Tag Archives: xenophobia

Reclaim Australia

"Don't mean to awkward everybody out but heaps of non-white people rallying in support of Reclaim Australia."
“Don’t mean to awkward everybody out but heaps of non-white people rallying in support of Reclaim Australia.”

This post recently came up on my Facebook news feed. My equilibrium is deeply unsettled for the following reasons:

  1. That a campaign such as Reclaim Australia exists in the first place. especially given that it is not run by Australian Indigenous communities.
  2. That Reclaim Australia is actually a fancy term for anti-Islam.

Throughout my blog posts, I have mentioned time and time again that xenophobia, intolerance and bigotry are not exclusive to one particular race, religion nationality etc. You don’t have to be white to be racist and intolerant…you simply just have to be racist and intolerant to be racist and intolerant. It’s pretty self-explanatory.

You don’t have to agree with something to be respectful towards it. If you can’t be respectful, then be indifferent, but by no means actively go out of your way to be disrespectful. Is it really too much to ask for?

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“Won’t somebody please think of the children?”

Think-of-the-children

Image: http://memegenerator.net/instance/31914460

Marital rights have finally been granted to same-sex couples in America. It’s about time. While this is awesome news, there are some people out there who try to masquerade their intolerance towards the issue. They masquerade it by saying things like- “I’m all for gay marriage…but I just don’t think that gay couples should have children”. For me this kind of sentence is the same as saying: “ I support gay marriage, but actually not really…I just said that so you don’t think I’m homophobic”. It’s kind of like those people who say “I am not racist, but… [insert something racist here]” It also reminds me of one of my relatives who said “I personally have nothing against homosexuals, I just don’t want them around my children” (Refer to my post titled “Russian homophobia”)

The sorts of things I have been hearing from these “kind-of” supporters of marriage equality, is that we shouldn’t allow same-sex couples to have children, because (1) its not natural or physically possible for them to do so, and (2) their children would have a difficult time being accepted by society. Firstly, lets close down all the IVF clinics…if you can’t have a child naturally, you don’t deserve to have a child at all. Need I say more about point (1)? As for concern (2), instead of changing our outdated, backward social values and perceptions, we should just make everyone assimilate and adhere to them, because that’s the best thing we can possibly do for the children.

Perhaps children of divorced parents are in some way disadvantaged, should we make divorce illegal? Perhaps children of single mums or single dads are disadvantaged, should we make it illegal for single women or single men to raise children? Perhaps children of deceased parents are disadvantaged, should we make it illegal for people to die? The list of rhetorical questions is endless.

Clearly, the underlying issue is the intolerance and xenophobia in our society towards many things that are outside the perceived norm. But, instead of dismantling that intolerance and xenophobia we just come up with some Band-Aid solution. Instead of addressing the issue of WHY children of same-sex couples would be disadvantaged and how we can prevent that from happening, we just won’t let same-sex couples have children and avoid that kind of issue all together. We’ll just cover up our xenophobia and intolerance by “thinking of the children”.

It would be like my husband and I choosing not to have children because our kids might be bullied and disadvantaged for having parents with differing cultures, nationalities and religions. Yeah, our kids might fall outside the scope of what is considered “normal” by society, but we shouldn’t have to forfeit our parenting rights, we should instead challenge the social concept of what “normal” means.

I remember reading a Facebook post about a little boy who wanted to wear pink shoes to preschool. His mum was warned that he would be teased and bullied by other kids. The easy solution is to prevent the child from wearing the pink shoes, but the right solution is to challenge social norms. Instead of adhering to social norms to prevent our children from being bullied, we could just teach our kids not to be bullies. Instead of making everyone “fit in”, we could just dismantle the negative and destructive moulds that society has set up for us to squeeze into.

The real issues at play here here are xenophobia and intolerance. These are the issue that we should be addressing directly. We need to stop creating solutions that pussyfoot around the core of the matter. Precluding same-sex couples from having children will only exacerbate the very xenophobic and intolerant views that need to be eradicated from our society.

So what would it actually mean to “think of the children”? Make the children adhere to social xenophobia and intolerance, or create a society in which xenophobia and intolerance do not exist?

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Although I am new to the blogging world and am completely incompetent at using technology (I only recently learned how to make hyperlinks), I believe that my message of peace and tolerance needs to be heard. To learn a little bit more about my background please read my post titled “A little bit about myself…”. To learn more about why I started this blog, please read my post titled“Introduction…”.

Collective concern, collective responsibility

Image: http://www.dejorden.com/blog/50-amazing-facts-about-earth/

Having experienced xenophobia on my own skin, I have always felt the need to prevent others from it. I always thought it was natural for people who have suffered through whatever it may be to be more compassionate towards others who are suffering in a similar fashion. Perhaps wrongly, I have always been more judgmental of those who have experienced suffering themselves and stood back and did nothing when they saw someone else suffering, than of those who had not personally suffered and did nothing to help someone who was.

When I was 5, I was bullied for being an immigrant. Thereafter, I stood up for other kids who were bullied, not because they were being bullied for the same reason as me, but because I knew how it felt to be bullied and excluded. Preventing any kind of intolerance (even if it the subject matter of the intolerance was different to the one that I had experienced) has always been crystal clear to me, but for others it seems to be as clear as mud.

