Sunday, December 21, 2014

#illridewithyou Redux

For being the creator of the #illridewithyou hashtag I am copping abuse for being:

  • white 
  • not white 
  • PoC 
  • not PoC 

Read that a couple of times.

Now read it again.

Once more.

It doesn't get any less fucked up the longer you think about it.

A lovely couple gave me some incredibly elegant flowers. I didn't have a vase to do them justice (don't really have the house to do them justice), and when they bloomed, it just seemed that the thing to do was lay them in Martin Place.

Then it occurred to me that there are at least two current memorials in Martin Place - for the siege and the Peshawar school children - and that if I were to ever mention I'd considered this, there would be demands to know which memorial these flowers were laid at, and that no matter which memorial, people were going to use that as ammo to keep up the abuse.

And people wonder why sometimes I get fed up.

I'm biracial, specifically, I'm English/White Australian and Chinese-Malaysian. What this means is that I am all four of the above accusations at the same time. All the time. Every day. Whether I'm accidentally spawning global grassroots activism, looking sadly at those last two sheets left on the toilet roll or sending professional sounding correspondence for work; I am all of these things. It's complicated.

Much of the criticism I've seen hinges on the assumption that I'm either white or non-white. This being Australia, I am specifically framing this in terms of whiteness. The fact that the conversation has already tripped over this misguided binary dichotomy before even the first step indicates that the problem of racism is so deep in Australia, in the western world, we'll need to raise a generation of fact-checkers before we can develop critical thinkers and even get past the derailing question of exactly whose voice is valid.

A mutable identity means that the privileges and oppressions granted me are fluid and constantly changing. They're influenced by how suntanned I am, what angle the light is coming from, the people I'm standing next to, whether someone is too caught up in what is proper to just deal with my most bodacious family name, and so on. I occupy the positions of both oppressor and oppressed, at the same time. When I say it's complicated, it's because I never stop having to wrangle this. It isn't only the white-dominated conversations that fail to take this into account. Much of what is discussed among non-whites leaves biracials standing in the kitchen doorway, looking at the party, and not quite seeing a space to step into. Biracials are not uncommon. I am not unique. Inconvenient perhaps, but not unique.

I've no interest in addressing the people who weren't listening and haven't been listening for longer than this. The racists who responded by simply continuing to be racist aren't a surprise, and I don't have much to say to them. They're not actually that many, just loud, and getting increasingly frantic because the audience they assumed they had, they don't. That the Far Right have worked themselves up into such a frothing tizzy about little ol' me and a hashtag is pretty amusing. It's almost as though they think I have power.

Nope. Still just me and a hashtag.

Apparently, here and now, that is power.


All this bigotry is pointed at me, but not about me. Evidence of this can be found in the lack of basic fact checking which would trump the crimes I'm accused of, because they're not actually interested in being accurate with their attacks, just as long as they land a blow. I was just the next target to pop up, and I'm not listening to them, although I do have to wonder how it would be to have a reading comprehension level which ensures you take everything you read literally. That must be a strange world to live in.

Anyway. The allies and progressives, the people who have put their hand up as wanting to see social and cultural change; it's the criticism stemming from these quarters which is relevant. My last blog post assured many with legitimate doubts, but not all. I'm writing this post now to give the conversation a kick in the pants.

This act, offer, invitation, this hashtag, this idea well has the potential to become a patronising pile of oppressors coming to the rescue of those they're oppressing and patting themselves on the back for saving the poor Othered masses. It most certainly does, and being as no one owns the action of another, in the hands of many this is exactly what it will be. If you see any individual falling into this behaviour, you are welcome to call them on it. White knighting is simply another - far more insidious - face of racism. I recognise this because, again, I occupy the positions of both oppressor and oppressed.

#illridewithyou began because a non-white woman learned of another non-white woman helping out a third woman garbed in hijab.

There will be the appeasement of white guilt in the hashtag's lifecycle, but there sure as fuck wasn't any in its creation. I created it because I understand what it's like to be scared. I am 5"3' with rosy cheeks and a cute button nose, and not bodyguard material. If someone shapes up, I'm not running, but I'm not going to come out on top either.

