Tag Archives: racism

Unpresidented

I have a terrible boss.

He’s not a terrible man. He’s a husband and father – with another baby on the way, so his wife must think he’s doing something right. He’s quite cheerful most of the time. He’s not afraid to experiment with facial hair.

He’s terrible at his job. In fact, he’s literally useless at his job. If he left tomorrow, no one would notice. He barely turns up as it is.

But what makes him a terrible boss is that he feels no responsibility for his employees. He exhibits no duty of care towards anyone in his department. He could not give a solitary shit.

When you become a manager, it means more than a few extra dollars in your pocket. The role of manager comes with responsibility – notably responsibility for the people you are managing. And the higher up the ladder you go, on the whole, the greater the pool of people for whom you are ultimately responsible.

A great leader would take a bullet for his team. I’m pretty sure my boss would throw us all under the nearest bus and then pretend he’d been somewhere else all along. Probably playing golf.

President of the United States is perhaps the greatest boss role in the world. This is a boss responsible not just for his immediate team but for his entire political party; for his whole country; for the West.

What he says matters. His words resonate. They don’t just tell us what he thinks; they tell us what he believes we should think.

When Donald Trump bragged of grabbing women by the pussy, it made sexual assault okay. There are now horrifying videos on the internet of young men, university students, defending their right to rape – because if it’s good enough for their president, it’s good enough for them.

This week in Charlottesville NC, white supremacists marched on an integrated community that had decided to move a Confederate statue – a march that evoked an embarrassing racist past and which ultimately descended into fatal violence.

And in the aftermath, Donald Trump refused to condemn their actions. He decried violence ‘on many sides’. He said some white supremacists were ‘fine people’. And he claimed the people protesting the march were as violent as the neo-Nazis they opposed.

It doesn’t matter that almost no Republican politician has voiced support for these statements. It doesn’t matter that several have voiced opposing views. It doesn’t matter that some have expressly denounced the president’s words. It doesn’t matter that the leaders of America’s biggest companies have quit White House advisory councils in droves, rushing to distance themselves and their corporate policies from Donald Trump’s racist right wing rhetoric.

All of their words combined don’t have the power of the words of POTUS. What he says matters. His words resonate.

They resonate with the millions of people who voted him into power.

For me, one of the most damning indictments of Donald Trump came – fittingly – via social media. It was when white supremacists claimed that President Trump had actively refused to denounce them – proof of his support for them, and of the righteousness of their cause.

And in response – he did nothing.

Who knows, maybe some of Donald Trump’s best friends are black. Maybe they were until this week, anyway. But that doesn’t really matter either.

Donald Trump’s words resonate. They resonate around the world.

I can’t think of a single other boss, in any line of business, in any country in the world, who could expressly support white supremacists – and still have his job the next day.

Suddenly, my boss doesn’t seem all that terrible.

I’ll ride with you

It says a lot about the racist state of Australia that #illridewithyou is a thing.

On 15 December a man took several people hostage in a Sydney cafe. It was 17 hours before the siege was over; the gunman and two hostages lost their lives. The gunman was reportedly an Iranian extremist and self-styled Muslim cleric. But ultimately, he was a lone religious nutter, and the colour his skin happened to be and the religion he happened to follow had little to nothing to do with his actions that day. He wasn’t a “terrorist”. He requested an IS flag at one point, but the police denied throughout that he was acting as an IS representative. He was just a troubled man – on bail having been charged with being an accessory to the murder of his ex-wife and facing more than 40 sexual and indecent assault charges – with a misguided sense of his own place in the world.

But in the aftermath of the siege, Muslims who lived in Sydney feared a backlash on public transport. And #illridewithyouwithyou was born – used by non-Muslims to show their solidarity with Muslims. I’ll ride with you. I don’t fear you, or wish you harm. And I’ll protect you from anyone who might.

The question most of the western world asks is, why on earth would Muslims fear a backlash because of the actions of one troubled individual who just happened to identify as Muslim, when those actions were neither religiously nor ethnically motivated? This is not another 9/11, where religious fundamentalism and terrorist sensibilities came together, and led to confusion in the greater community for a time about what Islam taught and what Muslims believed.

Why on earth would non-Muslims seek revenge against innocent people because a solitary individual carried out a horrifying act? What has that man’s act got to do with Muslims?

That same day a man in Pennsylvania shot and killed six people. He was a white man, of a ginger persuasion. How ridiculous it would have seemed if white people (or indeed redheads) across the state had immediately feared a backlash.

It’s not exactly like it was a secret before. But for anyone who didn’t already get the memo, #illridewithyou makes it shockingly clear that Australia is a place where racism exists at an extraordinary level. Whether they’re the Muslims who genuinely fear a backlash, or the non-Muslims using the hashtag to support those Muslims, both groups evidently believe that a backlash is inevitable.

And that’s the most horrifying thing to come out of this very tragic ordeal.

AS 17-12-14