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#1 of 23 Old 08-05-2009, 10:03 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I'm still in shock about something that happened yesterday. I was out with a (caucasian) friend and her (african/caucasian) daughter, whose hair is in beautiful dreadlocks about halfway down her back. A stranger came up to us and actually said to her "Those dreads are in great shape -- especially for having a white mother." (!!!)

Ugg. My friend is from Australia and currently lives in Ireland, so she's definitely no used to having to contend with Americans' peculiar views of race. She was completely taken aback, and I had no idea what to say. Sigh.
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#2 of 23 Old 08-05-2009, 11:02 AM
 
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The person who said it probably thought they were giving you a compliment. Sadly, that's not the rudest thing you'll ever hear. I actually would not have been phased by that at all.

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#3 of 23 Old 08-05-2009, 11:03 AM
 
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I agree... I think that was a genuine compliment, even if it didn't necessarily come out as well as it could have.

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#4 of 23 Old 08-05-2009, 01:19 PM
 
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I agree that the comment itself was distasteful - but I've lived in Australia for a few years, and I am sure your Australian friend has met up with some pretty frank views on race. I was initially astonished at the way race/culture was injected into chit-chat at social gatherings and some of the views that were openly expressed - they just wouldn't be stated in the circles I socialized in Canada. It occurs in North America and Europe too - but Australia is not immune, and I'd be really surprised if your friend finds it's worse elsewhere.
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#5 of 23 Old 08-05-2009, 04:23 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Ms. Apricot -- That's interesting. My friend insists that there's no racism aimed at people of African descent in Australia. When she admits that there is racism there, she says that it's completely different than in the US. I've never been to Australia so I don't know.

Also, she's only visited Australia for short stays (at most 6 weeks at a time) since she married an African-American man and had her daughter. I wonder if her opinion would be different if she were actually raising her biracial child there.
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#6 of 23 Old 08-06-2009, 08:28 AM
 
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I think it depends on in the intention here...it could be that this particular person always wanted dreads, but couldn't dread her hair cause SHE had a white mother and inherited her white mother's white hair gene or somesuch. It probably had to do much MUCH more with HER issues related to this subject than just some random comment passing by. I probably would have explored it further by saying something like "why would you mention that?" or "well, plenty of people with a white mother AND father dread their hair just fine" or something else...

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#7 of 23 Old 08-06-2009, 10:36 AM
 
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I think there is a couple of things going on.

1. Your friend's white privelage. She doesn't see the racism in her own country because it doesn't effect her. Try being an Aboringial Australia. History dictates different attitudes. Africian slavery does play a part in how racism plays out in the US. But other countries history means different interactions.

2. The failue in trying to use prejudist plus power equals racism. You can only be racist if your white. That fails to correct many global racial issues. Yes, it does play a part, esspecially in institutional racism but face to face racism it doesn't. It doesn't address the issue your friend situation, or an Indian being treated racistly by a Africian person (or vice versa in different parts of the world), or the Asian verse non Asian, or Black/Latino (maybe Mexican would be a better word choice). Until we address the more complicated racism wholelistic not as just white on black we are not going to get past out issues. Building pride and respect into every body's uniqueness.

E.G. Since we are on hair. My Africian American neighbors had the "bad" hair issues going on. Then with our kids playing they realized white nor Asian hair isn't always better. They thought it was easier to do with prettier styles. Then they tried to braid my girls hair and niece. They could not get them to stay in for my girls. My niece (Japanese) stayed in. Even though they envied her straight blonde hair they no longer look at it as "good" hair to be enveious. They got to look into their own misconception and prejudgist and change their own thoughts. My girls and neice got to take pride and understood more about Africian hair the advantages and disadvantages. All got to see bueaty in each own ethnic identity and to to envy one others. Things like this will slowly abolish rasicm when there isn't enving or fear.

Appling rules laterly instead of just one way helps deminish preconceptions and attitudes. In this situation she would never say for a black woman you did a good job why would it ever be ok to say Asian, White, Latino, ET. Adding the qualifier of race only causes more racism.