This is centered on the victims of abuse, not the perpetrators. Our culture leaves victims to fend for themselves, and our justice system quite frankly shits all over them, and doesn't apologise for it. Victim blaming is a disgusting behaviour Australia practices both overtly and unconsciously. Justice is blind in order to treat everyone equally, and in doing so treats no one fairly. I can't stop violent abusive bigots from being violent, abusive, or existing. That's not something in my power to address. Victims, though, people worried, scared, hurt and hurting; this is within my power.

When an idea for cultural change is proposed by a non-white person, it is mostly ignored. That's why things are they way they are, because the oppressed have been agitating for reform for centuries, yet here and now the country we live in is sick.

When an idea for cultural change is proposed by a white person, it is shouted down as being yet another act of white knighting, regardless of who else is involved, and usually it is.

I am both of these things. I am the person who should not be speaking according to both sides of the conversation, and simultaneously the person who should be.

This makes me wonder whom amongst us is permitted to enact change. From whom is change acceptable. Whatever this rare unicorn of a racial identity it is, I'm unaware of it. I'm inclined to think it doesn't exist. Which further makes me wonder how change can be expected to come about at all.

Stories have reached me of people who have been assaulted for volunteering in #illridewithyou. I'm not going to say more than that or point out any examples, because assault is traumatic enough without all you haters suddenly popping up and being gross. To those of you who have been hurt; I am sorry for my part in this, and hope you have good people around you. It's okay to not be okay when you've been assaulted.

The hashtag didn't create bigotry. It simply turned turned up the volume on those who care. As a consequence, the bigots will and have upped their game, as though western society is in some sort of arms race between bigotry and compassion. You riders, to stand beside someone under fire is to also come under that fire. It's okay to be afraid and hesitant to step up. This world is scary. Non-white people know this, and cannot opt out. Riders will always have a choice whether to make the offer or not. That choice is the difference between the privileged and oppressed. It's not something to be ashamed of, it simply is what it is. Non-white people do not deserve the abuse and hate aimed at them, and if you step up, no matter who you are, neither will you. It will happen none the less. You know where your limits lie. Please remember to respect them as well.

Stories have reached me of bigots being shut the fuck down as a result of #illridewithyou. A taxi driver told my partner that a school friend of his daughter, who wears a headscarf, had a bus load of people move and sit with and around her when a bigot started having a go. The incident on the Upfield/Craigieburn line has been well reported. A friend coming through Sydney airport told me that an entire line of people waiting at the taxi rank shut down an angry, belligerent, self-entitled man harassing the curb management, who are usually non-white persons. Thousands of badges and stickers handed out. A community bike ride from Lakemba to Martin Place. Muslims from around the world reaching out to say thank you, thank you, thank you, because these things have gone without saying so long, no one believes them to be true, and now #illridewithyou needs to be said.

These are just the precious scraps that make it through the cacophony of bigots shrieking like spoilt children who don't want to share their toys. There is so much more happening out there, because no one needs to make a big show of taking on this idea. They're just going ahead and doing it. There are people who, upon realising that this is an act open to them, don't wait for permission to start; they just get down to business.

Word has reached me of a woman allegedly assaulted by a Muslim taxi driver. Her husband being some prominent chap is trying to do that reverse-racism thing, indicating this happened because no one would ride with her. I'm presuming he means because she is a white person. This is a derailment of another important conversation about which I also have plenty of loud things to say, as it's trying to imply she was assaulted for her skin tone, and not the fact she is a woman. I'm angry that she has been assaulted, and hope she is okay, and with good people around her.

Women know about street harassment and the threat of attack from the random male public. All women, regardless of race. Street harassment is only just beginning to get the attention it should. You don't have to believe it. Women know the way this horseshit works, and learn from a very early age. As I write this, news of the shooting in NYC is breaking. All the focus is on the two officers who were shot. The shooter's girlfriend, who was also shot, is given in all the articles I've seen at most a sentence, but usually just a clause. This society does not value women, and so their deaths are deemed unworthy of attention. Violence by men, misogyny and sexism form another, simultaneous, sickness in our culture. Both these conversations need to occur, and their points of intersection recognised.

