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Shhh, it’s only quiet racism

I’ve been thinking about all these racist taunts on public transport recently, and it reminded me of my old primary school drama teacher. Everyone seemed to know that she loved casting only cute, blonde girls (who were invariably white…c’mon, peroxiding your hair blonde just wasn’t that big when I was 7). Me with my wild, black hair never stood a chance - despite my loud voice and Macualay-Culkin-circa-Home-Alone-esque acting skills - I was often relegated to the chorus line along with all the other non-blonde children, whilst this drama teacher continued to choose her effectively Village-of-the-Damned-looking cast. However there was one occasion that she finally cast me in a lead role – I was to play Pippo the Clown in a carnival themed show. I was so excited. So excited until I realised what the role involved. I was to play Pippo the Clown…the mute clown…and sticking to her casting theme, she made me paint every bit of my brown skin white…you know because Pippo the mute Clown could never have brown skin…yep massive sad face clown [hmm I wonder if that’s technically racist to do a ‘white face’ comedy act where I act as a clown…anyway regardless I was 7 and it was unintended]

With the obvious benefit of hindsight, I realise that this drama teacher despite being educated and seemingly worldly, was still capable of imposing her racist attitudes on a 7 year old. The fact that her target audience was a group of 7 year olds is perhaps indicative that she was also just an idiot – that and the fact that she was also the one who insisted on ‘shadow dancing’ – an act which involved her (note she wasn’t the leanest of people…actually fuck it this woman is a bitch and she was a fucking fat bitch), flailing her arms and legs about to some Madonna song in a manner akin to what can only be described as ‘a graceful elephant’, behind a white sheet which had been backlit with a small light…she did this every lesson until the day she split her pants behind the sheet…oh the humanity, I never thought it possible to see so much flesh desperately trying to escape that one hole in her pants…

Anyway it’s this sort of subtle racism that I know heaps of kids face up to everyday. Yes it’s not that bad, yes they get through it, yes its character building but it should be acknowledged that it’s still shit.

It’s the: “Oh that’s a different name, where are you from?”…”Umm I’m from Melbourne”…”Oh no I meant where are you originally from”….”Umm I was born in country Victoria”…”Oh no I meant where are your parents from”…”Umm they migrated here from London”…”Oh no I meant where were they originally from”…ahhhh why don’t you just ask me why my skin is brown? Or it’s the uncomfortable laughter when someone makes ‘playful fun’ at how long your name is but the whole time inside you’re thinking “are you such a fucking dumb arse that you can’t spell anything longer than 5 letters long, that’s pronounced phonetically?”. It’s a quiet sort of rudeness that is coated in pseudo compliments and jokes, but deep down it wreaks and makes me personally feel uneasy.

If someone decided to give me a button every time I’ve had to have awkward exchanges about my name, then I’d probably have enough buttons to make buttons a globally traded currency. The worst thing is that I don’t even have a good reason for being brown – “I was born with it”…everyone says that. It would be awesome to say “I was produced for a 1980s Cadbury promotion and I’m actually made of milk chocolate” or even better switch it up and say “oh Johnson…that’s an exotic name, where are you originally from? Australia? No, no, hmmm how do I better explain this….how did you negotiate to get your skin colour to be RGB Colour Code: 255, 255, 255? [haha that was my little ‘nerd checker’ joke…you passed gloriously!]

Now obviously the majority of people are well meaning and I shouldn’t be so presumptive to think ill of all people that make such comments. I genuinely am grateful for them being interested in me. But you can feel the difference between genuine interest and those making fun of you. I don’t go into conversations with a pitchfork, waiting to hunt down any potential racism, and most of the time I don’t call people out on it, but perhaps the next time someone asks “where are you from”, if their answer is “Australia”, then it’s time to move on.

As for that drama teacher I’m not really sure what happened to her however I did get a small win over her when she refused to acknowledge that I had my hand up to ask a question, so I did what any self-respecting 8 year old would do… I “accidentally” peed on her precious drama room floor. Needless to say there was a new reason as to why I was never cast in any parts.

About Arani Satgunaseelan (78 Articles)
Corporate nerd. Wannabe blogger.

1 Comment on Shhh, it’s only quiet racism

  1. Do you remember that time she was shadowing dancing and she pulled a move and her pants split?! Gold!

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