***********I know Latino is a catch all phrase that describe ethnicity not necessary race. I want to include all the divisions and did not know a better word/s to use (open to better wordage there). But It is an issue/divide that I see daily that locally is as bad as white on black racism.
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#8 of 23 Old 08-06-2009, 12:59 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Katie Bugs Mama View Post
Ms. Apricot -- That's interesting. My friend insists that there's no racism aimed at people of African descent in Australia. When she admits that there is racism there, she says that it's completely different than in the US. I've never been to Australia so I don't know.

Also, she's only visited Australia for short stays (at most 6 weeks at a time) since she married an African-American man and had her daughter. I wonder if her opinion would be different if she were actually raising her biracial child there.
Hmmm....well, I'm not African descent, so perhaps I can't really comment on attitudes toward one particular group. I'd be pretty surprised if they have some exemption though.

The official White Australia policy that restricted immigration to the preferred European settlers was only abandoned in the 1970's (it was targeted at Asian immigrants, but I'm sure Africans were included) - right about the time the government stopped kidnapping aboriginal children and "re-educating" them into white culture - some say this was part of a policy aimed at eliminating aboriginal culture completely. More recently, Muslims and Middle Eastern people have been the targets of racism - e.g. the Cronulla race riots of 2005 in Sydney were an anti-Lebanese event (still lots of derogatory comments about the "lebos") and last year in Camden (a Sydney suburb), the council refused to allow a Muslim school on specious grounds (supported by a lot of anti-Muslim protest rallies), but shortly after approved a Catholic school. The Chinese government has expressed it's concerns about the safety of it's citizens in Australia - Chinese international students are a lucrative source of income for Australian schools, but there are questions about whether they are targets of crime in Australia, and how much concern the Austrailian authorities have for investigating those crimes.

Please understand - I know there are race problems everywhere including my home country of Canada - which has an equally long list of race-related incidents. I love Australia and I find Australians to be warm, friendly, wonderful people, but there is a thick, ugly current of racism that will not go away by pretending it doesn't exist or being wilfully blind to it. In some ways I find the racism here much more overt than in North America - people are quite comfortable saying things that they just couldn't get away with in North America, and use terms, e.g. "lebos", without pause. I was astonished the first time I walked into a market and found "Jap pumpkins" for sale - and even more so when I read that term in cookbooks written by a celebrity chef and published by a leading company.
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#9 of 23 Old 08-06-2009, 04:14 PM
 
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I think it was intended as a compliment. African hair IS different than caucasian har in most cases and whereas parents who have similar hair to their children know how to take care of that hair, not all caucasians even know that they have to do something different in order to meet their kid's needs. Kudos to your friend for taking such good care of her daughter's hair. A have a few caucasian friends who have adopted African-American children and the adoption community actually offered a class for the parents about caring for African-American hair and skin.
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#10 of 23 Old 08-06-2009, 04:40 PM
 
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I have straight hair and one child with straight, and another with very very fuzzy hair. Never before did I ever had to tend curly/fuzzy hair before I had a child with such hair and I've had to learn to tend different hair.
But to assume that a white mother wouldn't know how to tend different hair? I've met white people with ALL types of hair and we, as mothers, figure out new territory (in every regard) all the time.
I think it was meant as a compliment but I think it was an ignorant comment.
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#11 of 23 Old 08-06-2009, 05:19 PM
 
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What I find amusing about the comment is that dreading was also part of several European cultures at various times in history.
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#12 of 23 Old 08-06-2009, 06:32 PM
 
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I'm trying to imagine if the comment had been directed to a mother other than a caucasion for perspective:
"Wow! Your child's straight hair is kept so tidy considering you are (fill in the blank)."
Ugh.
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#13 of 23 Old 08-07-2009, 08:19 AM
 
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As an Australian I will say it is very different here. The least likely target of any racism here would be someone of African descent. Nowhere in the world is immune to racism because unfortunately there are racists everywhere. However I cant walk down the street where I live without seeing a biracial couple or family. Nobody would even blink seeing a black and white couple- let alone face adversity over it. Australia is not a white country with just a few immigrants of other nationalities, Australia IS its immigrants. It is one big mixing pot of every other culture in the world. That is being Australian. I am as likely to face racism (as a caucasian person) when I go out in public as a black person is. Although both are unlikely- you would have to be seriously hanging around with the wrong crowds in dodgy areas.