What is lacking from the Basic 101 is nuance. None of us live in a vacuum and nothing occurs in isolation. I've said multiple times that I don't see this idea as being applicable to Muslims only. Anyone with a visible cultural identity stands to be a target when in public. Anyone with skin that isn't white; anyone who isn't a cis heterosexual man, which includes all women, regardless of their sexuality or chosen gender, and any man who is not cis heterosexual, and all the queer and trans and varied orientations and genders one can be; anyone wearing religious garb, even those considered 'safe' - cooing over how adorable Buddhist monks are in their robes and creepshotting them is another form of othering; anyone who is visibly differently-abled, disabled, with invisible syndromes, complexes and illnesses; any one who visibly does not conform to the narrow-ass view of what is considered 'okay' by this society. Women, regardless of their background and identity, are able to use #illridewithyou to buddy up just as much as the religious are.

Perhaps that's another reason for the naysayers. I'm not a man, and no men were involved or consulted in the creating of this. Subconscious dismissal of women's voices is real. If you doubt me feel free to do some research and educate yourself. It'll actually reveal a lot about social communication which is just plain interesting.

That said, if this idea had come from a man it would have been problematic from the outset; expecting Muslim women to want anything to do with unknown men in a hostile culture. Schrodinger's Racist, and all that.

Once again, who is allowed to instigate change?

That's the wrong question. How about;

Why should anyone wait for your approval to act?

As far as I'm concerned, you naysayers can go sit on a pineapple and spin.

To quote a wise friend and fellow biracial, you're better than this. Substandard criticism is vexing.

Racism has a simple definition, but the conversation around it is immense, convoluted, complex, intricate, nuanced, and extremely raw. Racism as a cultural structure is vast and often looks infinite. There is no quick and easy fix for bigotry, especially when so much of it is locked in legislation. I won't wait for a single big easy fix. Fuck that noise. If change is ever to come, then it must be enabled. Even if in frustratingly, insultingly slow, small increments, it must be enabled.

I want sound a massive shout out to you riders just getting on with it and being awesome. I want to holler and cheer for you minorities just getting on with it and being awesome. Been chewing over the titles that seem applicable - hero, legend, champion - (which you all are) which have been showered upon me as well, and they don't smell right. The current love of superheroes is great fun for the comic lovers, but the persistent purveyance of the superhero narrative can't be doing amazing things to the zeitgeist. Settle down; I'm all for comics too, but as someone invested in writing, I do pay attention to the narratives swimming in the media we consume. Superheroes are pretty ace, but they're also pretty damn special. They come swooping in and provide big, easy fixes to scary problems, and we normals shout hurrah! And there is much rejoicing.

Can't help think this breeds the expectation that we don't need to make any effort to fix things because some unicorn superhero will be along shortly to sort out this inconvenient mess for us.

Think of all those normal people who are just passing by but still charge into burning houses and save lives. Typically they're shaken and downplaying their role, because it wasn't a grand gesture on their part. They were just being who they are. The same as you.

No unicorns are coming.

You're much, much cooler than all the superheroes combined, and more excellent than all of the unicorns. Big call. I'm making it. There's a potential future in which being an awesome, compassionate, respectful and considerate individual will be the norm, and it's growing in your footsteps.

Hmm. Guess I'm not as devoid of hope as I was.



Tuesday, December 16, 2014


The sunrise is too pretty. I haven't slept, but my adrenal gland is putting in the hard yards, so I still feel mildly lucid.

They asked me if I was surprised by the response to the hashtag. As though anyone but a marketing department could be anything other than bewildered by having an idea go viral. Of course I wanted it to be picked up – why tweet it at all otherwise? – but this is electrifying and not a little alarming. 

There is no campaign back here, unless one heartsore woman flapping her chops on twitter is a campaign. This wasn't planned. The rocket launched and I have no idea how to fly this thing. 

To all who have spoken up; it isn't for me to say, but, thank you.

