TW: Rape. Today in White people justify racism: two examples of how sexism is used as racist scaremongering.
West Indies cricketer, Chris Gayle, who is Black, was sexist during an interview with an Australian woman journalist, Mel McLaughlin, who is White. Gayle issued a non-apology, saying he was joking. Sexist jokes are not “jokes;” it is sexism. Gayle’s behaviour is unprofessional and profoundly damaging given his prominent position, and also because women everywhere deserve to go to work without men objectifying them, regardless of their job or the stature of the person indulging gender inequity. It’s the second time Gayle has behaved this way to a woman journalist; in his homeland, feminist groups have called out his behaviour. This pattern is toxic. Gayle has been fined $10,000 for his comments. Good! This is an appropriate response; a better response would be to require that he additionally undertake gender equity training.
The Sydney Morning Herald, in their infinite wisdom, decided to publish a racist response from a White man, sports writer Malcolm Knox, which is written as a White man emulating his White view of how Black West Indies people sound like:
“Unlike dem Australians wit their BS about PC, me know where you comin’ from, brethren. Me know you got a good lovin’ heart like all we Jamaican brethren.”
“Satire” does not mean that White people get to be racist to teach Black men a lesson. The fact that this was published in a national paper is yet another daily reminder that racism is both reproduced and celebrated by the media.
To make things worse, other White men are defending this racist diatribe. Francis Awaritefe, former professional soccer player and human rights activist points out the racist logic.
Awaritefe’s argument is subsequently explained away by a White man, who uses the logic of Whiteness to school a Black man on racism. This is known as whitesplaining , as geologist Heide (@lada90) demonstrates below:
Luke Pearson, founder of Indigenous X, points out the false equivalence of racism and sexism(1):
The reporting and public discussion of this incident matters because when Black women are the subjects of sexism (or racism or other injustices), Australian media does not react in the same way.
The response to this media circus is similar to European responses to recent reports that men in Cologne, Germany, sexually harassed women over New Year celebrations.
Paternalistic Sexism & Racism in Cologne
The reports are focusing on the men’s appearance (“Arab/Middle Eastern”) and explicitly on their citizenship status (“migrants” and “refugees”). Politicians are now threatening that sexual harassment will lead to deportations. Women should not be subject to harassment, full stop. But the fact that the media and politicians are running with a racist discourse, tells us that the safety of “women” is not really what’s of concern. Instead, protection of White women are a proxy for protecting White people against The Other.
These two examples are part of a long history of using men of colour as a threat to White women in order to justify racism. White women are treated as a paternalistic resource to be protected, but only from Black men and Others (read: not from White men’s violence, which is “normal”). Women of colour’s experiences of sexism and violence is completely ignored. See the numerous Indigenous Australian women who have died in custody, such as Ms Dhu who died in grave pain as police refused her medical aid, and her limp body was then “carried out like a kangaroo” by police, who literally dragged her outside. Where is the moral outrage from the Australian mainstream media?
Despite the fact that Gayle and those involved with the Cologne attacks should not get away with sexist behaviour, the media’s response is fuelled by racism. Black, migrant and refugee men of colour are seen as a threat, and public responses to these cases are used to justify racist practices.
Rape apologists are having a field day feigning support of “women” over the Gayle’s sexist remarks and the sexist events in Cologne. White men who usually do nothing to support gender equity get to be publicly self-righteous in their racism; and the social order is maintained, with White men up top; White women much, much further below; men of colour near the bottom; and Black women, other women of colour and Indigenous women pushed to the uttermost lowest position.
That is how racism works: by setting up categories where some groups are set up as superior to others based on skin colour and culture. Concern for “women” is proxy for “White women,” and even then, White women are an afterthought. These two examples show us how institutions (the media and politics) maintain racial hierarchies, and how everyday people, in everyday conversation, reproduce these hierarchies.
(1) Image reads: “I have a problem with the idea that sexism coming from a Black man is so much worse because he should know better as he has probably experienced racism, and vice versa for White women to be racist because sexism… not only is it a false equivalency that flies in the face of what we know about racism and sexism but it lets White men off the hook for both as it infers they have no reason to know better.”