Racism is not an interpersonal phenomenon. It is not simply about something one person said to another; it is more than a slur about skin colour. Racism operates through institutions and policies, that are reinforced in everyday words and actions. Racism is not comprehending that things you say and do – as well as the things you fail to say and do – contribute to the alienation of people of colour. Well-meaning White people contribute towards racism – through their silence. Whether intentional or not, racism has material consequences on the life chances of racial minorities. Below are some examples of racism at work in research contexts. I examine what it means to be an “ally,” and I discuss ways to proactively respond to racial discrimination in the workplace and online.
In February 2017, conservative Australian media began a sustained attack of a young feminist leader, Yassmin Abdel-Magied. That started a racist petition calling for her to be fired from ABC TV, Australia’s public broadcaster, simply for having participated in a TV panel show, Q&A, where she spoke articulately about her feminism as a Muslim-Australian woman (see the clip below). For weeks, the ABC refused to give into these racist demands.
At the same time, three One Nation candidates were running in the Western Australian election making openly racist, homophobic and sexist comments. These candidates had no political expertise, but somehow their bigotry is not offensive enough to warrant endless national debate. Yet the feminism of an educated and successful young feminist draws ire.
In late April, Abdel-Magied was subjected to further public condemnation over a brief social media post expressing her condemnation of war. One month later, a White male editor incited violence towards her employer, the ABC, and Abdel-Magied was caught in media turmoil once again. This is a case study on the deep-seated elements of Islamophobia (fear of Islam) in Australia, and its real life consequences on young women of religious and ethnic minority backgrounds.
black women come in literally every shape, color, and size
and so when a person says they aren’t attracted to black women
it’s not actually about being physically attracted to black women
it’s about an aversion to blackness
and just knowing a person is black is seen as repulsive
regardless of physical attractiveness
Allyship and Intersectionality
Intersectionality is a term describing how gender inequality is impacted by racism and other forms of exclusion, leading to real-world consequences, such as multiple forms of discrimination in the workplace. Intersectionality is a framework for critical thinking; that means we use this as a lens to understand how individual experiences of disadvantage are impacted by social policies, social institutions, and other structural forces.
White women, including those who belong to minority groups, often leave out the race dimension from their use of intersectionality, and do not turn that critical thinking on themselves. For intersectionality to achieve change, all of us must be willing to be self-reflexive about the interconnections and impact of gender, race and other identities.
A White woman colleague responded to my tweets during the Women’s March which were critiquing White feminism. She said White women who see themselves as allies were being put off by women of colour’s critiques of the Women’s March. She said White women were feeling “cut down” because of the “tone” in the discussions by women of colour. She said that allies are just learning and needed patience and education from women of colour if they are to remain engaged on intersectionality.
I’ve previously discussed how tone policing was used before, during and after the Women’s March to undermine women of colour’s contributions and insights.
Women’s rights are limited by exclusionary forms of feminism. The gains of intersectionality can make gender equity a reality. For this to happen, White women need to keep showing up and doing their self-reflection on White privilege and structural inequalities.
Here are my responses to my Twitter conversation, with some editing for continuity.
After the Women’s March weekend, critical reflection and action is needed: how do we end White supremacist patriarchy? After this reflection, we do the work to end it.
The impact and solutions to racism have been publicly discussed by women of colour for many decades. Most recently in America, by Black Lives Matter activists and also by women of colour who critiqued the way they were alienated from Pantsuit Nation and from the Women’s March. The frustration expressed by women of colour is that there have been many opportunities for White women to have gotten involved earlier, and yet White people have pushed back repeatedly.
Allyship can seem tough to “newbies” without the full history of anti-racism issues, but being an ally means embracing the uncomfortable feeling that goes along with re-education about White supremacy.
The way women of colour’s frustration is expressed, especially by those with less power, is not the cause of White women’s discomfort. The discomfort is about confronting the reality about having privilege and how it benefits White women. White privilege includes not being aware of how racism works at the everyday level.
The ability to retreat from anti-racism issues, or to think that rescinding allyship is an option, is another sign of White privilege. People who belong to minority groups can’t retreat or stay unaware of biases and discrimination because inequity is part of everyday life.
There’s no nice or polite way to express justified anger, frustration or distrust in face of multiple oppression. Whatever discomfort an ally feels is nothing compared to the very real consequences of facing sexism on top of racism on top of homophobia and other injustices.
Being an ally is supposed to be hard. That’s why these discussions on intersectionality and being late to support women of colour need critical engagement if the Women’s March is to have continued positive impact.
