Tag Archives: racism

A Brave and Startling Truth

29 May

We, this people, on a small and lonely planet
Traveling through casual space
Past aloof stars, across the way of indifferent suns
To a destination where all signs tell us
It is possible and imperative that we learn
A brave and startling truth

Maya Angelou
And when we come to it
To the day of peacemaking
When we release our fingers
From fists of hostility
And allow the pure air to cool our palms

When we come to it
When the curtain falls on the minstrel show of hate
And faces sooted with scorn are scrubbed clean
When battlefields and coliseum
No longer rake our unique and particular sons and daughters
Up with the bruised and bloody grass
To lie in identical plots in foreign soil

When the rapacious storming of the churches
The screaming racket in the temples have ceased
When the pennants are waving gaily
When the banners of the world tremble
Stoutly in the good, clean breeze

When we come to it
When we let the rifles fall from our shoulders
And children dress their dolls in flags of truce
When land mines of death have been removed
And the aged can walk into evenings of peace
When religious ritual is not perfumed
By the incense of burning flesh
And childhood dreams are not kicked awake
By nightmares of abuse

When we come to it
Then we will confess that not the Pyramids
With their stones set in mysterious perfection
Nor the Gardens of Babylon
Hanging as eternal beauty
In our collective memory
Not the Grand Canyon
Kindled into delicious color
By Western sunsets

Nor the Danube, flowing its blue soul into Europe
Not the sacred peak of Mount Fuji
Stretching to the Rising Sun
Neither Father Amazon nor Mother Mississippi who, without favor,
Nurture all creatures in the depths and on the shores
These are not the only wonders of the world

When we come to it
We, this people, on this minuscule and kithless globe
Who reach daily for the bomb, the blade and the dagger
Yet who petition in the dark for tokens of peace
We, this people on this mote of matter
In whose mouths abide cankerous words
Which challenge our very existence
Yet out of those same mouths
Come songs of such exquisite sweetness
That the heart falters in its labor
And the body is quieted into awe

We, this people, on this small and drifting planet
Whose hands can strike with such abandon
That in a twinkling, life is sapped from the living
Yet those same hands can touch with such healing, irresistible tenderness
That the haughty neck is happy to bow
And the proud back is glad to bend
Out of such chaos, of such contradiction
We learn that we are neither devils nor divines

When we come to it
We, this people, on this wayward, floating body
Created on this earth, of this earth
Have the power to fashion for this earth
A climate where every man and every woman
Can live freely without sanctimonious piety
Without crippling fear

When we come to it
We must confess that we are the possible
We are the miraculous, the true wonder of this world
That is when, and only when
We come to it.

Maya Angelou
1928 – 2014


Happy Australia Day

26 Jan

1st Dog Australia Day

Where Are You From?

30 May

Frequently Asked Questions…

There’s also a really interesting discussion about this on Quora:
Is it racist to ask “where are you from originally?”

Let’s keep the conversation open and curious. And respectful.

Bravery & The Right to Free Listening

17 May

I’ve been staring deep into the crazy whirlpool that is Twitter as this latest debate about racism in Australia raged.

I used to feel really scared when I was growing up about this sort of talk – that if I stood up for someone who was being made fun of for being an “abo” or a “chink” or a “wog”, the people doing the teasing would realise I was different too and turn on me. I laughed along at jokes I found horribly offensive and died inside at my inability to say anything.

Moving from Perth to Melbourne in my early twenties was an absolute eye-opener. Suddenly, I felt people appreciated my difference. All the weird and wonderful foods I’d been taught to cook by my mother were a boon at dinner parties and I met people who wore their ethnicity like a badge of honour. I’ve never been asked where I’m from in Melbourne.

I’m Australian.
Yes, Australians look like this, too.

I was often told in Perth, “maybe you could try for a job at SBS?” when discussing career options. In Melbourne, there was nothing strange about me working on TV. People looked at me strangely if I suggested otherwise.

All of this has come rushing back to me as I watch people fling insults this week. I’m not saying this to trash Perth (although yesterday someone did suggest I should work for SBS) but to show that we all have the potential to change our perspective. I grew up in a lovely place to intelligent, loving parents and was given a great education. I still felt inferior because I wasn’t blonde haired, blue eyed and “Aussie”. I carried that massive chip on my shoulder into the world and jumped down the throat of anyone who even made the hint of a joke about anything potentially racist.

Change your mind

Change your mind

If my yoga practice has taught me anything, it’s that there is nothing to be gained by force or vehemence or vitriol.

The debates I’ve heard this week are saddening, from both sides.

Surely we can realise that just because someone has a different opinion, it doesn’t mean they’re an idiot.

Good conversation starts with good listening

Good conversation starts with good listening

Β Stand by your convictions, but be open to hearing other people’s opinions.Β  Maybe they were exposed to a different set of values growing up, had a different education, have different circumstances now. That doesn’t mean we can’t all learn something from each other. And it also doesn’t mean we have to savage each other because we have different ideas. What if we discussed ideas, shared thoughts and left the personal attacks aside? Can we be compassionate to people who have ideas that rub us the wrong way?

I love Christopher Hitchens’ view on free speech:

“What they say is it’s not just the right of the person who speaks to be heard, it is the right of everyone in the audience to listen, and to hear. And every time you silence someone you make yourself a prisoner of your own action because you deny yourself the right to hear something. In other words, your own right to hear and be exposed is as much involved in all these cases as is the right of the other to voice his or her view.” (Toronto, 2006)

I despise racism, but I don’t have to despise the person who spouts it. It’s an opportunity for me to show them what it felt like for me, and put myself in their shoes. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, even if it’s one I don’t agree with.