When the turn of Stan's team comes, Chef and the rest of the adults find out that it had not even noticed that the flag was racist, thinking that the issue at hand was capital punishment. Chef realises that, when the children looked at the flag, they only saw five people, with no regard to their colors, and is touched: he realises that, in believing the whole town racist while throwing the slur "cracker" around, he was being the racist one.
I have to watch this episode. Great insights here. This episode reminds us that racism, sexism and so forth are not self-evident but conditional
. Whether we think of ourselves as superior to others or others as inferior to us, what we are and how we behave is influenced by others and we in turn influence others. Chef had come to an important realisation about the underlying complacency
that provides the basis for discriminatory behaviour.
If I may press my point further. Let me say plainly: I DO NOT think the act was intended to be racist. It was a silly oversight. I think we need to look beyond all these arguments about whether it is racist or not. What I take issue with is not the 'racism' of this incident, but the ensuing comments and responses to this incident. More precisely, I take issue with the unexamined premises
of these arguments.
People have argued that Australia does not have the same black history as America, or the connotations of blackface minstrel shows do not apply in Australian contexts, or that Harry Connick Jr. (and others who complained) failed to get 'Australian humor', or that the global reaction is just overwrought political correctness. Now, I think these arguments have certain merits. They are not entirely unreasonable.
However, I think that they are unskillful because even as they attempt to demonstrate how racism is conditional, they fail to acknowledge the conditionality of their own positions:
1.) They gloss over Australia's troubled history with its own 'blackness'--this is something that Australia still hasn't come to terms with.
2.) They mistakenly think that it is possible to invoke the representations of the 'blackface' without the related connotations that come with it--it is not possible to neatly compartmentalize meaning by saying that 'Oh when I use these words or images only this meaning is involved and nothing else.'
3.) In saying that it is just 'Australian humor', they posit a problematic homogenized 'Australianness' that overlooks the diversity of ethnicity and cultures that makes it impossible to take for granted what 'Australianness' is.
4.) In saying that people around the world have overreacted, they mistakenly think that Australia can somehow step outside the relationality between nations and cultures in this globalised age.
These arguments do go some ways in demonstrating how the incident is not necessarily racist, but they are themselves rooted in complacency and insularity. They leave the underlying problems of complacency and insularity unacknowledged, unexamined and uncontested.
Fine, I accept that it is not an intentional act of racism. But even as we pursue these arguments about American black history, Australian humour, and so forth, we need to engage with them skilfully so that we do not merely mask--or worse, reinforce--the root problems that caused the debacle in the first place.
So this is what I take issue with: that people are speaking from positions of insularity and complacency to argue against charges of racism. This does not skillfully address the issue for as South Park reminds us, it is insularity and complacency that provides the condition for racism, (hetero)sexism, and all that in the first place.
OK, I shall stop my rant. Perhaps, one reason I'm upset by this incident is because I left my Southeast Asian hyper-materialistic country of origin to escape these attitudes of insularity and complacency that grip the society there. But I suppose these are the underlying conditions of samsara and they are everywhere. The only thing we can really do is cultivate self-reflexivity and work on these problems within ourselves. I have perhaps let myself get overly affected by the perceived lack of self-reflexivity in others.
A good time to practice some metta......