Tuesday, June 26, 2007

In which I miss an opportunity to stand up and be counted.

Picture the scene.
We're at my Dad's place for the weekend. Australian Sis (plus Kosovan Husband plus Bitey Devil Child*) are in the country for a week or so as part of their six-week European trip. Other family members drop in and out over the weekend and we're all enjoying catching up. Although I grew up with AS, we've nver really got on. There was a huge much-ado-about-nothing kerfuffle when she emigrated and left the majority of her belongings at my old house expecting me to arrange shipping. Which I didn't, plus I left them all outside so they got rained on as I was pissed off with her dumping her stuff on me, so she was pissed off with me and we've really only just got over it, between us. But, you know, it was a family weekend and we were sort of rubbing along through gritted teeth. As you do.
We're sitting in the living room, the Other Half and me. Australian Sis wanders in with a copy of yesterday's Sun. They're doing some wildlife DVD giveaway or other, and there's an ad on the front page. Plus, there's a little teaser feature about a paternity suit involving a has-been pop star and a third-rate Hollywood actor. All cutting-edge journalism, as per usual.
I thought it was quite appropriate, opines AS, that there's a picture of Mel B next to that picture of a gorilla.
The Other Half and I glance bemusedly at each other. What on earth is she getting at?
You know what I mean, don't you? presses AS. Um, no. Actually we don't. Or at least we hope we don't. Only, she seems pretty good proof that evolution doesn't always get that far, to me.
Christ. Now we're paralysed with horror. I know we should have said something, but I was still half-hoping that we had the wrong end of the stick. Until about an hour later, when she sidled up to me again.
When we were in Kosovo, we had Sky TV, she began. There was a bit about Big Brother and someone getting kicked out for using a racially offensive word. I was just wondering what the word was. Now, to me, there was an unsettling air of eagerness in her question. It was the "N" word, I replied. I think I was expecting her to say how unacceptable she found it, or something. I certainly wasn't expecting what came next.
Oh, she said, slightly disappointed, is that all? Do you know, when I first moved to Australia I thought the word "wog" was totally unacceptable!
It is! I countered.
Oh, no, not really. You see, Kosovan Husband and all his friends call themselves wogs. So it isn' that bad, really. Is it?
Um, yes. I pressed on. I'm really not comfortable with that word at all.
But honestly, Ms E. Powell continued, all the minorities use it about themselves. So I really don't mind it. Not a bit.
I was stunned. My stepsister, somewhere in the intervening years since we knew each other at all, has apparently decided that racist epithets are acceptable for her to use, as long as the person she is directing them at is someone who uses the same words about themselves. Personally, I couldn't agree less. I don't like racism and I don't like racist terms, regardless of who they're coming from.
So I did what any decent person would have done, faced with the same circumstance. I told her again I really wasn't comfortable with the conversation and legged it to the kitchen to help with the drying up.
Oh yeah. I'm really quite the activist. Sweet.
* This is a whole other post. Really.


Blogger Katy Newton chimed in with...

I was going to say that I wasn't sure about the gorilla thing, for the very simple reason that a friend of mine frequently calls me a chimp when I cock something up. But the "wog" thing is a bit different. Yes. Oh dear.

At least she's on the other side of the world most of the time, where they don't know that she's related to you.

26 June, 2007 23:22  
Anonymous Other Half chimed in with...

The phrase "stunned silence" was never more appropriate. You could hear a penny drop such was the silent void that followed said comment about the front page of The Sun !

27 June, 2007 08:40  
Blogger Donna chimed in with...

Sounds like a fab weekend ... I'm looking forward to the details of the bitey thing!!

(and btw - I took yr advice and didn't buy WKDs for the 8-11 yr olds - ta for that! (what was I thinking??))

27 June, 2007 09:46  
Blogger violetforthemoment chimed in with...

Christ alive, surly! That 'argument' that it's OK for people to use certain words about ethnic groups if the groups use them amongst themselves is such a load of bollocks, spouted by idiots who don't understand that the intention behind a word is as important as the word itself. And the notion of 'reclaiming' or 'subverting' a word assumes too much actual sense of history for these morons to get it.

I have three incredibly racist punters at the moment, all convicted of racially motivated offences, and trying to tackle this issue drives me absolutely spare. I just want to shake them. One of them is a sweet-looking old lady who thinks that Africans are sub-humans who belong in zoos with the rest of the gorillas so they can all roll in their won shit together and not bother decent folks, and she frequently says exactly that but vehemently denies she is a racist. And anyway, some black guys mugged her a while ago so that means she's got a point, apparently. I hate my job.