However I will say that Australians in general are more laid back and casual in their approach to life in general. So if someone here were to make a comment about a child's race it would likely sound blunt to someone not Australian. We tend to tell it like it is, so a compliment may sound rude, when really the person saying it was truly just stating something they thought. If that makes sense. Anyway just wanted to give my opinion as an Aussie.
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#14 of 23 Old 08-07-2009, 10:23 AM
 
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Originally Posted by Katie Bugs Mama View Post
Ms. Apricot -- That's interesting. My friend insists that there's no racism aimed at people of African descent in Australia.
WOW. Really? That is the exact opposite of my DH's experience. Before we got married, he dated an AUstralian woman and she would even make racist comments to him while in a relationship

The thing is, any culture is bound to have their ignorant views, and people who have taken land from natives and have persecuted them for hundereds of years are bound to have their bad seeds of ignorance. Comes with the territory, IMO.

The other day, a perfectly well-meaning man came up to me (my DH wasn't around that day), and after chit-chatting about being a parent, looked at my DS (who is half-African) and said in a concerned voice, "His skin is SO DARK!". I said, "Yes, thank you." and carried him away. I agree, that is NOT the rudest comment you'll ever hear. Nor is it the rudest comment your friend has heard, trust me!

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#15 of 23 Old 08-09-2009, 12:54 AM
 
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My cousin lives in Sydney and has lived there since she was a child. She's the child of Asian immigrants. At the private school she attended in Sydney she used to be called racially derogatory terms by a few of the other children. It was something she experienced more than just a few times. I think things got better for her as she got older but she had a rough time of it as an immigrant child.

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#16 of 23 Old 08-09-2009, 01:31 AM
 
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Originally Posted by imagine21 View Post
I think it was intended as a compliment. African hair IS different than caucasian har in most cases and whereas parents who have similar hair to their children know how to take care of that hair, not all caucasians even know that they have to do something different in order to meet their kid's needs. Kudos to your friend for taking such good care of her daughter's hair. A have a few caucasian friends who have adopted African-American children and the adoption community actually offered a class for the parents about caring for African-American hair and skin.
I agree, I think it was a compliment. My basis for this is because I used to associate with a lady who had a bi-racial daughter. The girls father came for one of his infrequent visits (first in 4 yrs) and immediately took the mother and child to a salon where the mother was shown how to care for her dd's hair (the dd was around 8 by this time). My friend had no clue she needed to do anything differently than she did for her own caucasion hair. It had simply never occurred to her and she had just figured that was the way her dd's hair was. Some people just don't know or don't make an effort to realize the differences, and pointing out that a caucasion had made the effort was probably intended as an awkwardly phrased compliment.
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#17 of 23 Old 08-09-2009, 08:04 PM
 
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I am as likely to face racism (as a caucasian person) when I go out in public as a black person is. Although both are unlikely- you would have to be seriously hanging around with the wrong crowds in dodgy areas.
LOL - But aren't the people who are racist toward you Australian - just not white Australians. It still isn't acceptable. So I stand by what I said - I have encountered more overt racism in Australia than I expected, given it's multi-cultural society. I don't think Australians can fairly point a finger at Americans and say that it's different there, which is something I read between the lines of the OP. BTW, I haven't been in too many dodgy areas of Sydney - most of my time in Australia is spent on the leafy North Shore in pretty high income neighbourhoods.


