Kate Says Stuff is all about life with four fabulous children and a Supertrucker husband. Kate writes of family life, recipes and household organisation along with regular product reviews and giveaways. She is also a founding blogger at Autism: In Our Own Words sharing the trials and tribulations of having two children on the autism spectrum.
I'm not racist, but...
Have you heard that one before? I’m not racist but… followed by some explanation as to why someone else is different to ‘us’. Sometimes it is used in a friendly context, sometimes not. Either way the outcome is the same. That ‘but’ negates pretty much anything that comes after it.
I had reason to call a hospital recently chasing up a specialist for my son. The receptionist was incredibly helpful and so caring with regards to our situation. She fast tracked things so we will hopefully access the surgery he needs sooner rather than later after an exceptionally long wait on the clinics in the big city.
Aware of his autism diagnosis, she asked if he would prefer a female or male specialist. I said I thought a female. She replied that the specialist she’d booked us in with was ‘not Australian but such a lovely woman.’
This is a person who had gone above and beyond the call of duty to help us. She is clearly a caring human being, and I’m sure had no intention to offend. But there was that ‘but’ again. Even while attempting to compliment the specialist and reassure me, that but turned it upside down. I can’t even begin to think about the ‘not Australian’ part because I’m pretty sure if the specialist lives here and is a citizen, then she is Australian.
Maybe it was a slip of the tongue. Maybe it is not something she has ever or will ever say again. Even if that is the case, that ‘but’ just created a division even while meaning to reassure.
So long as the ‘but’ exists we will never truly achieve equality. Not racial equality, not gender equality, not ability equality.
Can you imagine saying to someone ‘I don’t think you are stupid, but…’? I often say really daft things. They fly out of my mouth unbidden. I’m sure it happens to all of us. But for me the key is to try to be conscious of it. To make sure my children understand the power of the words we use.
Because sticks and stones may break my bones, but names can be incredibly damaging too.