Archive for Black Psychology

The Right To Be A Bigot – Free Speech Vs Racism

I wrote this article for a newsletter I publish. I was always going to post it here. Today I received a request to have it re-printed in The Beacon, a publication for the ‘Melbourne Unitarian Peace Memorial Church’. Honored. Anyway sorry it’s a bit long.

‘The Right To Be A Bigot’

Last week Senator George Brandis announced in parliament that Australians ‘do have a right to be bigots’. ‘People do have a right to be bigots. In a free country people do have rights to say things that other people find offensive or insulting or bigoted’.  This comment by the senator came in response to questions from the first Indigenous Senator Nova Peris, in the Australian Parliament in relation to the Abbott’s governments proposed changes to Section 18C, of the Racial Discrimination Act.

While Australia grapples with the notion of the free speech of ‘bigots’ and whether minority groups should be protected from ‘hurt feelings’ (a statement made by the Prime Minister, Tony Abbott), resulting from the God given democratic rights of the so called bigots; being  overlooked, are the possible negative effects that this divisive debate maybe having.

This debate has not only caused anger amongst those in the Australian parliament, but also threatens to undo the progress that has been made towards healing the fractured relationship between the wider Australian community and the first Australian’s and also to Australia’s international image and race relations throughout the country and within the region.

Australia as a nation already suffers an international reputation of being a racist country, probably more so than it deserves. Throughout the last few years, infamous you-tube videos which depict us exercising our right to be bigots at the expensive of the emotional, psychological, and sometimes physical wellbeing of a member of some ethnic minority group in public places, (most commonly our public transportation system) have surfaced. They have been on display for the world to see just how bigoted we are and how we exercise our democratic right to free speech.

The current governments attitude towards the right of bigots vs the perceived weakness and the hurt feelings of the so called ‘victims of racial vilification’, is both insensitive and insulting to those who have had to deal with the crippling effects of racist attacks.

The prime minister appears to be presuming that racial vilification and bigoted behaviour only leads to a few hurt feelings.  It would be convenient to dismiss the effects of bigoted behaviour to just hurt feelings but Australia’s own racial history says otherwise. We only have to look at the wounds left by Australia’s racist past to know that racial vilification does more than hurt people’s feelings, it changes people’s lives for the worst, not for the better.

While I find the government’s lack of empathy towards native Australians and the growing ethnic population within its borders a little bewildering, I wonder why the current government is not trying to protect Australia’s economic future in a time of a widening government deficit and predicted forth coming job losses from the manufacturing sector, being predicted by economist.

I am not sure the government has thought about what the Chinese, Indonesians, and how other Asian pacific countries feel about doing business with ‘bigots’.

In 2009, the number of Indian students applying to study at Australian universities fell sharply. Amongst the contributing factors, were the number of racially motivated attacks on Indians in Melbourne.

A lot had to done to get students back to applying for study visas. Although the numbers have now increased, it’s hoped that the parliamentary debate on racial vilification and reapealing section 18C wont have an impact on this.

At risk is also the booming Indian and Chinese tourism market, of which we are competing with Europe and countries such as the US.

The government has already released its Exposure draft with amendments to section 18C and plans on deleting 18D.

It appears that although the reapeal of section 18C was not on the political agenda like the carbon tax, (of which the prime minister believes he has a mandate on), the liberal party has had its heart set on getting rid of it since Andrew Bolt was found guilty and lost the racial vilification court case against nine members of the indigenous community.

Senator Peris asked Senator Brandis, ‘Does the Attorney-General still propose to remove 18C from the Racial Discrimination Act?’. This was  in reference to a speech made to the Australian Liberal Students’ Federation in July 2012, where he had said:

‘If we win the next election and if I’m the Attorney-General in an Abbott Government, one of my first priorities will be to remove … the Racial Discrimination Act, the provisions under which Andrew Bolt was dragged before the courts’ … Does the Attorney-General still propose to remove 18C from the Racial Discrimination Act?

In an article published in the Australian, September 2013, ‘Tony Abbott to champion freedom of speech’,  written by  Paul Kelly and Dennis Shanahan, the then opposition leader  prime minister Tony Abbot, expressed his commitment to ‘work with his attorney-general, George Brandis, to require the commission to champion, instead of restrict, the right of free speech in Australia’.

Mr Abbott said: “Any suggestion you can have free speech as long as it doesn’t hurt people’s feelings is ridiculous. If we are going to be a robust democracy, if we are going to be a strong civil society, if we are going to maintain that great spirit of inquiry, which is the spark that has made our civilisation so strong, then we’ve got to allow people to say things that are unsayable in polite company.

