Yassmin Abdel-Magied just wrote a piece for Teen Vogue called ‘I Tried to Fight Racism by Being a “Model Minority” — and Then It Backfired‘ and it was amazing. You have to read it.
It made me so happy to just read the title because it felt like for the first time Yassmin finally got it. She understood where she was going long and where her so-called ‘downfall’ in the eyes of Australia came from.
Yassmin was the epitome of the model woman of colour who represented what Muslim women should be. This meant that Yassmin was always perfectly well spoken – she said the non-threatening things that white people wanted to hear from her beautiful coloured-woman lips. She was the fun and quirky Muslim woman who demonstrated that we could all integrate and be accepted. All we had to be was super high achieving, far beyond any other Australian, and wear our hijabs in quirky colours so that white people could treat them like fashion accessories rather than religious statements, and we had to keep our pretty little mouths shut.
I saw Yassmin’s downfall from a mile away. Seemingly out of nowhere on an episode of Q&A Yassmin stopped being a quiet doll and challenged the status quo and the broader views of racist Australia(you can watch her here but don’t read the comments). She challenged these views with a passion that led to the audience cheering her on – but I saw what was coming next. Although she was on a show where she was supposed to share her opinion, she had fallen out of the quiet, cutesy mould. Where others cheered her on I hoped that those advising her were getting her ready for the retaliation.
And then she posted that status on ANZAC Day and Australia demonstrated what a disgusting cesspit of bigots it can be. For months Yassmin had rubbish slung her way that would’ve never been slung at a white woman with an opinion. She was told to leave if she didn’t like it, that she had been ungrateful to the nation that took her in. PFT.
At no point did these soldiers of ‘freedom of speech’ recognise the tireless efforts of this young woman who had spent a decade doing more for this country than all of them combined. Rather than being a highly intelligent woman making a point which she could support, she was just a stupid brown woman ‘attacking out culture’. HA.
And now she has left the country.
But Yassmin gets it now, and I’m so glad. It’s unfortunate that she had to learn the lesson so publicly because it was much easier for me to learn it privately; but I hope that this new found understanding of this country gives her the courage and power to voice HER opinions loudly and proudly without needing to sugarcoat and self-sensor to appease those who will never be appeased.
Yassmin’s piece is 100% accurate – Muslim women are made to feel that if we want to be heard, we better be perfect… in fact, we better be better than every single person that we want to listen to us, we better achieve so much that they get tired listening to those achievements being listed. We’re made to believe that we’ll be taken seriously if we just learn to play the game and say all the right things.
But we won’t.
The fact is that we’ll never be taken seriously – at least, not without paying a serious price and not without carving ourselves right down until we lose sight of who we are. We are not allowed to speak with the same freedom that everyone else can. The moment we speak out we become ungrateful bitches who should go and live in Saudi Arabia.
Here’s the thing. This isn’t about us.
Yassmin’s experience isn’t a lesson for us.
It’s a lesson for YOU.
If you’re still thinking that ‘Yassmin was out of line’ or thinking ‘what did she expect?’, you should be forced to read her piece. You should be ashamed by the way in which we allowed the media and politicians to go after this woman for voicing her opinion. You should be ashamed that we allowed her race and religion to come to the forefront of the conversation. We should be ashamed that the views of this Young Australian of the Year winner into views of the other; to turn her views into those of someone who threatened ‘our culture’ with her outside ways.
Yassmin’s experience should be a reminder of the wilful double standard created in Australia which forces people who look like they may be from a different cultural background to moderate their actions and behaviour just to be heard. It should make you feel ashamed that women of colour in this country are subjected to a non-stop tirade of vile racism and sexism for sharing an opinion that can hardly be called offensive in comparison.
Her post should remind you that Australian society has created a class of second-class citizens who can’t speak their minds because they’re slightly brown. It should remind you of the privilege that white men and women get to experience in being able to exercise their ‘freedom of speech’ without worrying about national polls asking whether they should leave the country, being accused of being part of some tyrannous cult, or being called racial slurs.
If you believe that Yassmin deserved any of this rubbish or think that her comments in any way were harmful or think that a white woman would have been treated the same way and you still think you’re ‘not racist’ you better check yourself. No one in Australia has had to deal with what Yassmin did for sharing an opinion, no matter how offensive.
What happened to Yassmin shouldn’t teach us ethnics a lesson – it should be teaching you a lesson.
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