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However I will say that Australians in general are more laid back and casual in their approach to life in general. So if someone here were to make a comment about a child's race it would likely sound blunt to someone not Australian. We tend to tell it like it is, so a compliment may sound rude, when really the person saying it was truly just stating something they thought. If that makes sense.
Then why would the OP's friend, an Australian, be taken aback at the comment - wasn't it likely the person was truly just saying what they thought - and the Australian mom should be used to blunt speech.

She was taken aback though - probably because it's harder to listen to blunt talk than it is to be the blunt speaker. I wouldn't call racism and racist language an endearing cultural quirk of speech. If Australians really welcome blunt speech, they will welcome some honest dialogue about attitudes to race in their country. It's a wonderful multi-cultural nation, and there is a lot of work being done to improve this aspect - February 13, 2008 was a remarkable day. I'm looking forward to seeing some more improvements in future.
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#18 of 23 Old 08-18-2009, 12:36 PM
 
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I really wish people would be more sensitive with their words. It's funny we hear the rudest comments from strangers.
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#19 of 23 Old 08-18-2009, 07:28 PM
 
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isn't "rudeness" a notion that is partly cultural ?
the comment reported by the OP didn't feel rude to me ...

& rude comments are not limited to race ....

was I over sensitive when I got upset in these situations ?
- when my own cousin, the same age (37) asked me bluntly if I wasn't to old to be pregnant ? (just because she choose to have her 2 kids earlier in her life so to her that's what is "normal" ....)
PP, it's not always strangers who are rude ....
- 6 years later I got a 3rd child (this time she didn't dare to say anything,we were living far away anyway) ... but now she lives close and she wouldn't mind having company for going swimming on Saturday afternoons so here's another one of her comments that I found really really rude .... "It's a pity you have your children ...." (yes, mine are not adolescents like hers, who can take care of themselves + .... it's not like she would have any idea to suggest keeping an eye on them in the kiddy pool so that I could swim for 15 minutes ...)

being in an intercultural marriage I'm always interested on the subject of rudeness/polite behavior/cultural differences etc ... any one has a good book to suggest or a website about that type of issues ????
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#20 of 23 Old 08-18-2009, 07:46 PM
 
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i will have to saw as a dreadlocked white lady i would have taken it as a compliment. i may have even said it myself. white hair is difficult to get into tight dreads. i think we are going to need a pic

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#21 of 23 Old 08-18-2009, 11:00 PM
 
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i am not defending the dread comment. but as an australian i do just have to say that i think we tend to say things how they are, quite bluntly. i have heard of many instances of americans misinterpreting things because of this.
i don't live in australia now but whenever we visit we never get comments/looks as an interacial family.
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#22 of 23 Old 08-22-2009, 04:08 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Ms Apricot View Post
I agree that the comment itself was distasteful - but I've lived in Australia for a few years, and I am sure your Australian friend has met up with some pretty frank views on race. I was initially astonished at the way race/culture was injected into chit-chat at social gatherings and some of the views that were openly expressed - they just wouldn't be stated in the circles I socialized in Canada. It occurs in North America and Europe too - but Australia is not immune, and I'd be really surprised if your friend finds it's worse elsewhere.
Just wanted to say I agree with this after living in OZ for 4 years and now Canada.
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#23 of 23 Old 08-22-2009, 04:20 PM
 
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i am not defending the dread comment. but as an australian i do just have to say that i think we tend to say things how they are, quite bluntly. i have heard of many instances of americans misinterpreting things because of this.
i don't live in australia now but whenever we visit we never get comments/looks as an interacial family.
I don't think it's being misinterpreted. I honestly think some Australians have a hard time recognising what is really going on. It's as if true racism only happens somewhere else. The widespread myth in Australia(imo) seems to be that because it's 'true" (gah) and Aussies are 'blunt' that somehow it's well-meant and no one's offended. Talk to some of the people who bear the brunt of those racial terms. Some of them really don't like it.

I agree there is lots of interracial marriage though, same as in Canada and the US.
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