In a civil society, people care about other people’s feelings, Mr Abbott. I have yet to hear of a civil society where thinking bigoted thoughts and the verbalisation of those thoughts is perceived to contribute to ‘a robust democracy’.

‘We’ve got to allow people to think things that are unthinkable in polite company and take their chances in open debate’.

Prime Minister Abbott, people are thinking the unthinkable all the time without the states permission. The governments arguments against the need to lift the ban on publicly being able to express bigoted view and the association with free thinking, flies in the face of common sense. Just because people are not allowed to express their racial opinions publically, it doesn’t mean that they can’t think them or have them. If that were the case, racism along with the other ism of sexism would no longer exist and we might all not be having this wonderful debate right now.

 

We are expected throughout different areas of society to conduct ourselves in a manner that is respectful and responsible towards all members of our community. It’s what is called good manners and it’s something that most of our parents teach us, as children, in order to socialise us into the society we are eventually going to have to live in and be a part of.

Questioned about his commitment to changing section 18C, Mr Abbott said: ‘I think I can say I have helped to encourage George in that direction’.

In parliament Senator Brandis said: ‘It is certainly the intention of the government to remove from the Racial Discrimination Act those provisions that enabled the columnist Andrew Bolt to be taken to the Federal Court merely because he expressed an opinion about a social or political matter.

I will very soon be bringing forward an amendment to the Racial Discrimination Act which will ensure that that can never happen in Australia again—that is, that never again in Australia will we have a situation in which a person may be taken to court for expressing a political opinion.

The problem with section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, as it is currently worded, is that it goes about the problem of dealing with racial vilification in the wrong way. What it seeks to do is to deal with the problem of racial vilification by political censorship.

There should never be political censorship in this country, Senator Peris. People like Mr Bolt should be free to express any opinion on a social or a cultural or a political question that they wish to express, just as Mr Bolt would respect your right to express your opinions about social or political or cultural issues.

Although Andrew Bolt was taken to court under the anti-discrimination act, the judge ruled in favour of the plaintiffs because:  ‘Four articles published by the Herald Sun columnist in the newspaper and his blog were “a head-on assault on a group of highly successful and high-achieving” Aborigines, Ron Merkel QC told the court.

Counsel for the plaintiffs conceded Bolt’s writings did not incite “racial vilification or racial hatred”, rather they “constituted highly personal, highly derogatory and highly offensive attacks” on the nine individuals, (The Australian, Sep, 2011).

Reason why Andrew Bolt was found guilty was because he misrepresented the facts in his article and according to the judge;

‘Andrew Bolt failed the test of reasonableness and good faith because “insufficient care and diligence was taken to minimise the offence, insult, humiliation and intimidation suffered by the people likely to be affected by the conduct and insufficient care and diligence was applied to guard against the offensive conduct reinforcing, encouraging or emboldening racial prejudice.”

Despite the media’s previous uproar regarding it’s right to be able to print and write what it wants, I cannot see how even it, could grossly ‘fail the test of reasonableness and good faith’ as indicated above.

There are fortunately for all of us, only a few people in the country or even perhaps the world who are as controversial as Mr Bolt, who in the above case showed a moral lack of judgement in his portrayal of the plaintiffs and therefore deserves his just punishment.

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Perspectives On Black Identity

Map of Africa

Over the past few weeks I’ve been working on research for a documentary on the black identity and frankly it’s been a headache. So much so that I’ve pushed the subject to the side for now. After reading many articles, personal opinions, and psychological jargon, I’m in no better position at understanding what the black identity is, or, as according to psychological theory, the steps involved in the development of the black self, psyche, and individual identity.

The psychological studies on identity have historically been conducted on Caucasians and focused on the development of the white psyche.  Identity theorist, Erick Erikson, has acknowledged his neglect of this area of psychology but there have been new developments on the area of race and identity and the new models and schools of thought have attempted to include race as a factor in the development of the identity of black people.

These new directions and research are limited to the experiences of African Americans and do not take into account the experiences of the greater African diaspora world wide or the identity development of Africans in Africa.

It’s here on the internet were one experiences a myriad of black experience. As a writer, blogger, and curious social observer, I’m fascinated by the different non stereo-typical black women I encounter online.

For many years having lived under the stressful stereotypes of what the society I live in thinks is the black psyche, it’s refreshing to escape these often negative ideologies, even if it’s only temporary online to positive examples of members of my race even.

