26 Dec 2008, Comments (22)

‘Tis the season to be gritting our teeth and smiling gamely and maybe reconsidering the Vodka supply to the younger ones

Author: Helen

I don’t believe in interbreeding, myself. We need to preserve the Aryan race. That’s what I think.

…Actual conversation at the annual Christmas party of the Eartha Kitt Memorial Dog’s home and Cattery. She’s a relatively recent starter, has been there about a year. Has young children but looks all of twenty-one, bubbly, pretty, enthusiastic like a golden retriever. She’s already done and said one or two things that make me go “hmmm”.

Yeah, I know some people think it’s a bit shocking. Hitler. You know Hitler? Well, basically his philosophy. (Deprecating laugh). Well, I didn’t agree with the things he did, of course, but yeah, his philosophy pretty much. The Aryan race has to reproduce itself and not be bred out.

Of course, I can’t talk. I’m a bit of a fuckup myself, my husband’s a Kiwi, my kids are mixed race, so I’ve fucked up there.

I sit, clutching my glass of champagne, staring out over the city and wondering what her beautiful kids would think about being a fuckup. Next to me is R, second-generation Indian Australian. His profile gives nothing away. I’d say he’s been here before.

“So, A. Do you know what Aryan means?” he asks.

“Yeah! It means blonde hair and blue eyes.”

R. turns to me. “Do you know what Aryan means, Helen?”

“Um, well, as far as I know “Aryan” refers to people originally from the subcontinent.”

“That’s right. A: Aryans were asian.” A. looks doubtful, but defers to R, who’s a manager.

This woman doesn’t just work where I work. She lives in my suburb and we bump into each other regularly on the train. Her boys play sport with Exploding Boy.

We change the subject.

I watch the evening sun creeping over the steeple of St Patrick’s. I knock my champagne back and make my excuses.

Comments (22)

  • Oz Ozzie says:

    Yay. Racist = ignorant. Makes perfect sense to me.

  • M-H says:

    Gotta dread those office parties… I once worked in the same small room as a young woman who refused to believe that the US didn’t win the Vietnam war. How could those funny little people have beaten the might of the US?

  • kate says:

    Those kinds of office party conversations make unemployment feel good!

    Merry Christmas Helen.

  • Helen says:

    Merry Christmas to you too Kate, and M-H and Ozzie as well. Hope you’re recovering OK 🙂

  • Bernice says:

    Can we pin this on JWH? Or is he as much a symptom of ingrained Australian racism as the relatively recent starter? She drives a 4WD doesn’t she? Finding it harder & harder to be civil in the face of such a fundamental lack of civility. Had she not noticed R sitting there? Jeeezzuuuuzzz.

  • Caroline says:

    Yeah. Well. Its a free country. and people are you know, are free to say whatever they like. They can name their children Adolph Hitler or Attila or whatever and still quite righteously demand to be treated just like any other normal, average, regular working people. So what’s wrong with the idea of racial purity, to help solve the problems of all those muslim people and others over-running us and taking all our jobs and threatenting to behead us all the time. And anyway I don’t necessarily, you know, agree with how Hitler went about achieving his (ahem) master race, but you know he probably was onto something. At least that’s what I think, oh and me boyfriend too, and hey guess what we’re you know fully grown up thirty year olds! Like, we’re adults and its a free country we can say and think what I like.

    Bernice we can NAIL this on JWH, some people have barely ever known anything other.

  • Fine says:

    I don’t know that we can nail this on JWH. The problem for me is always how to react when I’m faced with this sort of stuff. First, I feel disbelief, because I can’t quite believe that I’ve heard what I’ve heard. Then I don’t know what to do. It depends on my mood and how brave I’m feeling. I have an elderly aunty who thinks like this. I can kind of excuse it because she’s from a different generation. So, I just change the subject. When it’s from someone who’s young, it’s a different matter.

  • Fire Fly says:

    Actually, all three of you were wrong. “Aryan,” in its most technical, historical usage denotes Indo-Iranian ethnic groups, who later migrated over the Hindu Kush into South Asia (the “Indian subcontinent”). There are a lot of indigenous groups and Dalit groups who’ve asserted that this was a colonial invasion, and that Aryans instituted the caste system as part of their religion (and there’s historical evidence to back this up).

    I actually don’t think that pointing out how “ignorant” racism is does any good. Using a different term in place of “Aryan” (e.g. “white race”) wouldn’t make this woman any less racist. Neither does not knowing the technical meaning of “Aryan” make someone less anti-racist. The problem isn’t the term or “ignorance”; the problem is racism. Race is a social construct, not a linguistic one — racism won’t fall apart by anyone pointing out someone’s deficiency with etymology.
    You might think you achieved something in that exchange, Helen, but I’m not exactly sure what it did achieve aside from a “gotcha” moment.

  • Fire Fly says:

    Also, WTF Caroline? I hope that was sarcasm. But more than that, I hope you realise that racism isn’t funny.

  • Helen says:

    Firefly, I achieved nothing in that exchange, didn’t think I did, nor did I think I was saying that I did.