Some people only feel the need to step-in to prevent intolerance when it on some level, directly or indirectly, affects them. That would be like 5 year-old-me watching another child being bullied because they’re parents got divorced, and choosing not to stand up for that child because they’re not an immigrant and not being bullied for that reason. While it sounds primitive to me as I am writing it, its something that happens all the time, all over the world. Although regrettably I don’t remember all the details, I can recall one particular example that highlights this perfectly:

It was Holocaust Remembrance Day and my Bestie and I decided to go to a commemoration ceremony together. The commemoration consisted of a brief recap of what had happened during the Holocaust and the importance of keeping the memory alive so that history never repeats itself. Closer to the end of the commemoration, a representative of a Jewish youth movement (I can’t remember which one) started to talk about an African community (I don’t remember which one) that was being persecuted somewhere in Africa (I don’t remember where). The speaker’s underlying message was that while it is all well and good to remember atrocities of the past, it is necessary to actively try to prevent atrocities that are occurring right under our noses in the present.

It was a powerful message. A message I had full faith that the people in the room, who were affected by the Holocaust in one way or another, would interpret correctly. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The reality check was brutal. Some woman sitting behind had the audacity to say something along the lines of-

 “This is Holocaust Remembrance Day. What does some African tribe have to do with the Holocaust? What happens to Africans in Africa is Africa’s problem. It’s none of my concern, it’s not my responsibility.”

My Bestie managed to hold me back from punching the ignorant woman in the face, but she couldn’t prevent me from loudly saying: “I’m sure there were some Germans who thought the same about Jews being exterminated in Concentration Camps”.

I don’t care if my comment offended her; she offended all of humanity with hers. Reality check lady, it’s not just Africa’s problem, it’s a global problem that is of our collective concern and our collective responsibility, which makes it YOUR concern and YOUR responsibility.

Grrrr….

~

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

MARTIN NIEMÖLLER

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Although I am new to the blogging world and am completely incompetent at using technology (I only recently learned how to make hyperlinks), I believe that my message of peace and tolerance needs to be heard. To learn a little bit more about my background please read my post titled “A little bit about myself…”. To learn more about why I started this blog, please read my post titled “Introduction…”.

Building Tolerance

Image: http://hilladvisory.com/the-building-blocks-of-an-investigation/

I’m going to start off by sharing a few childhood memories…

When I was three years old, I deeply embarrassed my Mum with the first time I saw an African-American man walking down the streets of Moscow.”My gosh, why is that man’s skin so dark? How long did he not shower for?” – I loudly exclaimed in Russian. The man, who spoke fluent Russian, simply turned around and smiled and watched my mum as she frantically started explaining that not all people are white.

When I was four and a half, my Mum and I migrated to Australia. I had never heard anyone speak any other language but Russian. When we boarded the plane, I was shocked to see “white” people speaking some foreign tongue. I asked my mum if they were aliens. I recall saying “They look like me, they look human, but why are they talking that way?”

When I was around 5 years old, having lived in Australia for a few months,  I told my parents that there was no need for me to learn English, because everyone in Australia could just learn Russian. After one year, having developed fluent English and having become somewhat accustomed to Australia, I told my parents that there was no longer a need for me to speak Russian, as everyone in Australia only speaks English.

When I was about 8, I had to draw a family tree for a school assignment. In my 8 year old mind, I established that my relatives on my Mum’s side of the family (who are Russian Orthodox) all had normal Russian names like Tatiana, Ivan, Nadezhda, Valera etc. However, my Dad’s side (the relatives all being Jewish) had “not normal” names like Joseph, Avraham, Israel, Chana etc.

These memories highlight the inherent differences  that people have in the colour of their skin, in their nationality, in their language and in the origin of their names. Ever so innocently, a little-me decided to point these differences out.

We are not born intolerant. We are born inquisitive. When I was making my mum feel really ashamed for having not explained that people have different skin tones and speak different languages, I don’t think I was being intolerant. When I asked why my Dad’s side of the family had weird non-Russian sounding names, I don’t think I was being intolerant. I was observing overt differences and was probably adapting and widening my paradigm of what I considered to be ‘normal’. Generally speaking, tolerance is quite intuitive and inherent to the psyche of most children, it is intolerance that is learned, and unfortunately taught by elders.

When I started school in Australia, all of the sudden I became to all of the other school children, what that African-American man was to me, when I was three. I didn’t speak a word of English, and I cried a lot. At first the prep kids made a really big effort to try to interact with me. However as the weeks went on, and as I started to develop a few English words, the kids started bullying me. I had the pleasure of being nicknamed a “Communist”, and a “Russian B*tch”- by five year olds.  Where do 5 year olds form such opinions? Only 5 year olds in the Soviet Union could understand the term “Communist” at such a young age anyway…so something doesn’t quite add up.

So…why did those same kids, who made an effort with me at the start have a change of heart a few weeks on? I’m going to go ahead and suggest that it was due to the interference of adults. Xenophobic adults. I’m not going to try to suggest that my parents did a better job of raising me than the parents of the kids that bullied me, but to contrast…as soon as my Mum explained to me that people have different skin tones etc and that it’s normal, three-year-old-me immediately apologised to the African-American fellow. I did not mouth any further political references or rude nicknames.

We don’t need to speak the same language/(s), be born in the same country, have the same skin tone, or have similar sounding names in order to get along. I don’t necessarily think that tolerance needs to be built, however intolerance definitely needs to be dismantled.

~

Although I am new to the blogging world and am completely incompetent at using technology (I only recently learned how to make hyperlinks), I believe that my message of peace and tolerance needs to be heard. To learn a little bit more about my background please read my post titled “A little bit about myself…”. To learn more about why I started this blog, please read my post titled “Introduction…”.