I like to think that most of you think I’m “a nice guy” and I’d like to think that I am too.
But I was racist, or at least partially so, yep… me, and not all that long ago either.
I suppose this is what’s known as soul-searching, or having a change of heart. a row with yourself can really help at times, and I’m going to write about how all of it played out.
Firstly, there was racism in my family, and when it’s in the family, it gets passed down to kids, it’s a nonsense which is learned but can be unlearned (in time). And better to do so as it’s self-destructive, ruining friendships and family relationships.
Often people do things which parents did, and grandparents did, because “that’s what you do” and little thought is given to why it began and if we really need to do it anymore, often those who think about these things, realise that they don’t need to continue as things have changed, and stop doing it.
So I thought back.
My Grandparents came from near Ballarat, which is an old gold mining town, and I think that they must’ve seen a lot of different people who had come all the way from overseas to try and make their fortune, especially the Chinese.
There has never been ill will to the Chinese in this family, perhaps because of this early contact.
WWII began, and Mum was a teenager, She met a handsome young Man called Norman, who she fell completely in love with. But Norman went to fight the Japanese, He was fighting in New Guinea when he was captured and put below deck in a Japanese prison ship, which was spotted by the Americans and torpedoed.
It ruined the life my Mother dreamt of, she adored him, and her love never faded.
Yes, she did meet another man, oddly enough, He was called Norman too, He was My Dad.
Mum loved Dad, it was sometimes a bumpy marriage, She loved her first Norman till she died, something Dad was conscious of and perhaps
a little envious of now and then. How do you compete with the dead?
And she hated “The Japs”.
My Uncle had spent time in Changi Prison, He was there till just before the war ended. He remembered the Japanese becoming very quiet one day, and then a British fellow parachuting in and declaring that He was taking over the camp.
Not that log after coming home, My Uncle Ern, developed Parkinson’s Disease… You know, I never knew my Uncle, As I only saw him as an old shaky man who couldn’t speak, While the rest of my family treasured him.
Mum blamed the disease on “The Japs” too, although Parkinson’s Disease probably doesn’t come about from a terrible life experience, but not having researched it, I honestly don’t know why people get it.
Mum, and Dad (who had also fought in WWII) both hated “The Japs”, and passed the hatred down to my older Sister, who was full of hatred for the Japanese too, but, much to Mums dismay, I didn’t feel it myself, but I hadn’t been exposed to things the way they had been.
I hoped Mum had let go of her hate, maybe she had, I’m not sure… but I saw what carrying that hate around, did to her.
Mum had got on well with a lot of people during her life, She knew Finnish people, Italians, Greeks, Yugoslavs, most were kind to her, and so she was kind to them. I remember she often got cakes or vegetables from them, things she had never tried before, and she loved it.
I sometimes think that if Mum had found some Japanese living locally, then perhaps, somehow, conversation would have lead to a change of heart.
But I worry too, You see, Mum was holding onto her hatred as a way of coping with her losses, if that were taken away, would she have found another way to cope? I don’t know.
I have imagined that perhaps, one day, if she had Japanese friends who were good to her, that she would have opened up, and that somehow there would have been healing.
Strangely enough, she was fine with Germans.
Racism caused a family rift, and may have done so again, more recently.
My Mother had gone through a terrible birth, and had her first child, My Sister, Who, as it turned out, was of a darker skin… My Dad was partially Aboriginal, which naturally (in the 50’s) was not something you wanted anyone to hear about… No, Dad had Mediterranean or perhaps Spanish blood in him, that accounted for his colour.
As a result of this, I was never really sure, until a few years back, that I was, therefore, partly Aboriginal myself.
There was a skeleton in the closet, which Mum never spoke of, you see, I discovered that Mum had a Sister, at a later age than I should have, and that she lived locally.
I had asked Mum to explain why we’d never gone to see Ruby, but she remained tight-lipped.
One evening My Sister told me.
Jan, My Sister, Had been bought home from Hospital, and was in her cot. Ruby came to visit and went into the room where Jan was, and declared that she was “a little black mongrel” or some such… and Mum threw her out, never to be seen again.
So the two Sisters were lost to each other, and My Sister and I missed out on an Aunt, for what?
In the 80s, Vietnamese boat people came to Australia, and My parents didn’t like them at all, I didn’t like them much either, suddenly my school and our area seemed to be full of them.