    Yes, Caroline is being sarcastic.

  • Meself says:

    Oh dear, Christmas parties aside, what is it about offices and some of the people who inhabit them?

    Herewith part of an email from a dear long suffering accountant mate of mine.

    “Snippet of conversation from my workspace this morning …

    Mid 50s male, senior accountant, to 30something financial planner ….

    ‘Hey, Anthony! How’s your geography? Where’s Chile? Is it a country or what? Is it in Brazil?’

    ‘Aw .. geography …na .. not sure about that…’

    There are two others in the office apart from me – I wait .. They DON”T know! I work in an office in which every person is degree qualified and none of them know where Chile is!

    This is profoundly unsettling.”

    I blame Ricky Gervais.

  • tigtog says:

    wondering what her beautiful kids would think about being a fuckup

    This. How utterly appalling.

  • Pavlov's Cat says:

    I wonder what she would have said if either you or R had been feeling strong enough to ask her why she wanted to preserve the ‘Aryan’ race. (In your place I would have been too gobsmacked by ‘You know Hitler?’ to speak, I think. Maybe you should have replied ‘HAHAHAHAHA Godwin’s Law, I win.’)

    Re the responsibility of JWH: Judith Brett said something very early on in his first term as PM about the degree to which he could be held responsible for increasing open expressions of racism in Australia, as indicated by the rise and popularity of Pauline Hanson when many of us could not have believed such a thing possible in this country. Brett’s argument was that Howard was implicitly condoning Hanson’s worst excesses by saying nothing about them, and that the message that sent to the populace was that in the view of the leader of the country it was perfectly okay, even admirable, for people in public life to voice such sentiments.

    I thought this was a very good argument and I’ve thought of it often since. Australians on the whole are probably not much more racist than we ever were, but I think we are a great deal more open and less ashamed about saying so, after the manner of your repulsive colleague.

  • Helen says:

    Brett’s argument was that Howard was implicitly condoning Hanson’s worst excesses by saying nothing about them,

    Didn’t he say that Hanson was like a breath of fresh air among the PC correctness or something along those lines?

    He did shut up and reap the political benefits after that, though.

  • Deborah says:

    What Tigtog said. But also, the racism implied in the kids being a fuckup, because she is partnered with a kiwi.

    It’s all just shudderingly awful. I think I would have been tempted to say something very nasty indeed.

  • shula says:

    Watch, as Helen does Christmas in Hell.

    Stuff like that gives me migraines.

  • L. says:

    I heard stuff like this from time to time in Japan. Drunken Japanese people would forget whom they were talking to (white woman, Japanese husband, biracial kids) and talk about how sad it was, that after so many centuries, “Japanese blood was no longer pure,” or they would express genuine sympathy for the kids of mixed marriages.

    I would typically use passive-aggressive humor, and act as if I genuinely thought they were joking, and say, “Oh, HA HA HA, that is SO FUNNY! That’s a great one!” And of course that would make them too uncomfortable to say anything.

    I mean, people have a right to their opinions, however ignorant, and I have a right (and perhaps even a duty) to make them uncomfortable.

  • Helen says:

    In this case, L, her right to her opinions is limited by EEO legislation – she was still in the workplace at the time and if we’d been at a restaurant or pub, ditto, under our laws. What I’m worried about is that those kind of opinions lead to pogroms – there are kids discussing further attacks on “lebbos” and other disliked groups on Australia day, via MySpace etc. They need not to hear things like that from their mums.

    But yeah, I failed utterly to counter her revelation with anything more than “…” which is my usual slackjawed response when something so outrageous comes out of left field.

  • Ann of Brisbane says:

    The strangest setting where racism is rearing its ugly head for me currently is an aged care institution.
    There’s quite a cross section of people employed there: as nurses and assistants. People from Asian backgrounds, African, Islanders……..
    I don’t know what is said by my relative when I’m not around but every so often during visits something ‘off’ slips out.
    From what I’ve seen many of the staff who are relative newcomers to Australia are quite sensitive in their work with the elderly and also markedly cheerful doing work which must be pretty depressing a times.
    I guess many are learning the sad fact that our elderly in this country all too often end up in institutional care rather than in the care of their family.

  • blue milk says:

    Oh gawd.

    I was at a get together recently and everyone seemed quite nice until they talked about break-ins in their local area coupled with some kind of “spot the Aussie” comment. Yuck. The whole implication was that lots of non-Australians (read non-white) people were taking over this city and they were venturing into ‘our’ areas and breaking into everyone’s precious houses. I knew it was time to go but not before I told them that studies show that break-and-enters are usually done by people from the local area, ie. your classy white neighbors. Cheers.

  • JahTeh says:

    Having just had my granddaughters for two days, I can comment here.
    One looks like a Polynesian Princess, the other could pass for an Italian Countess.
    Their bloodline goes like this, Sri Lankan, Dutch, English, Irish, American, Scots, French and German.
    It’s a brave idiot who asks this grandmother, “What nationality are they?”
    The answer is usually through gritted teeth, “Human Being”.

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