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Things I Should Have Said

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I’m gutless. There, I put it out there. I’m a people-pleaser and I bite my tongue more than I should. Even now, I’m hiding behind a keyboard to say this way too late. But I’m telling you this because I don’t want to be gutless anymore, and I don’t want you to be gutless either. The world was never changed by people too afraid to try to change it.

I should be clear on what I’m talking about. I don’t know whether it’s because I’m gradually becoming that little bit more vocal about my faith, or if it’s because I’m spending time with different people, but I’m finding myself erroneously viewed as someone who might agree with racist, sexist or homophobic comments. There seems to be a perception that Christian = bigot. Or maybe it’s just straight, white, privileged person in a traditional marriage = bigot. And this perception isn’t coming from those who look down on me for my faith or lifestyle choices, quite the opposite. It’s coming from other straight, white, privileged people who want me to nod along when they feel like being offensive.

A woman at church recently implored me to travel in to the nation’s capital to attend our National Day of Prayer. She said that it was a big event, busloads of people go – “and they’ve all got slanty eyes or accents, but there are very few representatives of us white Australians”.

Here’s what I should have said:

“I realise you probably weren’t intentionally being racist, but I find that offensive. I object to the notion that I should attend a prayer day, not because I am Christian, but because I am a white Christian. God hears the prayers of those with a different ethnic background just as loud and with the same heart. I would be honoured to pray along with them.”

But I didn’t.

When critiquing a parenting “expert” with a different woman at church, she told me that if I was struggling with decisions about discipline and the like, I could talk to her about it because “I’ve got 5 God-loving children and I never dumped them in childcare or anything like that, we raised them all full-time”.

Here’s what I should have said:

“Thank you for the offer, but I do just want to flag that comment about childcare. I’m a stay at home mum to my son because I want to be and because I was blessed to be able to afford to be, not because I think there is anything inherently wrong about childcare. I would be just as inclined to turn towards a working mum for advice about parenting.”

But I didn’t.

Worst of all, a member of my own extended family has over several separate occasions made comments including a similar remark about childcare, objecting to my son having a toy doll, the use of slurs such as “chink” and “poofter”, and telling me that I needed to have more children to do my bit to populate the country with more white Australians. The best response I could muster to any of this to express my outrage was “Stop. Do not say that in front of me, in my car.”

Here’s what I should have said:

“I do not believe that I, a ‘white’ immigrant, have any more right to this country than the dozens of 2nd generation Asian-Australian women I went to school with who are intelligent and hard-working contributors to society. I find that word offensive. If you want my son to grow up respecting you at all, I’d suggest you keep those sorts of opinions to yourself, because I will be teaching him that it is wrong to value someone differently due to their race or sexuality. Your words are hurtful. Not just to me, but to your Muslim brother in law, your Asian 2nd-cousin and the lesbian family friend we had Christmas lunch with a couple of years ago. They can’t hear you speak them, but they are still hurt by them, every time you perpetuate the myth that I should look down on them. I don’t want to listen to this any more, but more importantly, I don’t want anyone to have to listen to this any more.”

But I didn’t.

Because I’m gutless.

I need to stop being gutless. I need to tell people when they’re speaking words of hate and intolerance. I need to set a better example to my son, because I don’t want him to stand by and watch when someone is being bullied, or worse. I don’t want to be a secret feminist or a secret egalitarian any more than I want to be a secret Christian.

If you’re gutless too, I am not writing this to make you feel guilty. I am writing this so that you understand that you’re not alone and you’re not a horrible person. But there is an opportunity to change. Change with me. Let’s find some guts.

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2 Comments

  1. Kate says:

    This is something I’m working on too. It’s hard. Its hard because depending on the person, it can have significant impacts on your life if they don’t take it well. My boss has a very dry sense of humor – he sometimes crosses a line, sometimes without realising, sometimes without caring. He’s also a friend, and married to a very good friend. I hesitate… there is so much potential damage.

    Another I am praying about how to approach is a kid in my church. I taight him Sunday School for the last 4 years. He is now in year 11 and moving into a leadership role. I have seen a lot of language on his FB page which I want to chat to him about. Not the swear words (I don’t ahve a beef with that) but riffing your mates by calling them faggots? Not cool. And now that he’s a leader with kids under him seeing his FB page, I want to talk to him about the message that sends. But its so delicate. And I’m just not sure how…

    I’d love your thoughts, if you have any.

    • smeebubbles says:

      I absolutely agree that it gets harder when it’s a person who has some level of authority in your life, or a person who you need to have a good relationship with. I guess the important thing is to reinforce that it’s about the behaviour, not the person: so I certainly wouldn’t advocate calling your boss a bigot, but saying “ouch, that’s taking it a bit too far I think. Those words are really quite offensive.” is less likely to put you in a hostile work environment and more likely to keep the focus on an individual situation, not his whole character.

      As for the kid moving into a leadership role, does your church do any sort of leadership training course? If so, it might be worth mentioning to those who run it so that they can work it in as a subject to discuss without singling him out. Can you chat to him about online stuff in general – like being careful about having kids on his FB from a child protection point of view, making sure that parents also have his email address in case they need to contact him, what to do if he sees something worrying from a kid under him etc. Then work in something about being careful to not post anything online that he wouldn’t say in front of the whole church “e.g. sexist comments, racial slurs… I’ve seen you call your mates faggots before and that could be really upsetting to a young kid struggling with homosexuality or being bullied – just make sure you’re thoughtful about what you post”. Keep it gentle and part of a bigger conversation, if that makes sense?

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