Hashtags have a life cycle dependent upon attention and constrained by the very platform that gives them such power. It was never my intention to try and maintain any control over the hashtag, but given I was trending globally within hours, and sustained for hours, I must take some responsibility for what is forming. 

Nuance is easily lost on twitter, bless those blasted 140 characters. There is much language being used – 'help them', 'protect them', 'their safety' – which is slippery, and this idea was already sitting close to the White Saviour Complex. I think it may have slunk closer in the night.

We need this. So much of what is broadcast in general is hurt and damage and grief, that just to be reminded that other people care is no small thing. When feeling helpless, any tool is better than none, and there is so much to fight.

But this isn't about feeling better. It's about respect. There are people who cannot take basic respect from the general public for granted, and so to those who may benefit from it I simply offer the physical reality that they will not be alone for this leg of the bus trip. 

Although this has risen from the events in Martin Place, it is a sentiment that does not stop at Muslims, or anyone wearing their religion or culture, or who does not dress according to their expected gender, or who is simply too not-white or not-male to ever take safety for granted. In those terms, I would be included as someone at risk. I'm afraid I'm not particularly intimidating and being a non-white woman it could be argued that I add to target attraction, instead of detracting from it. I suspect this is why I do tend to gravitate toward non-whites in public anyway. Some sort of safety in numbers.

But I have to say, the thought of anyone deciding to approach me in public in order to protect me for my own sake without considering that, like everyone on public transport, I just want to be left alone; that thought rather gets my hackles up. 

So many people have reached out to say what this hashtag has meant for them. So many. Whatever grand wild delusion was galloping through my head when I created the hashtag has slunk off dejectedly, being unable to compete with reality. Some of you have already been helped by this, and that is. No words. No words. Thank you. 

But keep in mind, please, it is not for anyone to burden their need to help upon others. Respect that while too many are afraid to go out in public, many still walk the streets confidently and comfortably, and need nothing from any of us. If you're asked to buddy up, that is an amazing honour and sign of trust. That is enough. Don't expect more. 

Don't let it become a #NotAllMen where the focus fell off the actual issue of misogyny and violence and became entirely about assuring gentlemen they were good people, not bad people. Don't centre this on yourself. It isn't about me, or you. The desire to do right is in no way related to actually doing right. 

It is important that the offer be made, and equally important that nothing be expected in return.

The people who don't feel safe; they don't feel safe. We don't. I don't. They may not feel safe enough to tell you your good intentions are lovely but unwanted at this time. The ability to read minds isn't required for any act of kindness to remain a respectful one. Kindness that is forced upon a person is not kindness.

We need this, but not as a bandaid. We've always needed this empathy, and we always will. But not just to make ourselves feel better. To make the world better. And keep it that way.

A hashtag is a flash in a pan, but this will is not. This is a long campaign. Longer than this life. Hold on to that.


Now, a little about this startled bunny in the spotlight. This will be largely self-indulgent navel gazing, and those of you who need this hope, love and light right now should stop reading.


Because I can't give you that hope, love and light. 

So many have said they have felt hope because of this, and accused me of having a heart full of it. This is definitely the change I want to see in the world.

But this act does not come from a place of hope or love. Hope has been scarce for too long, and I can point at the day on the calendar at which it finally ran out. I have lost hope for positive change. My every act of solidarity, dissent, support, revolt comes not from the hope for change, but the anger of change that never came. 

That man, he lost hope. He knew what he was doing and how this would end. One sad, angry man and look at the hurt we have let him do. The hostages, all of them. The ex-wife whose murder to which he was allegedly accessory. We failed her too. He was sad, and angry, and he did this because we, this country, enabled him. I am so sorry.

I'm not even good anti-hero material. I actually am a cranky introvert who just doesn't like people, and not in a cute and loveable way. I'm also biracial, which is complicated. I have Opinions and as you can see they get waved around a bit, and I'm mulish enough not to be conveniently quiet to keep things nice, because nice achieves nothing. Plus I have enough health issues to mean I'm simply not going to do enough to sustain this. I cannot. 

