A time to fear your own private opinions.

Earlier to day the Independent newspaper published an article entitled Top Twitter Gaffes of 2013 after a Public Relations Expert tweeted the unforgivable: “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!”. She unsurprisingly lost her job soon after landing.

As a Human Rights activist who campaigns predominantly online I am highly concerned about the impact my e-footprint might have for future job prospects. I might be working in what I would hope to be a mutually exclusive sphere to Justine but I am no less controversial and no stranger to grime satire.

One would hope Justine’s comments were a crass attempt at raising awareness of the disparity between access to health care and education for people living in different areas of ‘African’ communities but it simply wasn’t. Just a ‘harmless’ ‘joke’ with the punchline playing on misinformation and ignorance.

Now I do not agree with people’s personal lives, or as I put it earlier ‘being a bad person’, so severely impacting someone’s career as to lose them their job, especially within the private sector where unlike politicians or public figures they are not themselves a product just another drone following the corporate line. But in this example the company, due to the amount of attention she received could not but sack her as a representative on grounds of bringing said company into disrepute. Let alone any ill comfort or feeling she might have created between herself and her co-workers.

So where is my personal concern in all this? As a Human Rights campaigner  I discuss issues such as discrimination and ignorance without our direct communities and throughout the world. As a masochist my interests lay within more controversial areas of human rights abuses such as indigenous right, Roma and the Arab-Israeli conflict (Hint: I use the word Palestinian). All I want, somewhat naïvely, is for all human beings to be treated as people with equal access to the same state facilities as people of other races and cultures within their given country. That statement also includes ‘regardless of sex’ but that’s a topic for a different time.

What possible problem could that cause for me then? Non at all one would hope but people so often fall within one of a small number of categories – ‘The Bore: You’re so Boring’, ‘The Ignorant: But they’re Criminals?’, ‘The Doe-Eyed: What? I Didn’t Realise Racism Existed Today?, & ‘The Enraged: But they’re Criminals!’. The majority of my peers fall within either the first or third category, and the second and fourth are so closely related and interchangeable that it’s sometimes difficult to determine exactly where ‘The Average Person’ stands. There is also a fifth category known as the ‘But I’m not a Bad Person’ but everyone is a little guilty of that.

Each category presents its own unique trials and obstacles, it is very difficult to know exactly where a given person is going to stand on the topic and without a full understanding of the issues and exactly what I know or do not know my feed can feel a little daunting with individual statements cherry pick-able almost at random.

Above all this, what does every employer want? Someone who can get along with a team and when you risk taking a stand on something you believe in, especially something that goes against conventional opinions or highlights problem where ‘there aren’t any, right guys?’, you gamble building a reputation as a high-risk investment.

You don’t believe me? Try reading some of my hate mail :3

Keep your head down

A couple of days ago I posted a status on Facebook™ about a women at my workplace who has been being sexually harassment and was on one occasional sexually assaulted physically by a superior within the company. I posted this primarily because I believe that it is pretty grime that she almost did not report it because she was worried about potential backlash that might, in her opinion, put her job at risk. It came to the point that she no longer felt entirely safe, let alone comfortable.

Keep your head down

Has her job been put at risk? I highly doubt it but still remains to be seen. The important thing is she felt that it might jeopardise her position within the company because she was  scared how her colleagues and managers might react and most importantly how the offender might react. This fear, founded in reality or not, is very real and it prevents people like this lady coming forward and standing up for themselves.

My second motivation for posting my little update, and in some ways the most important reason, was because I have friends and acquaintances who believe that sexual harassment within the work place is not an issue because it is not an everyday occurrence. I believe they are wrong, it can be an everyday occurrence, some people will experience it multiple time in their life and some people will never come across it at all.

Now moving onto my point, after posting this I was sent the most well meaning message from a work colleague essentially telling me to mind my own business because it does not directly impact me and, I quote, I should ‘keep my head down’.

Fair, fair spreading rumour around the office is not the wisest or nicest of ideas, and as they say ” You stick your neck out, you are asking to lose your head”.

