Flat White

What’s woke this week (or racist)?

31 July 2020

11:00 AM

31 July 2020

11:00 AM

It’s no surprise that I spy with my little eye something beginning with ‘R’ is once again the game of woke choice this week. The search for all things racist this week moved offshore where we find that the wide blue ocean is in fact, white… and straight. Be still, my beating heart. Universities and newspapers have also provided more ‘evidence’ of systemic racism.  

They all look the same to me 

Two terrifying tales of ‘they all look the same to me’ have emerged from the world of woke this past week; one from the wokesters’ natural habitat of the university, and one from a rather more unlikely source. 

Varsity blues… or black

report emerged this week that black students at a Californian private liberal arts women’s college have lodged a complaint calling for the resignation of Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students Charlotte Johnson for, among other alleged transgressions, her anti-black behaviour. While there’s nothing new under the sun in wokeworld, this story does have a slight twist. Johnson herself is a black woman.  

The letter to the college’s board of trustees cites two examples over three years (talk about weight of evidence) of Johnson allegedly demonstrating ‘unprofessionalism and disrespect through a pattern of calling Black students by the names of other Black students’. 

[O]ne student explained that she was consistently called the name of another Black student who was three years older and several shades lighter. A second student shared that over the past three years, Dean Johnson also called her the name of another Black student despite being corrected everytime.

Hell hath no fury like a black woman misnamed and apparently miscoloured by another black woman. So much for the sisterhood.  

I’m so glad this story has been brought to my attention. My twin sister and I now feel empowered to move forward with a complaint against all those nasty nuns who sometimes mixed up our names at school.    

Frailty, the name is The Guardian 

Meanwhile, that bastion of social justice, The Guardian, has had a teensy problem of its own with the cross-race effect. On Wednesday, they published a piece by Jeremy Corbyn fan-boy Owen Jones, Tackling racism on social media is just the tip of the iceberg, in which Jones predictably opined: 

Online hatred is an urgent and growing problem, but its seriousness is not diminished by observing that powerful rightwing newspapers are this country’s most prominent platform for bigotry.


The article was in response to grime rapper Wiley’s online anti-Semitic Twitter tirade last week. For Jones, who proved himself the ultimate political contortionist through his support for Jeremy Corbyn throughout the British Labor Party’s antisemitism controversy, it seems that some racism is worse than others.    

But it was The Guardian’s own ‘casual racism’ that was most obviously on display in the article. It was accompanied by an image that purported to be of Wiley. In a case of ‘you’ve seen one black mononymous British grime rapper, you’ve seen them all’ the image was actually one of Kano. It means nothing to me because I’ve never heard of either of them but I’m outraged nonetheless. As are a whole lot of other people. 

Oops. Methinks The Guardian’s halo is slipping.      

Surf and (racist) turf

The sound of the waves, salt tang in the air, the camaraderie of sharing a wave, the rush of the ride.  You probably thought that surfing was a warm and fuzzy affair of friendship and fun but, at least in California, it is decidedly racist. Who knew? 

The SF Weekly last week published a story entitled California Surfing Has a Serious Diversity ProblemIt cites a few examples of surfing’s sickening segregationist mindset including the tale of Dionne Ybarra. If you’re waiting to hear about gangs of white surfer dudes physically preventing Ybarra from entering the water, don’t hold your breath.  

Instead you get: 

Even though Ybarra grew up just a 20-minute drive from the beaches of the Monterey peninsula, she says her Mexican-American family would only venture out to the water once a year, on July 4th.

“There’s this fear set up from birth that we’re not ocean people, we don’t go in the ocean,” she says, referring to people of color in America.

Ybarra’s mom had her take swimming lessons as a kid, but still made her wear a life jacket anytime they were by the water.

So, fear set up by Ybarra’s mother is evidence of racism? Right. 

But you need to understand the subtleties of territorial aggression in ‘the lineup’ – where surfers wait for waves – so we also hear from naturalist Mira Manickam-Shirley: 

While the motivations behind territorial aggression may not be directly linked to the color of surfers’ skin, it often underscores issues of privilege and access. “Localism helps ensure that the people who are already there kind of stay in control,” Manickham-Shirley says. And if the people who are already in wealthier, beachfront communities are more likely to be white, that makes it that much harder for people of color to gain their footing.

And we can’t forget the story angle created at the intersection of racism and homophobia: 

“I think the lineup is really just an extension of colonialism,” says Kyla Langen, co-founder of San Francisco based Queer Surf.

Langen apparently experienced terrible sexism as a pro surfer but you’ll be pleased to learn that when she moved to the Bay area: 

She made more queer friends, and many said they had always wanted to surf but felt too intimidated to try. What started out as taking them surfing turned into formal lessons and retreats for queer, gender non-conforming, trans, and non-binary people. Langen officially founded Queer Surf in 2016. Showing up in groups, she says, has been helpful in queer folks feeling more safe and comfortable.

It’s a pity I wish they all could be California non-binary people of colour’ just doesn’t sound too catchy.  

Illustration: Queer Surf.

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