Race and Identity

I meet a lot of black people who are often conflicted about the role that race plays in the way they see themselves.

Many of us don’t want to admit that we struggle with the negative stereotypes and the unfortunate under reporting of positive contributions that blacks have made throughout history, yet most of us are always searching for positive examples of black people in history and modern day.

We do want the black hero and we’re very critical of each other, making sure we don’t slip into the generic stereotypical behavior that has been used to define us for hundreds of years.

Some of us feel that our race does not define us but many of our everyday experiences are shaped primarily by our racial identity.

Many of us spend our lives promoting or stamping out the existence of racial stereotypical behavior in our own personalities and constantly trying to reinforce and promote racially positive behavior while being overly critical of those who display what we believe is behavior that will make our race and therefore our race look bad.

Just a few hours ago, I asked a young black journalism student to write about her experiences growing up in a white country as a member of a minority black community for a community magazine I’ve been publishing for the last two months. She replied that she did not feel comfortable discussing her personal feelings about how she felt about being black.

While I respect her personal opinion, I may have been the first person to ask her opinion on this, but I wont be the last. For as long as she leaves and works in this country, she will be asked how her experiences as a black women would have shaped her career and perspectives on life.

There’s a small and emerging black community in Australia which is as diverse as the entire united nations with representatives from almost every country in Africa and if not the world. Despite our acknowledgment of each others different cultural and ethnic backgrounds, we understand that the rest of Australia as simplified us into one single digestible racial  and cultural group, black.

This categorization has been entirely based on race and is completely independent and devoid of language and culture. As far as I’m concerned there is no such thing as a unifying black culture although the dominant African American culture has gained residence and is what is used to define the majority of black people in the African diaspora.

Most people confuse me with being African American, Jamaican, and even English. I’m neither of those and I’m very much used  to correcting people of what my national identity is of which I’m very proud of. I used to get annoyed, but now it doesn’t  matter anymore. When I was in New Caledonia, most people thought I was one of the Kanaks (indigenous Melanesian people of New Caledonia in the South Pacific).

I see many young women these days trying to find themselves. They are forever walking the tightrope of identity compromise, re-modelling the traditional perceptions of black culture and tradition (whether it be African or African American in origin) and blending it modern western culture.

For a long time race has played too greater role in the way that we as black people define ourselves simply because other people judge us by our race first. This has often put us in a precarious position that, when we meet new people outside our race, we are constantly trying to dispel racial myth and stereotypes.

To would be nice to one day free ourselves from this burden of responsibility.

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Django Unchained – Film Review And Why You Should See It

Django Unchained

The first I heard of the film Django Unchained was on the news and it wasn’t all good stuff. As usual Quentin Tarantino was on the spotlight for making another controversial film or what not. I’m not a fan of the N-word. I don’t use it and I don’t like it when anyone whether they be black or white uses it in my presence. I don’t believe that the word empowers black people for I’ve never seen it used in a positive context from black or white people.

But the media didn’t deter me from going to see the film. I’m rational enough to understand that any film on slavery that is honestly depicting the historical content of what had happened during those times will not only be brutal but also contain the use of the N word.

Any film maker who would make a film about slavery and leave that word out would be trying to sensor history and give us all a false impression of what really happened.

Django Unchained for all of those who haven’t seen it is for me the most honest depiction of what went on during slavery and it taught me a lot about slavery that I didn’t know. Yes the film was confronting, (the truth always is) and very uncomfortable at times but it was worth putting myself through the discomfort to re-educate myself on an ugly chapter in black history that has continually haunted us.

I can see this film being used in schools to help educate children about slavery. Django Unchained is not a pretty movie but neither is slavery and Quentin Tarantino’s trademark of gory blood scenes makes it an even uglier and uncomfortable film to sit through especially if you’ve got a weak stomach like myself. But there also funny moments. The humor in the film destructs you from the fact that you’re actually watching a horror film based on reality.

It is also the first slave film I’ve noticed where there was no singing or dancing.

While Django Unchained is not based on a true story, the de-humanizing depiction of slave life was real and if some of you are looking for answers to the question ‘why don’t black people just get along’, you don’t have to look further than the relationships between the black characters in the films.

Samuel L Jackson

The Chilling Uncle Tom

Samuel L Jackson was chilling as Uncle Tom.