I’m not entirely sure I agree, in fact I’m not entirely sure I agree with the principle at all. I believe discussing these issues is highly important or at the very least should not be taboo, and to back up dehumanised and conservative statistics with personal experience, not that antidote cannot be faulty or just down right dangerous but it lends a face to something that not everyone experiences and could be excused for not considering relevant to their lives.

I have been sexually assaulted on multiple occasions to varying degrees, and it is very difficult to know what to do and how to react. A simple part of you just wants to smack the offender in the face and teach him a lesson but what lesson will be learnt. Violence is not the simple answer because it can so easily be used again you. Instead of anger I feel fear, embarrassment and shame. As the ‘victim’ this is not acceptable. We have every right to stand up for ourselves but it is sometimes difficult to know how and it is not guaranteed that we will be supported.

As my second point on the original post goes on to discuss but skims around, even though she was being supported and taken seriously, her manager (who was being less than subtle shouter her complaint across the break room within ear shot of multiple colleagues) seemed more interesting in reassuring himself that, for her sake he hadn’t been making her feel uncomfortable with his own ‘banter’ but ultimately that he was a good person. Understandable perhaps but she might have preferred not to have him telling her so many times about how much of a ‘great guy’ the man who assaulted her is. I think we all agree that he isn’t a Disney villain (or Walt Disney himself) but in this instance as we are focusing on his treatment of her , how amusing he is down the pub with the lads might not be entirely relevant.

The stories of how much of a laugh he is, even though the manager is trying to be supportive, is just going someway to reaffirm the fear of not only hierarchical bureaucratic position within the company but also social position within the working entity as a society or social group.

This is not a situation I am going to get any further involved in, she wants to try to keep it quiet amongst per colleagues so I doubt she would appreciate me taking a front row seat in her personal battle I stand by believing it is very important not to pretend that such issues do not exist and are not relevant to the lives of the majority of people regardless of whether or not they have first hand experience.  Every man has a women in their lives: mothers, sisters, daughters, friends, every women has the same. That’s why I think we owe it to yourself and the people we love not to play pretend or feels as if there is nothing we can do about it, we can do a lot by simple talking.

Like in the plot of every film or video game, surely these characters would get more stuff done if they simple talk to each other.

The Blame Game: The Choice of Words in the Media Depiction of Roma

ROMEDIA FOUNDATION

In a world that increasingly sees the use of  insensitive and racially charged terms as being unacceptable in public speech, the manner in which the media covers issues regarding Roma still trails behind all across Europe, with expressions ranging from the patronizing to the down-right offensive still being the norm in the media vernacular. Rather than being just an issue of journalistic ethics, some of these ill-conceived choices of words have very real consequences on the way the Roma are perceived and treated.

In recent years, the mainstream media’s level of outright hate-speech against minorities has somewhat subsided, while still, predictably, thriving in nationalist publications and independent blogs. While this new-found political correctness should definitely be applauded, it seems to have skipped the Roma, who are still treated in a horrendous manner by virtually any news story.  Even apparently benign use of language should also be more deeply scrutinized, being…

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Roma ‘hate’ speech of Cholet mayor Gilles Bourdouleix

Roma Portraits

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FRENCH investigators have opened a criminal probe into a politician who was allegedly recorded saying that Hitler “did not kill enough” Roma.

Interior Minister Manuel Valls had earlier called for Gilles Bourdouleix, controversial mayor of the western town of Cholet, to be “severely punished” for the comments.

Mr Bourdouleix reportedly muttered the remark on Sunday as he confronted members of the travelling community, also known as gypsies, who had illegally set up camp, according to a recording posted on the site of regional daily Courrier de l’Ouest.

“Maybe Hitler did not kill enough,” Mr Bourdouleix is heard saying after the Roma had reportedly given him the Nazi salute.

Mr Bourdouleix, who is a member of the lower house National Assembly with the centrist UDI party, is also facing expulsion from his party.

