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.