I trust you're familiar with the tale of "The Boy Who Cried Wolf".
Boy looks after sheep. Gets bored. Yells "Wolf!". Townsfolk come. No wolf. Boy repeats. Townsfolk annoyed. Actual wolf comes. Nobody listens. Sheep and boy eaten by wolf.
It amazes me how self destructive those on the progressive side of social issues can be.
They attack people who are on the same side as themselves, but who vary slightly in their opinion on how to improve the world.
I have read several things in recent months that implied racism or racial discrimination in Geraldton where there honestly was none, and I wondered about the dangers of diluting the issue of racism and alienating the very people who are trying to fight against it.
I don't want to go in to the specifics as I know the authors of the remarks are wonderful proponents for equality in our region, and should be encouraged.
But it's worth considering the implications of pulling the "racist" card inappropriately and the harm it can do to the very cause you're trying to progress.
Recently the debate regarding the closure of Aboriginal communities has lead to some ridiculous name calling and accusations of racism, where clearly some folk are simply wanting the welfare of children to be considered.
On Everything Geraldton's Facebook page I saw both Aboriginal and white folk say they believed many of the remote communities are unsafe for young people, or shouldn't be publicly funded, only to be met with cries of "racist". And the people hurling those accusations of racism weren't interested in discussing child abuse data, the number of children with sexually transmitted infections, or the ineffectiveness in the communities at "closing the gap". Instead, anyone with an opinion on how to help Aboriginal people that differed to their own was met with cries of "racist".
To be very clear, I'm not personally advocating closing remote communities. I have spent a small amount of time on a remote community in the Kimberly and the sense of reverence I felt towards the elders and occupants of the land was overwhelming. I personally want nothing more than the preservation of this priceless cultural heritage we have in the form of our First Australians and their connection to the land.
However, how on earth can any productive discourse occur when anyone who has an opinion that differs to the person with the loudest voice is labelled racist?
It's hurting the cause.
You might think you're helping your team by screaming "racist" at anyone who disagrees with you. But you're doing more harm than good.
There are thousands of people in Geraldton who want nothing more than the future of minority groups in Australia to be prosperous.
But if the people who hold slightly different views to yourself, or don't dot the i's and cross the t's to your satisfaction, are publicly branded a "racist", they won't be on your team for very long.
They will stay silent. They will do nothing. They won't get involved and they won't listen when help is asked for.
I experience it first hand.
My staff work hard to ban anyone from our different platforms who is actually racist. We have had to ban dozens of idiots over the years, sad to say. We've improved our comment detection practices, and many key words that are used in racist comments are now automatically flagged and hidden.
On our app and website, users have the ability to report anything inappropriate, and Facebook also offers good moderation tools.
But none of the tools at our disposal are perfect, and sometimes an inappropriate comment doesn't get removed immediately. God help us when that happens. I get informed I'm clearly racist for allowing that comment to have existed.
Honestly, it hurts a LOT when people say that. It is quite painful when the very people you agree with so much turn on you and call you all the things you've been fighting to stop.
There IS actual racism out there, and we need to keep fighting it.
In 2007 when I rented out a home I owned through a local real estate agent, I was asked if I was willing to rent to Aboriginals.
I was dumbstruck.
I said "Isn't that illegal to even ask?", to which I was told "lots of people won't do it so we just ask up front."
Racism and racial discrimination are things we need to keep fighting.
But we're not going to be effective if we keep turning on each other simply because we disagree on how to tackle race related issues, or if we turn completely unrelated matters into accusations of racism.
If there's a wolf, cry wolf, and do it loudly. If there's no wolf, hold your tongue.