ICYMI, ‘Hack’ Got Bloody Heated Discussing If “White C*nt” Is Racist

Barely a goddamned week goes by without some form of ass-backwards racial prejudice stinking its way into Australia’s headlines. 

As the media furore surrounding cartoonist Bill Leak and his damaging depiction of Indigenous Australians was just beginning to lose its intensity, we were hit with the news another AFL fan hurled a banana at an Indigenous player.

That is to say instances of racism against Australia’s ethic minorities occur with such brutal regularity that we’ve essentially come to expect them. 

At every level of our culture, in every aspect of our day-to-day lives, you’ll still find people of colour facing indefensible intolerance.

Triple J’s Hack often highlights those very same stories. A quick glance across the show’s back-catalogue reveals host Tom Tilley has helmed some hefty discussions on race, prejudice, and on how Australia is still burdened by hatred based on the colour of someone’s skin.

Still, last Friday’s episode flipped the typical script by discussing prejudicial language used against white Australians. The results of that chat, tucked into the tail-end of the show, were just short enough to pass by without a huge amount of notice. Still, that five-minute span centred around one hotly-contested point that warrants contemplation:

Is it racist to call someone a white c*nt?

Using libertarian Senator David Lleyonhjelm’s recent claim “angry white man” constitutes racist language as a starting point, Tilley and panellist Bhakthi Puvanenthiran fielded a call from Tammy-Lee.

Describing her childhood in Far-North Queensland, Tammy-Lee said “I was, at seven years of age, constantly bombarded by the group of native (sic) Australians who lived across the road from us.
[I was] called a Captain Cook white… Not going to say the word on radio.”
Tilley interjected, filling in the blank with “C-bomb! I’ve had that one as well.” Tammy-Lee responded in the affirmative, saying “yeah, I copped that almost every morning, and I was not allowed to say anything.”

The host asked Puvanenthiran if she believed that constituted racism. Her response of “it’s bullying, but it’s not racism,” was set upon instantaneously by Tilley. 

“But they’re denigrating her on the basis of her race, how can that not be racism?”
Puvanenthiran’s reply demonstrated the gulf between the ways our society understands the issue. Her open-ended question of “because you are white, do you face problems getting employment, finding someone to date you, do you face regular bullying?” framed the issue in terms of oppressor and oppressed, whereby racism can only be enacted by the former on the latter. 
Tammy-Lee asked if racism is not simply when somebody is vilified for the colour of their skin. “Actually it’s not,” Puvanenthiran said. “Racism is a system of oppression that works against certain groups.”

That definition was contested, with bloody haste, by Tilley. He ran through the dictionary definition of racism which conformed to Tammy-Lee’s take, and put it to his co-panellist by asking “so you’ve got a different definition to the Oxford Dictionary? Yours involves this kind of institutionalised power imbalance”.

Puvanenthiran’s response qualified the original “white c*nt” slur. She said it’s obviously a shitty thing to have heard, but it pales in comparison to the racist acts perpetrated on Indigenous Australians on a much broader scale. That statement was met with agreement from the caller, who went ahead and said she has brown friends.

That one, just quietly, was met with a barely-audible “Christ” from Puvanenthiran.

If anything, that short back-and-forth demonstrated how concepts like intersectionality and nuanced interpretations of power structures are working their way into the broader public conscience. 
It was prickly. It was charged. But that doesn’t mean it’s a discussion Australia should avoid, and for a few minutes on a Friday evening, a once-marginalised perspective was explored in primetime.
Listen to the entire episode here.

Source: Triple J / Hack.
Photo: Don Arnold / Getty.