The film is being classed in the spaghetti western/blaxploitation genre. Being a fan of both genres, I wonder why we’ve all had to wait so long to see the creation of a cinematic black legend character such as Django. Django is strong, hot blooded, fearless. Everything a slave was never meant to be.

I applaud Quentin for developing the character and the story and hope it inspires the rest of us black writers to create more black legends for generations of young black people to aspire to.

For all those of you who may have written the film off due to some of the negative publicity it’s received, I urge you to ignore what you think you’ve heard and see it for yourself. Django Unchained is not a racist film, it’s a film about racism and the media should probably distinguish between the two before it starts playing the race card.

One of the most chilling moments in the film that left you gasping. Leonardo’s character, slave owner Mr Candy, threatens to crush Kerry Washington’s skull character.

If you think you’re going to be uncomfortable as a black person during the film you will be. Because this film touches on all those painful psychological places associated to the skin you are in. It’s not a feel good movie.

I also felt sorry for some of the white audience that went to see the film. I saw the film in gold class, thanks to some very generous people in my life and when the film was through and I was walking out of the theater, not one single white person could look me in the face. I was the only black person at in the cinema of one of the wealthiest suburbs in Melbourne, and boy did my presence bring the reality of the film to this people.

Please be open minded and go see the film. This is the first film I’m actually encouraging people to go to.

http://unchainedmovie.com/

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Will Power and Success

Book Will Power

The only time I read the paper is on the weekends, and it’s always the same paper, The Weekend Age. Never mind that I’m not necessarily a fan of one of the majority stake holder’s Gena Rinehart (aka richest woman in the world) of Fairfax Media (not very fair at the moment) who thinks that Africans are happy to work for a dollar a day or was that two dollars?

My favorite part of the paper is always the little magazines that come as part of the paper. They can sometimes contain little life eye opening tit bits, one of such was a book review by Suzanne Harrignton, ‘Resisting Temptation’, on the book, ‘Will Power: Why Self Control Is The Secret to Success’, by US R F Baumeister (social psychologist, I hate social psychologists) and New York Times science writer, John Tierney.

I have not yet purchased this book. I hope to have the will power and self control to take myself to the book store at some point in the next few days, maybe weeks, but hopefully while sudden madness that grips everyone to change and lead better lives every new year is still with me.

I must confess I am not a fan of self help books which this one seems to fall into the category of and I do hate social psychologist perhaps because of their generalization and their simplification of the human psyche, but mostly for their lack of understanding of the mind and body connection (I’ve been advised that this is somewhat changing as I write this, as new psychologists are being taught a little about neuroscience and neural biology). Maybe psychology will one day deserve to be called a science!

But  I really want to read this book, really. The review was so conclusively convincing about the benefits of having an ‘iron clad’ will to guarantee you success.

What I liked about what this book is that it makes a link between our genetics, biology, and the link between glucose and self control. Ringing any bells anyone?

So if this post seems to make no sense and if I never make it to that book store to buy the book, it will be most likely because I’m writing this on an empty stomach, fast losing focus, and making less and less sense and pretty soon some of you will be switching off, because my sugar levels are dangerously low but I don’t have the self control to stop typing, get off the couch and make myself a decent breakfast.

Five minutes later…

FYI I did take a mini break, stuffed some honey and sesame seeds in my mouth, while googling self control and glucose link.

Self Control And Glucose

The good news is that researchers are pointing to the fact that your blood sugar levels affect your ability to have self control. The bad news is that self control lowers blood sugar levels.

So the more you exercise your will power to stay strong, the lower your blood sugar gets and the more loss of self control you get. Confused?

My suggestion is that if will power and self control are important to you then read the book, it appears to have some scientific merits.

Why Will Power Is So Important

Lack of willpower is associated with some of the following:

  • Compulsive Spending and Borrowing
  • Impulsive Violence
  • Underachievement At School
  • Procrastination At Work
  • Alcohol and drug abuse
  • Unhealthy Diet
  • Lack of Exercise
  • Chronic Anxiety
  • Explosive Anger

How is failure of self control affecting your life?

Those of you who are interested in the field of psychology can purchase the original laboratory paper of which it appears the book was based on and review other scholastic articles regarding on this subject from the American Psychological Association or click on the following link to take you their website.