They took over the shopping area, Footscray, a place where My parents and Jan used to spend a lot of time shopping. Mum said that they didn’t like it much when the Greeks and Italians moved in earlier, but they did keep their shops looking lovely, it seemed that they were always cleaning… while the Vietnamese clearly didn’t.
I think this is true, I still think it’s true. I used to go to Footscray myself as a teenager, and it seemed to be in a lot better condition back then, these days it’s run down and smells bad, it’s really not a nice place to be… but then, I’m not the best house keeper either.
One day, A friend of a friend, became a friend of mine, and he was Vietnamese, and of course I liked him. And I always thought very highly of his lovely Mum, who was a former teacher, and a bloody good cook too.
One day, Dad was out delivering, that was his job, and we stopped at a crossing, and dad mumbled “Look at them, bloody heads on ‘em like mice” as some Vietnamese crossed in front of us. What a strange thing to say, I thought. and then said “Dad, James is Vietnamese” and he replied “Yeah But he’s a better class of person” which didn’t seem to make any sense either.
You see, Dad really liked James.
This was the 80s, by the way, and there seemed to be a lot of homophobia too, even though 50% of our music seemed to come from Gay artists, which seemed to be ok, oddly enough.
One day, dad was talking about a local mechanic who had employed a man who was “a poofta”, who Dad had got to know, and he said “He’s a poof… but he’s a good poof” (Yes, you and me both)
It was difficult back then too, because I had feelings which I would have preferred to have opened up about, but couldn’t. There was a wall up, what could I do?
Mum may have threatened to toss me out of the house, which she had done a few times, but I had grown up before I realised that she never would have.
It may have been the late 90’s and refugees were coming by boat from another far off land… We were seated around the table at My Sisters house and the refugees were mentioned, and Jan said something like “I’d heard that now and then the navy sinks the bastards” and she was clearly pleased about that.
I’m not sure how I felt about that, fifty-fifty I think.
One day I was talking to a very good friend of mine and I said something like I agreed with Pauline Hanson when it came to refugees, and he hung up on me, now I could have said “up yours” but I didn’t, I usually never bend for anyone, but I did here, because I wasn’t completely sold on the idea.
We’re still friends.
I’m barely racist at all, it’s a bit strange when it does crop up, and you know, I feel it, I feel like my face turns to stone, it’s awful.
The refugees come again, and for a long time… did you notice it on Twitter? I never mentioned them, because frankly I didn’t care about them, partly because they were unknowns, so what did it matter to me?
Partly because, I mostly concern myself with environmental matters, I do think Humans are a plague on the planet, who are destroying it and everything else, and sadly I am too, though I did decide early on that I’d never produce more… heck, i would have been an awful Dad anyway, I’m not provider material.
And partly because that old racism thing was there in the background.
Then the straw that broke the camels back:
My Niece posted something really ugly on Facebook, You know the horrible right-wing bullshit about people invading the country and taking over our jobs and our land, the kind of thing that if a puff of wind hit it from one side, they’d be Nazis?The kind of thing that ends “and if you don’t re-post this, then you’re not a True Australian”.
I told her that She was wrong, that’s not how things are at all. It was clear to me where her thoughts had originated, Her Mother, and now she was doing it too, but was clearly worse.
I had forgotten about the incident when, about four months later, she did it again.
This time I tore strips off her, I really let her have it, I told her exactly what I thought of her and her posts, she pleased with me to go easy, as we’re family and all that, but it had gone far enough.
I had clearly jangled her nerves, she deleted her facebook account.
The next day my Grand Niece messaged me, “How dare you talk to Mum like that, IT DOESN’T MATTER ANYWAY, NOBODY CARES!”
and I messaged her back “and you can fuck off too”.
And that was it, There has been no communication with either of them since, I don’t really mind as I rarely saw them anyway, they may as well live on Mars to be honest.
As for the bit of racism I had, I think I vomited up the last remaining blob of it, and that was that.
However, you’d have to have a pretty hard heart to look at what’s happening in these detention centers and not see how utterly brutal and sickening it is, and to think we are the country doing it.
This isn’t my Country, where has My Country gone?
Let’s end with a recount of casualties here: Mum and Her Sister, split apart, never to see each other again, My Niece, Grand Niece and I… for what?
Let it go, that’s my advice.
One last thing… Dad pulled up his truck once and he asked me “How can a man love another man anyway, I mean, an ugly, hairy, smelly man?” I thought it was a strange question, I think it hit me from the side, and I was unable to say anything… but later I thought “But don’t Women generally love Men?”