No one wants to admit that racism is still a thing
So my Mum used to do this thing that annoyed me more and more each time she did it. When there was someone of Asian descent (even marginal Asian descent) on mainstream television, she used to say “Oh wow, that person looks like they are Asian.”. Note: she didn’t say that they were, she said that they looked like it.
*cue eye roll*
Because of course that is an asian person on the television. We live in the 21st century - there are Asians everywhere - and I’m not saying that in a derogatory One-Nation-Stop-The-Boats way. It’s fact. I went to a high school, where the student population was predominantly asian - university was much the same. In all my professional services offices that I have worked in - again, a lot of Asians. I can barely walk through the Melbourne CBD or densely populated inner suburbs, without coming across a vast number of Asians. So really, Mum - yes, there are bloody Asians on the telly.
Except that she’s right. Dammit. Double dammit.
Seeing an Asian on mainstream media is actually still novel. At least, it is over here on the East coast (I don’t have enough exposure to the West coast to not make assumptions - and clearly my assumptions have been wrong before - see above). My Mum, for once, is well within her right to be surprised by some level of ethnicity on her telly or in her magazine - because it is still uncommon.
The difference now is that we don’t think it is uncommon - because we have “accepted” racial diversity in our streets, in our workplaces, in our restaurants. So OBVIOUSLY we have beaten RACIAL DISCRIMINATION - REJOICE.
We haven’t and I think we run the risk of going complacent on racial discrimination because we think we’ve beaten it by virtue of no public stonings based on skin colour in recent years.
Here’s my context:
There a respectable publication that has gone to print and it has an incredible cast of intelligent, driven, successful and phwoar-factor women on the cover, plus a nod to overcoming discrimination. These are women who inspire the shit out of me and who have worked through the multitudes of other levels of discrimination to achieve the greatness that they have. None of what I am saying takes that away from them or lessens my respect for each individual woman, or even the publication. But for me, the cover is demonstrable of the lack of diversity in our success populace.
In the mix, there was a mixed race woman and a model representing the disabled community, that can I just say was traditionally stunning in every way. There was no figure from the LGBTI community, there was no religious representation and to be honest, even with the aforementioned diverse inclusions, that diversity wasn’t obvious from the outset either. And yet, that image, that casting was the chosen image of success in the 21st century.
And truth me told, this magazine cover isn’t alone. Have a think about this - how much diversity is in:
Your office leadership (not talking entry level or even manager - C level executives)
a Board of Directors for a profit or not-for-profit that you might sitting on
A working industry committee
The mentors that you choose to connect with
Your business group that you meet with monthly
Panel Speakers at a networking event that you attend
The partners in the law or accounting Firm that you engage with
Your favourite television series
And I say all of this from a humble place of fault - because when I look at my own life, in the context of the above scenarios, I have virtually no diversity. I am hypocrisy in a pair of 11cm heels. And that’s not ok either.
So my outrage doesn’t come with an answer. Rather it comes with a plea. Please don’t think that we have disassembled or dismantled discrimination, as if it was flat-packed with a fashionable copper Allen key. Because look around - look up. We haven’t. My mentors and leaders are still not representative of me.
Breaking down racial barriers is still a work in progress. My daughter still doesn’t have a lot of role models in mainstream media that look like her. And I am part of the problem. I have become comfortable with casual discrimination. I’m not being taunted or called names in public places, but I’m also overlooked when defining strength, power and success. Just because society doesn’t mind me serving your food or occupying the adjoining office cubicle, it doesn’t mean that I being heard either. It doesn’t mean that my strength, knowledge and experience is being valued either.
Racism may look a little different these days - a little less jarring perhaps. And so we get comfortable, because hey, it used to be so much worse. But that’s bullshit - because it’s also 2018.