motivation to create and be hopeful in the world. But perhaps it is faith I had to lose. Perhaps withdrawing from my broader range of friends is what I have to do to sustain myself now. The intent of my last post was to say TALK AMONGST YOURSELVES, not turn to me as a Spokesperson for People of Colour, which it seems from conversations I’ve had, many of my non-people-of-colour friends consider me in their lives. I do not want to hear that being my friend has made you think about racism, that it’s great that I’m being articulate about ‘these things’ and ‘putting myself out there’ which implies to me that if I wasn’t around then you wouldn’t be thinking about ‘these things’ at all. Are people of colour who you perceive to be not ‘putting themselves out there’, irresponsible for not being immediately present in your life to deconstruct your racism for you? I’m a pretty privileged brown person in this world, with personal perspectives and experiences of racism in Australia as well as personal attitudes towards dealing with it. If you perceive me as your go-to representative of people of colour, that’s a misperception I’m not willing, able, or responsible for taking on. If I now decide not to be open to conversation because I’m exhausted, frustrated, alienated and need to self-care does that mean I leave you to your own racist devices? I have to challenge myself not to feel guilty about that even though I believe it’s not any POC’s responsibility to teach you not to be racist. I have to focus my energy on friendships with people I can trust, and if most of those friendships are with people of colour, that’s not a bad thing for me. I’d rather be challenging and enlightening myself (including regarding the ways I may express racism and privilege to other people of colour) than spending energy on helping white people deconstruct their privilege. If you take it personally, you probably need to take it on politically too.
* I am making this blog post to create a safe space to express these thoughts. This might be hard to understand, but I am not creating it as invitation for direct dialogue with me beyond the internet.