Those who don’t have time to read articles can read the abstract and get the gist of the findings and if you believe the findings you will forever be armed with a dose of sugar to attempt to gain control of your will.
Other thoughts on this matter is that never start your day on an empty stomach. Your blood sugar levels are lowest in the morning because you’ve been asleep and haven’t had anything to eat. You wont be making any intelligent decisions and your self control and your ability to maintain your will power will be compromised long before you’ve attempted any plans.
Those of you wanting to lose weight and are struggling with your will power and self control have a very challenging road ahead of you.
The APA as also produced other tools to help you with your will power.
http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/willpower.pdf
Good luck with your will power and self control and your new years resolutions.

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The Benefits Of Having A Hobby

Sewing Basket

Last night I got excited. One of the largest commercial fabric and pattern stores in Australia is having an half-price sale starting today of course! Yeah for me!

I’m not the greatest sewer but the stuffed toys we were forced to make in my eighth grade class taught me enough to enable me to be able to mend my own clothes, sew a button and make intelligent decisions about fabric choices and of course style and cuts.

And every year because of my earlier experiences I undergo this grandiose desire to go out purchase fabrics and patterns to maybe make my own clothes. Well it never goes anywhere but that’s not the point of this blog.

Sewing may not be a strong enough passion for me to motivate me to become a seamstress or heaven, forbid a designer but it stimulates my imagination and motivates me to go out and try a different type of creative activity.

It’s something that I do for myself because I enjoy it and the idea of wanting to sew as led me to develop a healthy interest in fashion for which I am grateful and I look forward to spending at least two hours at some point today looking at fabrics, feeling their texture, and dreaming of making something out of them, although that might never happen.

I used to feel guilty about this waste of time but then realized that my passion for wanting to sew, which went as far as buying patterns, cutting them out on fabrics and then leaving them because I don’t have a machine to sew or the space is a hobby.

And in the land of hobbies it’s okay to start projects and not finish them because it’s not really about sewing, it’s the fact that the process of looking for fabrics and patterns creates a different creative outlet for me and gives me an opportunity to relax and escape my daily stresses.

Everything we do in life is has become so competitive and about being the best at this or that and we are constantly judging ourselves and beating ourselves up for not achieving the sometimes impossible.

For me hobbies are playtime and I have many of them! From sewing to photography, the stock market to natural medicine, making my own hair products, and just having a healthy curiosity about life. I get to be a child again and explore with my imagination at all things that could be possible. And I make no excuses for not completing some of the projects I’ve started.

Below are 2 reasons of why hobbies are important from the Website ThinkLink

  1. http://thinklink.in/why-is-it-important-to-have-a-hobby/ . For more information on this topic visit their website.
    1. As a remedy for fatigueA hobby is the easiest way to restore your balance whenever you are over-worked or stressed. Since it is an activity of your choosing, it will always give you pleasure and help you to unwind. Even if you indulge in your hobby for a short period of time, you still can feel the difference in your energy level and spirit.
    2. As a chance to connect with yourself
      Perhaps one of the best active ways to get in touch with yourself is to explore yourself through your hobby. It does not matter as much  what your hobby is; than having a hobby of your own. It is the private time you have with yourself. Interestingly, when you have a hobby, you will strive to create time for yourself and manage your schedule well to keep that appointment with yourself.

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The Sweetest Things…..

Yesterday a three year old boy I had been playing with stopped me on my miserable track and gave me something to reflect on.

He did this by thanking me for playing with him. Lately I’ve been so caught up in trying to get my writing career on track that I’ve been letting those sweet priceless moments of life pass me by.

Yes being a writer/ poet/all round creative person with too many ideas doesn’t pay the bills.

But something in me still captivates the imagination of a three year old, enough to elicit in him the grace to thank me for playing with him.

That wasn’t the only sweet thing that happened to me yesterday. I also got a phone call from a designer who has offered to design a dress for me for my second public poetry performance. This is just fabulous because I don’t have an extra cent to my name right now.

And to top it off, I am also the sister of a student journalist who reduced me to tears when she sent me a message to say that she appreciated me. Love you Pauline. Just letting you know that I cry every time I think of your message.

My bank balance maybe empty but my emotional cup is overflowing!

I am indeed a very fortunate person and so I believe are the majority of all of us. We just get caught up in the rat race and the pursuit of dreams and forget that life is still going on and that we mean something to someone…

Here’s taking a moment to appreciate those things that money, fame, or fortune can’t buy…

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Black Actresses In The 1920’s

Hollywood’s Representation Of Black Beautiful Women in the 1920’s,  a series of Black Vaudeville Actress. For more see The Nite Trippers Photostream, http://www.flickr.com/photos/7388762@N03/

How close of a representation was this of what the average black women would have looked like at the time? How close to this image of beauty do you come?

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