Hello again! Well, I’ve been on an up and down emotional roller coaster since early August 2015, when my beloved youngest son and his girlfriend thought to take offense at a comment I made on my Facebook page.
I was in a new town, having relocated from country Western Australia to NSW and was looking for a beauty therapist. Now there seem to be a large number of salons offering beauty treatments and massages here run by ‘Asian’ ladies and this was new to me. They seem to be particularly Thai in cultural background and one day I walked into a salon looking for someone to do a manicure and pedicure.
I entered the premises, to find several women and some children seated on the floor and sharing a meal or snacks. There was no sign of the typical beauty salon paraphernalia – you know what I mean? Products, seating, basins, nail workstations, annoying bird song playing in the background, the smell of varnish remover – a reception desk! None of these were evident. I thought I’d walked into the wrong place; but then a lady came to me and asked did I want a massage! I explained what I was looking for and she said, yes that was available.I actually was unsure if I had made an appointment for an actual beauty treatment.
When I got home and was updating my Facebook status, I made a throwaway comment that was totally aimed at myself and my fears – and it was a joke, being shared with my friends and family, people who actually know me. I said something along the lines of ‘I thought I’d walked into a sex or drug den or something’ and I joked that maybe I was in danger – although I’m middle aged and overweight! Like who would want that?!
That was the joke – and it was thoughtless from the perspective that I didn’t THINK AT ALL that I was possibly offending anyone, because it wasn’t specifically directed at anyone, I guess. But there was absolutely no malice intended. And then my beloved son commented with a rant – effectively. It put me firmly in my place and told me what I was really doing – and it was all in an academic voice that was a pain in the behind to read and I was clearly being lectured to.
Hurt is the simplest way to describe how I was feeling. We aren’t a family that does confrontation. I’ve raised the kids in a calm and peaceful environment. Things are kept very light. And yes, that means we don’t have really deep and meaningful conversation about things. We all read and have always read. My husband and I have always worked. We are middle class. We are all kind and thoughtful to each other.
So my son publically (that is, in front of my friends) lectured me about my wrongdoing. My sister and daughter pulled him up about how he was treating his mum (and this is regardless of whether they agreed or not, by the way) and suggesting that she was racist; and his further response (another academically worded lecture) included that as he knew that I could be racist (WHAT?) he thought I could learn something. Then my daughter got really angry at him, because previously he was suggesting I was racist and now he was saying that I was racist.
I’ve deleted the conversation from my Facebook page, so this is a rough recollection of the comments made. And for the record, the same sister who defended me later explained to me that her first impulse thought was ‘Racist, much?”, but then she went “No, this is Trish!”.
I responded privately to my son that the world had gone political correctness mad! That it was very Australian to poke fun ‘at ourselves’ in this sort of way and that there was no offense intended to anyone; that they were being too serious about it and that I didn’t appreciate being lectured to. Especially as the wording of the comments was clearly from an academic viewpoint, therefore essentially coming from his girlfriend who is currently being educated in something like ‘gender studies’ (I’m probably incorrect in exactly what she’s studying, but it’s along those lines) and although it was great and understandable that he was interested in what she was learning and able to take it on board in his own dealings with the world – I still didn’t appreciate the way I was being told.
That was okay. I’d been told. I’d listened (although they don’t think I have) and it was past and done with.
Then some time later – weeks? – I got a text message from my son. Had I looked any further into the issue. My answer “No, I haven’t really.” Well, they’d appreciate it if I took the time to learn something about it. I basically said that I wasn’t that interested in ‘researching’. That I was well read; I followed the news and I wasn’t unaware and I was considerate of other cultures. I didn’t need educating. I quickly said that I was happy to have another look (in the spirit of not blindly saying “no”) – and confirmed that it was ‘human trafficking’ that was the issue. No mum; it is micro-aggression. See you weren’t listening. They hadn’t actually mentioned that term before; and I thought they were upset that I was joking about human trafficking, because of the Asian sex and drug den comment.
So, I said Okay I’ll take a look and he said he could recommend some sites, or his girlfriend could get on Skype with him to talk to me about it, because she is academically qualified to do so. See how serious they are being about this? I’m struggling to get past that!
