Diary

Gadfly
Markle sparkles on racism debacle

If there’s one thing white people hate more than racism, it’s being accused of racism. That racism exists is not really a point of contention. But in nine years of living in Australia, I’m yet to meet anyone who admits to being racist. It’s not that dissimilar to how one in six women experience sexual assault in Australia, but somehow almost no one ever gets arrested for it or found guilty of committing it.

Every woman knows another woman who has been sexually assaulted. Yet no man ever knows another man who has committed sexual assault. Similarly, every person of colour knows another person of colour who has been subjected to racism, yet no white person ever knows another white person who has committed racism. Which is probably why everyone was so shocked to discover the royal family can be racist.

The revelation came during Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s much-anticipated interview this week with Oprah Winfrey, their first since “stepping back” from the British monarchy.

Who would’ve thought the inbred descendants of the most powerful colonial empire in history – who’ve not been seen standing next to anyone who isn’t white since the last time Prince Philip warned British students in China about becoming “slitty eyed” if they stayed too long – could be racist? And moreover that this royal racism would be aided and abetted by a media that doesn’t wear Klan hoodies only because it’s hard to copyedit through those little eyeholes.

Markle – who white Britons and Australians claim to despise for complicated reasons that never seem to hold up under scrutiny as non-racist – opened up during the interview about her mental health struggles after joining the royal family, and said a member of “The Firm” speculated about the colour of her baby’s skin before he was born.

In The Sydney Morning Herald, Markle’s candour was met with disdain and raised eyebrows from columnist Kate Halfpenny, who is clearly a strong supporter of believing all (white) women.

Other critics of Markle, who always happen to be white people who are experts in what is and isn’t racism, similarly decried the duchess, claiming she was “acting”. Their own naked racism, on the other hand, is very much real. Scientists have classified this complex way of denying the existence of racism while blaming the black person for being good at their job as the “Adam Goodes syndrome”.

Piers Morgan, a sort of blended human frappé of Pauline Hanson and Rowan Dean, stormed off his own TV show when challenged over his hatred of Markle. He subsequently announced he was quitting. Channel Seven has yet to announce its replacement for Sunrise host Samantha Armytage, but given the career arc for most American and British racists, odds are Morgan will end up there.

A high-intensity Zumbo workout

It’s been a few weeks since Craig Kelly was last in the news. The newly minted crossbencher has been busily posting on Facebook to feed his ravenous mob of climate change deniers and alternative medicine fans. It’s a demanding task that requires all his concentration and time. After all, you try coming up with a new way of claiming to be silenced for speaking the truth in all caps multiple times a day while neglecting the needs of your electorate.

Kelly’s social media is so demanding he hasn’t yet had time to consider the allegations made against Frank Zumbo, his senior aide and trusted adviser. In the past few days, three young women have alleged Zumbo behaved inappropriately. The allegations, which include claims he kissed and hugged a 16-year-old, come after several other women made similar allegations about Kelly’s right-hand man to the NSW Police Force.

Over the years, senior members of the Liberal Party have voiced concerns about the senior staffer. Prime Minister Scott Morrison revealed in parliament he has long worried about Zumbo’s continued role. However, lest anyone find solace in the prime minister finally taking sexual harassment seriously, he clarified those concerns had nothing to do with the “sensitive issues that have come up more recently”, and were more about “performance measures”.

Frank Zumbo has strongly denied all allegations against him, which should be more than enough to ensure the matter is closed forever and that nothing comes of it. Although if the women just claimed that holding Zumbo to account is a cure for coronavirus, Craig Kelly would likely take them seriously.

Wilting respect

International Women’s Day was observed earlier this week. This yearly celebration marks the day women around the world unite to answer angry hordes of men asking, “Oh yeah, when’s International Men’s Day, then?”

Increasingly, major brands are beginning to see the value in aligning themselves with days such as this to signal their progressive attitudes, thus avoiding for another year having to make any actual structural changes that truly benefit women. These messages of inspiration are often crafted by men who dominate the advertising and social media marketing industry, but it’s okay because they all consider themselves feminists.

Cholesterol manufacturer Burger King, for example, attempted one such message of hope, tweeting, “Women belong in the kitchen.” This was seen by someone as a clever way of inspiring more women to pursue a culinary career, but mostly it just confused everyone who never considered Burger King involved in the culinary arts.

While Liberal MP Dave Sharma isn’t a brand, per se, one suspects he may have employed the same marketing whiz who handles the Burger King account.

Sharma celebrated International Women’s Day by handing out pink flowers to women at a train station. He’s been since criticised for being out of touch with women’s issues and concerns, but that’s only because the true genius of his marketing strategy wasn’t fully appreciated. See Sharma wasn’t belittling the plight of women by expecting them to be grateful for a pink flower, he was actually drawing attention to his own government’s problematic ignoring of historical rape allegations, current rape allegations, the gutting of the Family Court to appease One Nation, and Frank Zumbo. If you can’t see that, it’s because you’re a woman and you need to let Dave mansplain it to you.

Former Labor prime minister Kevin Rudd also paid homage to the power of women, by deciding he was the man to declare “the age of male sexual entitlement” to be over. This came as a surprise to the women who heard him make the claim in a speech to the National Press Club in Canberra, and looked around to find no evidence of such a momentous change.

The follies of the pollies who were sick, sick, sick

Being a politician in Australia has turned out to be a health risk, with Greg Hunt now joining Linda Reynolds and Victorian premier Daniel Andrews on the sick or injured list. The federal Health minister has been diagnosed with a suspected infection, while Reynolds has a heart condition, and Andrews broke several ribs and fractured his spine. At this point, smoking is considered a safer pastime than politics.

Hunt is expected to make a full recovery. Reynolds has extended her medical leave for a few weeks. Perhaps by then people will stop asking why she called Brittany Higgins a “lying cow”.

The Victorian premier, meanwhile, is in intensive care after falling down some stairs. Federal Labor have taken this as vindication of their decision to have their own spines removed long ago and hope their state-level associates will do the same. 

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Mar 13, 2021 as "Gadfly: Markle sparkles on racism debacle".

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Sami Shah is a multi-award-winning comedian, writer and journalist.