No one thinks they're racist, but it's still a conversation we need to have.
Race can be a complicated thing to talk about. No one thinks, or wants to think, they’re racist, especially the LGBTIQ community. If that were true, though, we wouldn’t need to talk about it. But we do – desperately so. No matter how kind a person is, queer or straight, every single person in the world can behave in ways that are racist.
Racial colour-blindness (when someone claims to not see another person’s race) is a super damaging myth. It pretends like we don’t see skin colour in other people, even though race plays a big role in all our lives. Acting like it doesn’t ignores unconscious bias, and it’s unconscious bias that produces discrimination.
"Good intentions" or positively framed exclusions aren’t any better. An example of this might be that your crush tells you they “prefer white people” or they’re “just not into Asians.” Having a racial preference is racist, because it implies that all Asians look alike. Same goes for someone that says they only date Latinx people, because not all people from the same racial category look or act the same.
Society makes it hard to properly talk about race by either ignoring the topic completely or – worse – using it to paint POC negatively and push a political agenda. We don’t have the luxury of ignoring race, however; we don’t get to choose whether we want to be political, because our lives are made to be political. As QTIPOC, we have a responsibility to know how race impacts our lives, so we’re gonna break it down clean and simple.
There are two main components that make up a person’s race. The first is their family or bloodline and the second is their skin colour. The reason these are separate is because some people are adopted or mixed, which means they could look different to one or both of their parents. Your connection to your family is about more than just the features you share. The education you receive, the amount of money you can fall back on in case of emergency and the kind of treatment you receive in society can all be related to race.
Skin colour is a common sign of a person’s race, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. Those of us with darker skin get racially profiled by police or in stores by people who think we’re criminals. Going through society without people immediately knowing you’re a POC is a privilege. The flip side is that having darker skin is one way that POC identify and relate to one another when we’re out and about, which makes being a light skinned POC tough, too.
People may mistake light-coloured skin as white, or say things that question your authenticity, even though you have the bloodline. It’s important to be careful about this, especially when you’re on Aboriginal land. Many First Nations people here have fairer skin, and may not know who their mob is due to the Stolen Generations, which was a brutal time in Australian history where the government took black children away from their parents by force and tried to ‘civilise’ them in Christian mission camps.
When both POC and White people don’t accept you, it can make you feel like you don’t belong in either world. That’s one of the hard parts about being a QTIPOC, but as you get older you learn skills to handle this kind of thing.
So, what can we do when we see racism, or when someone says something crappy to you or your mates? Stand up to discrimination when you see it, especially if you’re white. Use that privilege in the name of your pals! Call crappy language in (or out, depending on the situation), whether it’s a micro-aggression or something really shitty.
No one deserves to be discriminated against, or made to feel less-than or small or insulted as a result of their heritage. It’s amazing to be a person of colour – you have so much culture and history informing who you are! Never forget that, or how wonderful you are.
This article was first published in the OMG I'm QTIPOC! resource, now available to purchase online.
OMG I'm QTIPOC was co-created with Drummond St, and The Drum.