I said “no thanks, I’m capable of googling and I can read, so I’ll do my own informing!” And when he asked me again, in the middle of another text conversation, had I done any reading yet. I answered “Yes! Really only one site, but it gave me the gist of what they were saying, so that was enough!”
They disagreed that one site was enough (and that’s fair enough, if I was interested in doing some heavy research into the issue, which I wasn’t) and that if I was truly interested in understanding their position I’d do more about it. I again said to them that I loved them, but I didn’t need to be pushed. It is definitely acceptable for gentle nudges – “Oh mum, do you realise what you just said? You know, it might not be the best thing – people might think you’re racist!” Me, “oh, really? You know I didn’t mean anything by it!” Them, “Yes, but that’s what everyone thinks mum. They don’t mean anything about it, but it’s the way that racism and stereotypes continue to be perpetuated and that is how they become normalised and how they can become so harmful.” I might then have responded, “Shit, I didn’t really think of that. I’ll be more careful in future”. END OF STORY.
But no, that’s not what has been happening. And last night, while the world was hearing the first stories about the terrorist activities in Paris, my son was texting me again to ask if I’d done any more looking at micro-aggression. 😦
Son, I have taken a look. I’m a quick study. Thank you for pointing out my faults. I’m not interested in looking anymore. Your responsibility for educating me in this instance is over. Let it go.
And of course another long long text came saying that he’s sorry that he’s trying to help me understand, more than I want to. He’s sorry that I care so little about it. He’s sorry that I think they’re exaggerating issues that have ‘entire academic disciplines dedicated to them’. He doesn’t want to talk to me again until I’ve taken time to look into the issues more and am prepared to talk to him as adult to adult.
Okay, so yes I forget to mention that the old-aged issue of parents not talking to their adult children as adults has also come into play here.
I eventually said to him last night that what I was feeling was bullied. And judged. That they’re adopting a high handed ‘we’re right and we won’t talk to you until you admit it and accept what we’re saying’ position – and that they were effectively being radical and that kind of attitude leads to terror and hatred. I suggested they look around them and that there were a lot more important things to worry about than beating your mum into submission – and saying they didn’t want to talk to me until I was prepared to learn more, was emotional blackmail. Way to hit below the belt with your mother. I also said (tongue in cheek) that I’m worried they’ve joined a cult!
Yes, the above response was emotive; because I’m not a robot and I’m not a professor, or university educated. And yes, I’m the mother – the mother that has been loving and supportive his entire life. They don’t seem to be able to let it go, which is something I’ve trained myself to do in my lifetime. Deal with it now; whatever the outcome – whether satisfactory or not – you’ve tried and now ‘let it go’. They’ve tried – at least they know I’m more informed than I was – I now know there’s such a thing as micro-aggression and that they’re serious about it – and I will think twice before sharing my witticisms again.
Even though I’m an Irish/Australian and both of these cultures are big on cheekiness and taking the mickey out of everyone and anyone – including ourselves. With no malice intended!
I’m well-travelled – and I’ve always been proud to say how multicultural Australia is; but recently I’ve been amazed at how much vitriol there is about how we treat our ethnic groups. And I’ve written before in this blog about how embarrassing it is to be an Australian, when our government treats ‘illegal’ refugees so badly.
Now about this ‘micro-aggression’ term they’re bandying about.
The first link I read was this one http://www.buzzfeed.com/hnigatu/racial-microagressions-you-hear-on-a-daily-basis#.oq7D49L92 – 21 Racial Micro-aggressions you might hear on a daily basis. And I have to say that I’d never say any of these to anybody. If I meet an ethnic person – such as in my current bookkeeping classes – I ask them what their cultural background is. And that seems to be an acceptable way to start the conversation. I’ve learned that the girls behind me are speaking Hindi and that most Indians know several languages; at the very least 2-3.
Then I found a definition of Micro-Aggression ‘Microaggressions are the everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or. unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalised group membership.
I read the following GREAT article – great because I agree with him? Probably!