[Photo: Crowd at the Women’s March Sydney. A White woman holds a sign with an Audre Lorde quote that reads: “I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.” Another sign reads: Girl power vs Trump tower]
Source: The Other Sociologist.
On the 21 of January 2017, I joined up to 10,000 Sydney-siders at the Women’s March, and 2.5 million people globally. I initially had reservations about the March. As I recounted last week, the march started as an idea by a woman activist in Hawaii and it was soon taken over by White women from Pantsuit Nation, a group that has no commitment to anti-racism. Bob Bland, a White woman from Washington, wanted to rectify the direction of the event and soon invited three women of colour to shape the Washington March: Tamika Mallory; Linda Sarsour; and Carmen Perez. The Women’s March Washington had a special focus on intersectionality; addressing how gender inequality is impacted by racism and other forms of discrimination such as homophobia, transphobia, ableism (the discrimination of people with disabilities), and more. The Washington March was the model for the other local and international marches. As more White women became involved in discussions at the national and international levels, this mission was drowned out. Women of colour were made to feel excluded from planning groups whenever the issue of intersectionality was raised.
So when the Sydney March was announced I first felt trepidation. As the final line up of speakers was announced, it became clearer that the Sydney organisers were making the event more consciously supportive of intersectionality. The organisers regularly focused their social media posts on inclusion, thereby reaffirming their commitment to diversity and inclusion. There were some limitations as I’ll discuss later. For example, transgender women seemed to lack representation amongst speakers at the event and best practice for the inclusion of women with disabilities may have been improved.
For me, the big draw card was Aboriginal activist, Jenny Munro, who has dedicated her life to advancing the human rights of Aboriginal people. Her activism and life’s work has a strong focus on Aboriginal sovereignty, children and housing. She leads the Redfern Tent Embassy and is a living legend. She did not disappoint; but I’ll get to that!
The day led to many useful discussions on diversity and how to disrupt patriarchy. I shared highlights of my day on Twitter and I bring these to you in this post as well as additional photos and video I wasn’t able to share on the day. The quotes are not strictly verbatim – treat them more as field notes to flesh out my visual sociology. I will also address the ongoing global conversations about the Women’s Marches and in particular, the critiques about the exclusion of women of colour, transgender women, sex workers and women with disabilities from various overseas events, with a focus on the USA. I’ll draw some qualified lessons on intersectionality from the USA to Australia and I wrap up with a discussion of why intersectionality is important.
This one minute video includes some of the footage I shot at the Sydney Women’s March and draws out the key lessons on intersectionality.
(Click to jump down to the video transcript.)
The tragic and preventable injustices suffered by Indigenous Australian woman Ms Dhu deserves urgent international attention.
Earlier this week, the West Australian Coroner found that the death in custody of 22-year old Indigenous woman Ms Dhu was preventable. She was imprisoned for petty fines that White Australians are not jailed for, let alone ultimately die over. The police abuse, which included denying Ms Dhu medical attention as she lay dying and dragging her body “like a dead kangaroo,” was found to be cruel and unprofessional.
Ms Dhu died of respiratory complications due to infection. Ms Dhu was a victim of domestic violence, and like many Indigenous Australians, did not have adequate access to services and support for this trauma and her ongoing health issues.
Trigger warning on the footage: graphic violence. Footage contains images of a deceased Indigenous person. Continue reading International Day of Solidarity for Indigenous Australian Woman Ms Dhu
This is the story of my blog, and why blogging became a strategy to make sense of my career and my life as an Other – a woman of colour, the “non-academic” sociologist.
I started my blog in September 2011. This inauspicious date is not coincidentally aligned with the 10 year anniversary of the September 2001 attacks in the USA. Back in 2001, I was just beginning my PhD and had been trying to recruit Turkish-Australian women for my dissertation, with little success. I wanted to extend my Honours thesis, which focused on heterosexual Latin American women in Australia. A small aspect of that study had lingered, with respect to otherness: the Latin women, who had experienced much racism, expressed high support for multiculturalism. They had many friends from various backgrounds, and some had boyfriends of diverse origins (though Latin American men were a preference). One group they would not date was Muslim men, and many referenced Turkish men specifically due to negative gender stereotypes surrounding Turkish men in the Western suburbs of Melbourne, where most of the women lived.
Given the Latin women’s experiences of racism by Anglo-Australians, this intrigued me, as it suggested what I came to term as hierarchies of otherness.
Women in Science: Marie Maynard Daly
Words and illustration by Dora Slukova
“Marie Maynard Daly conducted important research projects, which clarified a variety of mechanisms happening in human bodies despite all the problems she had to overcome, whether it was race or gender bias, or her lack of money.”