Flat White

What’s woke this week?

24 July 2020

3:31 PM

24 July 2020

3:31 PM

Racism has remained the backbone of wokedom this past week with stories from the unlikely realms of sleep and K-Pop. Not to be outdone, though, the word police want to rewrite history by removing the use of eponyms in medicine. If you’re finding it hard to keep up with the multifarious aspects of decolonization then read on. 

To sleep, perchance to dream

If you think of sleep as an uncontroversial naturally occurring state of rest for mind and body, then that well-known authority on medicine and science, Teen Vogue, has news for you.  Turns out, in America at least, it’s just another arm of racist oppression of Black people (BTW, it’s Ok to say ‘Black people’ as long as you use a Capital B – according to Associated Press’ new guidelines), who, you won’t be at all surprised to learn, suffer from generational, inherited fatigue caused by, you guessed it, white people. 

This exemplar of journalistic puffery and woke orthodoxy by ‘Identity Editor’ (I kid you not) Brittney McNamara introduces us to Fannie Sosa and Navild Acosta, the creators of Black Power Naps. But black power naps are not merely the brain-boosting 20-minute daytime naps that allegedly everyone can benefit from. In the hands of these woke warriors Black Power Naps declares itself: 

A sculptural installation, vibrational device and curatorial initiative that reclaims laziness and idleness as power.

While simultaneously presenting itself as: 

A way to pushback against the false stereotype that Black people are lazy

No cognitive dissonance there. 

So, what do they want? 

[A]costa and Sosa are calling for rest as reparations. Yes, they’re looking for an ease to the many burdens that might prevent Black people and people of color from sleeping like systemic racism, socioeconomic struggle, and more. But they’re also looking for the opportunity to rest and have leisure time — time that will allow people to dream and heal.

You can check out the full bios of these brave and lauded activists here but no prizes for guessing that they’re liberally sprinkled with woke terms such as ‘doctorate degree in Gender and Social Science’, ‘intersectional identities as non-binary, transgender, queer, and Afro-Latinx’, the singular pronoun ‘their’ and more.  

Oh, and the scientifically-minded will be itching to return to the pages of Teen Vogue for classics like Ask a Fat Girl: Fatphobia and Racism and Black Disabled Lives Matter: We Can’t Erase Disability in #BLM   

Hysterectomy histrionics 

Dr Kirsten Small, feminist obstetrician and gynaecologist and lecturer in midwifery at Griffith University, made some woke waves last week in an interview for The Sunday MailDr Small posited that there is always an alternative to the dead man’s name for body parts, objecting to terms like fallopian tubes because they are named after Italian anatomist Gabriello Fallopiothe scientist who first described them. How dare he? 

She wants her students to eschew ’mysogonistic’ medical language in favour of more practical terms, telling the Sunday Mail: 

I think we have a personal choice to decolonise our language and these historical terms will fade out 

Pity her dedication to using practical terms doesn’t extend to ousting woke platitudes like ‘decolonise’. It’s only dead white guys she’s worried about. You know, the ones who actually researched, identified, and contributed to understanding of the human body and advances in medical science from which we all benefit today. It’s obviously dangerous to commemorate them. 

Also jumping on the medical word crime bandwagon was Council member for the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Dr Nisha Khot, who in a further interview with The Daily Mail said that ‘young doctors are often shocked when they hear the origins of some medical terms’, because, well, dead white guy medical pioneers are clearly shocking and should be cancelled. 

Her particular gripe was: 

The origins of hysterectomy for example has a horrendous connection to past days when female hysteria was a medical conditions [sic] often treated with a surgical hysterectomy. That’s not appropriate today. I prefer the term uterectomy.  

While no one’s denying the rather grisly historical practice of removing a woman’s uterus to treat ‘hysteria’, a quick check of a dictionary would reveal to Dr Khot that the term hysterectomy derives from the ancient Greek word for womb, husteranot the long-discredited practice itself.    

It seems to me that without some of these ‘dead white guys’ we’d still be living in a world where medical astrology, bloodletting, and boring holes in people’s skulls to treat migraine and epilepsy were de rigueur 

K-Pop is a weasel

I can understand that one might object to musical and cultural phenomenon, K-Pop for a host of reasons, but I hadn’t reckoned on racism and cultural appropriation among them.  helpful little article in the Guardian this week has shattered my illusions.  

“They use our culture’: the Black creatives and fans holding K-pop accountable” opens with the sad tale of R&B singer-songwriter Tiffany Red (who seems to have culturally appropriated red hair).  

On a trip to her local mall one week after the killing of George Floyd, Red: 

[H]ad encountered the national guard armed with large rifles, an experience that left Red “traumatized”.

Well, it would, wouldn’t it? But things got much, much worse when Red returned home: 

Still processing her experience at the mall earlier that day, Red opened her inbox to find a message from her South Korean music publisher, Ekko Music Rights, regarding a $66 payment for a song she had written for one of K-pop’s most popular groups, NCT Dream – a straightforward business transaction with zero acknowledgment of what Red, a Black American woman, may have been going through given the news cycle then.

Shock! Horror! 

Tales from other triggered songwriters and fans follow in a predictable arc that wants favourite K-Pop artists, producers and management companies to acknowledge the concerns of Black fans and those who’ve contributed to K-Pop. 

What’s not explained is how any of that will make anything materially better for Black people, but no matter. The important thing is that Tiffany Red has had an a-woke-ning: 

I would be a liar if I didn’t say that I didn’t participate in helping them steal our culture. We didn’t make the system, but it’s all of our responsibility to fix it to make it better. Black people are not the only people who will benefit from that system changing in K-pop. Everyone will benefit from that. It’ll create a whole new system of accountability.

Illustration: Pinterest.

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