And this article, to which the author of the article above refers to:
So, Micro-aggression – a term first coined in the 70s has suddenly become a mainstream (academic) phrase and now the ‘word of the moment’ to explain the ‘logic’ behind what has become an ‘excuse/reason’ for forcible reactions by perceived ‘minorities’ to refuse to be educated in how to get on in life, because they perceive slights at every turn. I believe that what it is encouraging – more than understanding – is a generation of potential victims. Whingers, Australians would say!
We already live in a narcissistic society – it’s all about me and what I can get (for free) and what you can do for me – and look at me, look at me; poor me; look what’s happened to me. We are already like that – people want something for nothing. And now we’ve a new excuse for “sooky la la’s” to cry and moan and encourage tension – instead of seeing an obstacle and working out how to jump it, how to prove themselves – as individuals; not as an ethnic minority.
Casual remarks blown out of proportion, hypersensitivity and irrationality – do you know that minorities want to be recognised for their qualities, culture and value, but we aren’t allowed to refer to their qualities, culture and value as a way of quantifying their value or worth? Because if we refer to their ‘differences’ we are racist.
For example, we might assume that an ‘Asian’ applying for an IT job will be great at it. Or that ‘Asians’ work harder than Australians. Hello! If I make those assumptions – I’m being positive! White Australians can be (and I’m generalising here) lazier than many ‘Asian-Australians’, ‘African-Australians’, ‘Indian-Australians’. We know in Australia, whether we are prepared to acknowledge it or not, that migrant Asians – like previous generations of Italians or Greeks – come here starting with nothing, grateful for the chance at new beginnings and they work their butts off. They put us to shame! We know that historically; but if we acknowledge that history in our assumptions or comments, we are racist.
We aren’t allowed to comment on a cultural difference such as colour, ability or performance – because that’s racist; but then we are vilified because we don’t acknowledge that these people come from a different culture and should be acknowledged outside of white society’s norms.
I’m not educated. I read these papers and articles and I get the gist of their commentary – but I can’t articulate myself that way. I can attempt it more in writing; but I can’t articulate it verbally. Especially not when the son or girlfriend ARE trained academically and blah blah blah at me.
If humanity had not had all the difficulties we’ve had to overcome as we’ve evolved, we wouldn’t have come as far as we have. When things are too easy we stagnate. When we play the victim, we don’t grow. When we have challenges and we work at them, we evolve; we grow.
Build a bridge and get over it – is a great Australian saying. And that runs through my mind as I try to understand why my child can’t accept that he’s made his point and now it is up to me to do with that as I will. It is important to him and he’s tried to direct me – his job is done. He’s caused me emotional distress; think of that son, instead of how ‘racist’ I am.
Charade or Truth, is how I’ve headed this. Is the umbrella of ‘micro-aggression’ pretentious; deceptive; farcical or a disguise – a place to hide and not grow and put blame. Or, is it a truth – the honest reality.
My life credo is honesty. It is often painful to me to live honestly, realistically and in truth; but I aspire to this and at heart this story is about honesty. And owning your own life, reactions and determinations.
I’ve now spent time writing 2,487 words in reaction to my emotions! They could have been 2,500 words put towards my novel-writing activities! 😀
A year later and this is still a burning issue with our son and his girlfriend (specifically that we have a history of racism and manipulation).
We want to welcome his girlfriend with open arms to our family – and we’ve been trying to do this. She is a beautiful and intelligent girl. When they’re ready to make babies – they will be so cute! 😛
However, today my husband and I are going to a counselling session. I’m not sure whether it is to work out strategies about how to deal with this situation – or teach us that we’re wrong. But it is at the request of this couple.
They haven’t yet answered my request for specific examples of what we’ve said or the way we’ve acted that has made them uncomfortable, to help us identify areas for discussion with the counsellor. Anyway! 😦
It means that in our discussion with the Counsellor, it will be all from our side and therefore unbalanced and if she only hears our side of things, she’s not going to fix us! 😀
Please don’t come back and rant at them – they’re young and trying to find their way (I guess). 😀 xx