27 June, 2007 11:05  
Blogger violetforthemoment chimed in with...

That's "own shit" by the way, not "won shit". I don't think she sees them running a poker table or something with really yucky prizes.

27 June, 2007 11:07  
Blogger frangelita chimed in with...

This has nothing whatsoever to do with your post. But I noticed you are listening to my favourite band of the moment, Gogol Bordello, who I saw at Glastonbury and were absolutely awesome! Gypsy music all the way, baby.

27 June, 2007 13:29  
Blogger Doris chimed in with...



*blink* again.

27 June, 2007 18:07  
Blogger Doofi chimed in with...

I want more reasons on why you hate your mother, and comments.

27 June, 2007 21:36  
Blogger First Nations chimed in with...

sound an appropriate response to me. after all, what are you going to do there in dad's house, smack her with a wet cat? much as you might want to. you spoke your mind and didn't put up with it. well done!

no idea in the world what 'wog' is or means.

28 June, 2007 05:23  
Anonymous Femme chimed in with...


Two people with from the same family, but so different. What a shame she got the "complete and utter twat" Gene from somewhere. Although it rather highlights how smashing you are in comparision.

28 June, 2007 06:46  
Blogger bobbins chimed in with...

I can totally relate to the whole racist family thing, I have to deal with it this weekend in fact. First time racist stepdad visited us I told him "leave the bigotry on the other side of the doorstep or you'll find yourself out there looking for a B&B". Can't stand idiots like him.

28 June, 2007 11:37  
Anonymous Despina chimed in with...

Oh dear,I am happy for your sake that she lives so far away. Thought you might find this blogpost interesting:


Well done for not rising to her bait, some people's opinions will never change.

28 June, 2007 11:47  
Blogger Geoff chimed in with...

I don't think you'll hear the word "wog" being used in this country much nowadays. Maybe the ex-pat racists took it with them to Australia, Spain, etc. Does she know Alf Garnett was meant to be taking the piss out of racists? He was not a role model. I kind of expect some racism from people who were born before WW2 but I can't accept it from people of my age and younger.

I went very red and angry and ran into the kitchen when a family member who'd just been to Australia said it was better than Britain because there aren't many immigrants there!

I should have belted him with my didgeridoo.

28 June, 2007 13:39  
Blogger khlari chimed in with...

Many members of my close family appear to have mutated into Adolf Hitler as they hit their thirties, and as a consequence I stringently avoid them except for unavoidable weddings, funerals, ritual cousin-scarifices (I wish), and the like.

The one that gets me is when some of my oldest and closest friends start doing it...becoming further right than Mussolini....I CHOSE THEM

28 June, 2007 14:15  
Anonymous wyndham chimed in with...

The former Mrs T's parents were from the Nation Formerly Known As Yugoslavia and indulged in a cheerful, blistering racism which which has made that part of the world such a happy one in the latter part of the 20th century and its football fans some of the most respected. My feeble liberal sensibilities were no match for them and for the duration of their visits I felt like I was living in some bizarre 70s sitcom.

01 July, 2007 20:05  
Blogger Cheezy chimed in with...

I've got a friend from Melbourne who insists that, in Australia, she is a 'wog' (she's part Indian and part Portuguese, but is not particularly dark-skinned), and she also said that the people who aren't wogs are known as 'skips' (short for 'skippies'; they're the totally white people).

These two terms are not considered offensive at all, so she says. In fact, the Greeks and Lebanese particularly, seem to take pride in being part of the 'wog' community.

Fair enough I guess, it's all just words... but still, I told her that it's not a good idea to use that 'w' word in this country.

02 July, 2007 22:53  
Blogger surly girl chimed in with...

well, AS and Kosovan Husband are from Melbourne so that might go some way toward explaining that - am still not comfortable with it tho...

03 July, 2007 18:11  
Blogger surly girl chimed in with...

and she's not getting away with the whole black people as gorillas thing either..!

03 July, 2007 18:12  
Anonymous Damian chimed in with...

Wog has been relatively acceptable in Australia since Nick Giannopoulos's successful stage show and film Wogs out of Work. I don't think he has ever paid for a coffee in Leichhardt or Melbourne since.

Don't go to Australia and say "twat" though. Very offensive - which always surprises Australians when we come over here.

24 July, 2007 17:06  

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