Local prosecutor Yves Gambert said his office had opened a preliminary investigation into the remarks on Monday, on…

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Romany and Cornish – Minority Languages in the UK

“Even if the language were actually “dead” (I do not believe that it has, by any reasonable definition of “dead”), precedent suggests that should not be a barrier to its official recognition. Ned Maddrell was the last fluent, native speaker of the Manx language and he died in 1974. Dolly Pentreath, the last native Cornish speaker, died in 1777. That’s 236 years ago. Yet Cornish is recognised, and Romani is not.

Of course, this is partly explained by the effectiveness of lobbying for recognition of languages like Cornish, but surely there is also something else at play. The fact is that, in origin, Romani is not a language of white Europeans, and is therefore not so easily seen as part of the heritage of a northern European country.”Damian Le Bas: [more]

I would love to write my own report on this when I have the time, perhaps in another lifetime. As someone who is found of, and has a comparable comprehension in, both Cornish and Romani – being Romani by blood, Cornish by birth.

The comparative recognition of the two languages fascinates me. As Damian L Bas correctly identifies Cornish is a dead language with the last native speaker having passed away in 1777. The Cornish revival has not been a success and is more of an eccentricity than a true revival yet resources for learning the language and literature written in the language is freely available (at least within the Duchy itself) to anyone who would show an interest. I have never myself met a fluent speaker and I always react with surprise upon learning (on the very rare occasions) that someone I have just met might have at one point taken lessons. Perhaps at school for a project or a workshop at one of our many revivalist festivals. It’s a futile task yet public money is funnelled into it.

Romani however is a language still spoken, both in its Angloromani form and … lets call them … European variants. I myself am not a native speaker of Angloromani, as I am not one of Cornish, I speak English as is expected of everyone born here, even fluent Welsh speakers and the children of those new to the country. Yet it is ignored as not only a language spoken in this country today, for in the metropolitan centres a cacophony of Asian tongues can be heard, but as one with a long and rich history, fundamental to the modern variant of English itself.

Not even a passing remark can be found in official, or academic text (outside special interest “Gypsy” groups) referring to the use of a Romani tongue, as plus ultra a history or geographic of the British Isles will rarely document the presence of a Romani demographic. This lack of recognition seriously harms, in more ways than I can comprehend in an orderly fashion, the further development of the Romani people as a fundamental dynamic of British society. There is no way to study, or even to read, in the language spoken by our ancestors and spoken by our parents today.

My English is perfect, it’s only a shame that race politics means I cannot  speak in the language of my choosing.

Casual Racism in (Deviant)Art – ‘Ethnic Minorities’ are not Elves.

One of the most annoying aspects of casual racism I often witness on DeviantArt, in addition to the use of outdated and offensive anthropological terminology aka Eskimo, Lapp, Gypsy, is the continuous dehumanisation of ethnic ‘minorities’ via the use of overly mystical and magical imagery. I’m not going to go into too much detail about why this is ‘bad’ as I would hope that you should be able to figure it out for yourselves… [To me more about this – Kill me with Affection Part 1, Part 2]

Anyhow my criticism of such work has often resulted in people missing the point entirely, believing that my problem is not with the dehumanisation of vulnerable communities but with fantasy and magic. This is not the case in the slightest, I utterly adore fantasy as one should be able to see from viewing my gallery. The difference between my gallery, and the gallery of someone who enjoys dehumanising communities is that elves are not real. Portraying elves as magically beings (as they are) harms absolutely nobody whereas continuously portraying real world communities as magical, as elves and fairies, is harmful. It dehumanises them, taking away their humanity and white-washes over both the historical and contemporary struggles of these communities. It can also add to the political rhetoric used against them and decreases the believability of human rights abuse reports. It’s not on.

I’m not even going to go into the costumes used prominently in these pieces. Some of it even amounting to, and the equivalent of, black-face.

You want to appreciate the majesty of Native Americans, of Inuits, of Saami, of Romanies, of Maori, of Imazighen? Read a book, one with footnotes. Preferably written by someone within that community.

*shakes tambourine and shuffles out*