Do we not bleed?

From Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, Act III, Scene 1 (with minor adjustment for topicality):

“I am a Man of Colour. Hath not a Man of Colour eyes? Hath not a Man of Colour hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions; fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer as a White Man is? If you prick us do we not bleed? If you tickle us do we not laugh? If you poison us do we not die?”

“And if you wrong us shall we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that….”

“If a White Man wrong a Man of Colour, what should his sufferance be by White Man’s example? Why, revenge. The villainy you teach me, I will execute…”

We have not deserved the forbearance of our Brothers and Sisters of Colour. Despite our example of centuries of oppression, torture, rape, slavery and theft, they have not returned to us our just deserts. Our arrogant, stiff-necked Christianity has not shown them the example of loving kindness towards our fellow men they have deserved of us, despite our cramming it down the necks of people we have oppressed. What they ask is not mercy, but justice. Mercy is shown by the strong to the weak. Justice is for equals.

I ask forgiveness for my assumptions, my arrogance, my ignorance, my unintended blindness to the suffering of my fellow man. I don’t feel prejudice against any colour and I try not to make assumptions; we are all the same under the skin, but I am ashamed because I have not seen, I have not called out and I have not fought for your rights – because they are just as important as mine

I am a privileged white woman, and I am sorry for it.

38 thoughts on “Do we not bleed?

  1. cazinatutu says:

    Yes you are a privileged white woman. But why be sorry for it. You are who and what you are and had no choice in it. In my mind you can only be sorry for something you have done of your own volition. If you were to go around self-flagellating, apologising for who or what you are, what use is that to anyone? Use what you have to attempt to change the situation.

    • katechiconi says:

      I’m not apologising for *who* I am, but *because* I am privileged beyond my merit. Why should I be safe from harassment, arrest, poverty and ill health because my skin is pink? And I should point out that I am also sorry for my ignorance and inaction, which are my responsibility. I don’t know that i’d call it self-flagellating, though – that wouldn’t help anyone!

  2. kymlucas says:

    Thank you, Kate. It’s easy for us to forget we live in a different world because we are white.

  3. Wow, where to even start on this subject…? I cannot know what it is to be anything other than white (or female, for that matter) and I can’t be apologetic for the fact of my existence as a white woman, but I can – like you – genuinely aim to always be aware of my privilege, not be judgemental, not be patronising, and not be disrespectful of anyone else (for any reason, including religion, belief system, gender, as well as race and circumstances). We are all products of the particular culture and society we live in, and prejudice is pervasive. To have an open mind, to be aware of injustice, to be reasonable and kind, to be without judgement of others, and to be prepared to speak out – not always easy, but something to strive towards. I see racism in action all over the world, and of course the country I live in is structured on the basis of it (South Africa, in case anyone is reading this comment and doesn’t know me), economically, politically, geographically, culturally, everything-ly. There is no getting away from its destabilising and pernicious nature EVER. There can only be the sincere and authentic attempt.

    • katechiconi says:

      You and I have the additional responsibility of living in countries where it is the traditional owners who are the subject of prejudice. We oppress them in their own country… I will never *belong* to this country in the way Australia’s indigenous peoples do, but at least I can try to ensure that their ownership is respected and acknowledged and that I do not allow harm to occur by my inaction.

  4. Sharon says:

    A perfect posting in response to what has been going on not just here in the states but all over. Thank you for posing this.

    • katechiconi says:

      I just don’t understand why skin pigmentation makes it OK for people to behave brutally towards their fellow men…

      • magpiesue says:

        Precisely. Or why it’s okay to torment anyone else who may be “different” from us in some way.

      • katechiconi says:

        Children are afraid of ‘the other’, but we are adults and should grow out of irrational childish fears. One of my favourite quotes goes as follows:
        “Prejudices are rarely overcome by argument; not being founded in reason they cannot be destroyed by logic.” (Tryon Edwards)
        You cannot convince a rabid white supremacist by rational argument, he is entirely driven by emotion. Overcoming prejudice is a matter of will, education, natural justice and moral responsibility.

  5. You said what a lot of us are feeling. Thank you.

    • katechiconi says:

      When did it become OK for us to brutalise each other under the eyes of thousands and pretend it is the rule of law. And why are not enough people horrified enough to rise up and call it out with our leaders? I also hate the way movies show examples of racism under the guise of ‘historical drama’ and pretend it’s entertainment.

  6. tialys says:

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts Kate x

    • katechiconi says:

      There are going to be those who disagree. But how do you defend treating those with simply a different skin colour as if they’re disposable? The police here are no angels, but I think perhaps they’re not quite as casually brutal and self-satisfied.

  7. This is well put together. It’s unfortunately too true for far too many generations. Someone always seems to be at the bottom of the pile. Who will humanity pick on next?

    • katechiconi says:

      It’s a good question. So far at the bottom we’ve had people of colour, people of a different religion, people of a different sex or non-mainstream orientation. It sure is a good time to be a White Anglo-Saxon Protestant. Oh, and of course, male…

  8. gwenniesgardenworld says:

    It must be hard for coloured people to live between “whites” and be discriminated day by day by day. We definitely need a turning point, and we need it now !!

    • katechiconi says:

      I wish for a day when there is no need to mention what colour people are at all. It’s just the ‘clothes’ they wear on the outside. They are people.