I act because I am angry, and this world is fucking horrible, and I am sad, and if I cannot sit on the mere hope that the world will change, then there is nothing left to do but get out and push. 

I must enable that positive change to come, even if I don't believe it will. I must open the doors and windows and invite it in unimpeded and cherished. This idea did not come from a good place, but it isn't about me, and may become something better. Please let it become something better. 

The fact is that while I offered this platform to voices that need to be heard, there haven't been any volunteers except for the singular and indefatigable Amy Gray. Massive and many kudos to this woman for picking up the baton while I collapse into a pile. 

The fact is that I don't blame anyone for not taking this up. The attention is searing and I am indeed thinking of the Eye of Sauron. To step into this is to make yourself a target for all that is awful, and I don't expect anyone to take this on, especially those who are already targeted. The offer remains while the media have any interest in what I say. 

I expect some bad things will come of this, for which I am sorry for my part. I also expect some good things, because they have already happened. There doesn't seem to be anything else to expect. There's no stopping this now.

For those asking I explain my 'shockingly racist' blog posts; the post you're no doubt referring to is pretty self-explanatory. Rather surreal feeling the need to state that some of my best friends are white, and half of my family. 

Speaking as one of those not-white people, I do humbly request a scarcity of white knighting. Bear  your visible stickers like Neighbourhood Watch signs; not medals. It feels arrogant to say so, but I'm already proud of you. There are so many valid and justified reasons to stay quiet, and there is no shame in doing so. 

I'm stepping back because I cannot and will not be a warm fuzzy story. That narrative is a trap. The fact that the hashtag is already being seen as competing with the narrative of the siege and hostages is proof of that. They are not in conflict with each other. I've not dwelled on the hostages and those who care about them because I can think of nothing to say in the face of such trauma. I hope they have safe spaces open to them.

For the time being, I'm sorry but I won't sharing my bus trips. The point was to simply offer company if it would help. This sudden notoriety is alarming enough for me; imposing it on anyone else would be presumptuous at the very least. The only reason I can only do this because so many people have already put their hand up. 

The glow of initial solidarity hides the hard edges of true support. These displays have occurred before, and will occur again, but change is slow in coming. This is just my reality. I'll still be a tired biracial woman wary of being approached by strangers tomorrow, the day after, the day after that, for the rest of my life. Hatecrime and bias in our infrastructure will continue, because these wounds are centuries in the making, and we need to work so much harder to even consider healing.

Extreme situations make heroes of barristers and store managers. For most of us, there are no extreme situations, and no heroes. Just you, me, and the rest of the world.



Hello, members of the media. I won't be giving any further interviews, but if you hop on over to my twitter account there are a few recommendations for people whose perspective on current matters is worth attention.
If any Muslim feminists would like to speak out, let me know and I'll usher the media your way.
The Indigenous people of Australia have been attacked in public for their appearance since first landing. If any of you would like to speak out, let me know and I'll usher the media your way.
This incident was born of misogyny and domestic violence. Last month was White Ribbon Day. The experts have always been there. This is the time to talk to them.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014


All the life hides in the rocks, but sometimes I like to swim out away from the liminal colonies into the heart of the bay, where what lies beneath that barrier between above and below is sparse and empty. Above that open land I float, surrounded by a shifting jade which has no depth, no perspective, simply colour that surrounds me. Below, the sand is pale and whorled with the fingerprint of the waves, the same waves that lift me up and away from this, suddenly, and drop me back down to watch plumes of sand take flight, dance, settle in pattern anew. Untethered and orphaned seaweed waltz languidly across these little valleys and mountains, and amongst them too are carried comb jellies, their grand ball gowns torn apart by the waves and trailing in tattered skirts behind them. Although lifeless, the water still ruffles the tiny cilia of the hems, and when the sun, bent by the shape of the water, falls upon them, they throw rainbows like secrets. To touch them is to wonder if this, perhaps, it what it is to touch a ghost. A school of tiny silver fish dart away from me, but I am motionless, without hunger, and they come back to circle within my shadow. They light up, bright, pure, when skeins of sunlight catch them, and it is like watching lightning, small and sweet.