A difficult and upsetting thing happened yesterday. In a sense, it has nothing to do with 'race' and racism. In another, it does.

At the AGM of a small grassroots arts organisation, I was publically undermined by the Chair of the organisation and 2 colleauges. Not one of them indicated that they had a problem with me prior to the meeting.

Over the past months the Chair has consistently ignored my suggestions and input. I have tried to meet him to discuss the situation and he has ignored me. I know - it's passive aggressive.
I also know that I frighten him because I want to change things, because I see change as the only viable way forward for our 21 year old organisation. I frighten all of the Board for the same reason - at least that's what I thought.
But since the AGM, I see it in a different light.

The entire organisation from the top down is homogenously white. Most are middle class, middle aged english men. I felt it keenly when I first came there about 3 years ago but I acclimatised. The organisation as a whole has a kind of passive aggressive feel - it's the tone set by the staff and board. I know it's them, as individuals, and not a (middle-class and southern) english trait.

Middle class people from Southern England are often proud of what they as see as their 'phlegmatic' dispostition. Some even come close to defining it is a national characteristic. I know that being 'phlegmatic' - or cold, unemotional, indifferent - may lead a person to act in a passive-aggressive manner - but not necessarily. Emotional people can be pretty passive-aggressive as well....

But where the race stuff comes in is in the interpretation of my personality by particualr kinds of people. Throughout my adult life, I have found people either like my passionate, enthusiastic character or are utterly repelled by it.

All sorts of people may like me, including white protestant english or english-descent people, but it tends to be only they who loathe me. They seem not to understand the emotional timbre of how I live my life and feel threatened by it.
In this country, people think that my 'loudness' is a function of my Australian-ness. People who know of my ethnic background see it as a function of being Jewish - or maybe the 'exotic' combination of being both.

There used to be a lovely old woman in my building who I often chatted to. She was Jewish and everyone knew it. People would say to me, 'oh that's just X, she's loud coz she's Jewish.' She once accused the Tennants Association of racism for kicking her out for being too argumentative. She called that racist. At the time I didn't see it. At the time I thought she was paranoid - or overstating the case. Now I can see what she's saying. Some cultures find fiesty strong passionate women scary. Though not every Jewish woman is feisty, strong or passionate (far from it!), I can see that X and me have something similar about us.

But then, she's a Cockney and I'm an Aussie and both are kind of in-your-face, what-you-see-is-what-you-get cultures.

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