      • gwenniesgardenworld says:

        Yes, we are all people, no matter how we look. And I really hope this will change for the better now !

  9. well said Kate, thank you. None of us is born hating or judging – we have to be taught. It starts within the family, the neighborhood, the schools, with the friends we choose that support our beliefs and just keeps building. Somehow we have to find a way to stop teaching all our children to hate – and sadly I don’t see that happening in my lifetime.

    • katechiconi says:

      I’m a great fan of ‘walk a mile in my shoes’. If in school all blue-eyed children were discriminated against, or those with big feet or curly hair, just for a day, it might make a difference.

  10. Thank you for speaking up, Kate. Jimmy Carter said this today: Since leaving the White House in 1981, Rosalynn and I have strived to advance human rights in countries around the world. In this quest, we have seen that silence can be as deadly as violence. People of power, privilege, and moral conscience must stand up and say “no more” to a racially discriminatory police and justice system, immoral economic disparities between whites and blacks, and government actions that undermine our unified democracy. We are responsible for creating a world of peace and equality for ourselves and future generations.”

    • katechiconi says:

      He is a good, responsible and visionary man. His actions speak, not just his words, and he makes ‘be the change you want to see’ true through his life and work. Perhaps as a nation, you will judge your presidents through what they achieve *after* they leave office.

      • It’s been said often that Carter is the best ex-president we’ve ever had. Obama is pretty amazing too. Carter has worked tirelessly for decades improvig the health, safety and well being of milliions around the world.

  11. Well said Kate. There are 2 strands to my contribution to the discussion.

    I have a ‘hidden’ disability in that I have very poor hearing and it has made me much more aware of the casual discrimination which surrounds us. At a local hospital I tried to use the hearing loop at the reception desk only to find that no-one had taught the receptionist how to use it! No-one intended to cause me problems or embarass me -they were simply thoughtless. Later that same day I had to ask a nurse to make a phone call for me as none of the phones on the ward were hearing aid compatible.

    The second strand is more hopeful. I have 2 grandchildren who are ‘mixed race’. My son, their father, is English but Muslim by choice and took a muslim name – which causes some confusion when he buys me things on Amazon and has them sent here! His wife is from Bangladesh. Their children have a foot in both cultures and to their mother’s dismay neither of them is devout or identifies strongly with her culture but neither are they ‘White’ or christian. I therefore think it fairly unlikely that either of them will marry a devout Muslim and so their children will probably be even more ‘mixed’. As the distinctions blur racial prejudice becomes harder to sustain.

    • katechiconi says:

      In college, I had a friend whose Indian parents had come from Uganda as refugees. They’d settled in Dundee in Scotland, and he had assimilated totally. It was always entertaining to hear him tear a strip off casual racists in the purest of Dundonian accents (impenetrable enough at the best of times!). Jaws would drop and perpetrators would shamble off sheepishly… The dilemma is losing your culture vs seamless integration. A hard choice.

  12. Joanne S says:

    I’ve lived my entire life in southeastern Virginia. On school trips to visit our capitol city, school buses drive down Monument Avenue on towards the Governor’s House in Richmond, VA. All but one statue (Arthur Ashe) is of a confederate nature. One in particular, R. E. Lee, is an impressive 60 feet tall. How sad that this tour implies to little children that these statues, lining the drive to the our state capital, must be correct and important. I am ashamed that our judicial system ruled in 2019 that Charlottesville, VA could not remove war memorials as they protected by law. Even after the 2017 fatal protests. But there is a tiny hope. Maybe.
    This week our Governor stated that one city, Norfolk, could remove an 80 foo tall confederate statue by August. This has been in the planning stage for 3 years. Enough. He said it is not protected by law.
    I know I am privileged. One must educate themselves. It is an eye opener. Try Netflix: “The Hate You Give,” The 13th” etc.

    • katechiconi says:

      I am ashamed that some of our politicians opposed National Sorry Day, when our prime minister publicly apologised to the traditional owners of this land for past crimes against them. I also think it would be appropriate to celebrate Australia Day on a different day, not one which commemorates white men arriving in Australia and claiming it because it was ’empty’, as opposed to occupied by indigenous Australians for the past 40,000 years. But that too is opposed by many politicians…

  13. anne54 says:

    I really like your words “What they ask is not mercy, but justice. Mercy is shown by the strong to the weak. Justice is for equals.” One of the things coming through strongly from both the US and here in Australia is that we white people are not the ones to drive this. We stand by the side of and support Indigenous Australians, but we are not at the front. As you say, we should not be graciously showing mercy.

    • katechiconi says:

      This fight is not ours to interfere in, is it? We can support, and offer the hand of friendship if we’re asked for help, but we can’t go barging in with our white-man interference again, thinking we know best and we’ll fix everything. Indigenous Australians don’t need that, they’ve had far too much of it already. We can stand behind, and show some humility for a change.

  14. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. As our friend Ardys recently commented, I have been feeling “bewildered and overwhelmed”. The company and wise words of good friends helps alleviate that somewhat so I can stand strong and supportive.

    • katechiconi says:

      I have found myself shouting at the TV when I hear people criticising the protesters. This issue has made me so angry. I’ve signed up for change.org so I can sign everything in sight that relates to the horrendous injustices caused by institutionalised racism.

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