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05 January 2017

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Out of my four mixed race daughters now living in Wales only one has ever reported to me of being racially abused and that was during her short high schooling. Perhaps the others have hidden such behaviour from me or thought it no big deal.

My youngest often smiles at the antics of the locals here who go crazy if the sun comes out. They, that's male and female, strip down even in the middle of town lying around on the castle grassy areas trying desperately to achieve the colour skin my daughter has.

Tanning salons, spray tan and many chemical lotions all try to do this too. I too smile at the orange faces I see getting on the bus.

However we cannot ignore colour as it is obviously an initial marker that differentiates someone especially if you do no know them and so will never ever be able to 'judge them by their character'. After all we have black or white rhino; pink dolphins -wow! imagine that if you are the alpha male in your pod.

I am sure most ex-kiaps have had an experience similar to mine when I walked quietly into a rural hamlet where everyday life was proceeding at its usual leisurely pace.

The tiny kids and their crawling siblings playing in the open space until one looks up and screams, terrified at the ugly image of a white man coming towards them. Mothers rush out and grab their crying scared offspring trying to reassure them, “He won't hurt you!”

Or perhaps like me being politely ordered, only because I was white, to sit in the front seats at the side of the pulpit in a village church.

There I was so conspicuous and felt not a 'bigman' but the village idiot as I didn't know the local language and couldn't join in the hymns in a foreign language.

A bit like the sorry figure of the Secretary of State for Wales miming the singing of the Welsh National Anthem on camera at the 1993 Welsh Conservative Party Conference.

This prompted a self-taught-Welsh writer Nigel Jenkins to suggest a phonetic English version for non-Welsh speakers at important things like international rugby matches.

It would prevent Welsh TV viewers etc from spotting your inability to speak their language.

"My hen laid a haddock, one hand oiled a flea
Glad farts and centurions, threw dogs in the sea
I could stew a hare here and brandish Dan's flan
Don's ruddy bog's blocked up with sand

Chorus

Dad! Dad! Why don't you oil Auntie Glad?
Can whores appear in beer bottle pies
O butter the hens as they fly!"

Ok I know you will say colour is too important to be frivolous but sorry you are stuck with it from birth. Ignore the rednecks and enjoy yourself with those who know you not as a banana bender, whitey, honky, gringo or even a pommie bastard etc but as just a unique person

Arthur 'Taffy' Williams aka 'white bastard' according to a former fellow New Ireland Assembly Member

Classification using descriptors remains entrenched in occupational health and safety management. It was identified as a significant impediment to transformational change by Haddon et al in the 1950s. Science needs to be based on an understanding of its fundamental processes rather than using descriptors.
I prefer to identify myself as a citizen of the world. This was a term used by the late and much lamented Alistair Cooke. His Letter from America broadcasts puts many contemporary media tarts to shame.

Classifying humans into different races has possibly been the most pernicious and damaging "scientific" idea in history.

The concept of race took hold in the 17th century. It divides us into groups based upon a false taxonomy: humans, in fact, belong to one species only, not multiple species.

The superficial physical differences between humans reflect a variety of historic, environmental and geographic factors that influenced our development, not some profound or fundamental differences.

Despite the fact that no credible scientists maintain that race categorisation makes any taxonomic sense, it still persists very widely as a way to describe "the other".

We each grow up within particular historic, cultural, linguistic, religious and social conditions which are used both by ourselves and by others to define us.

If, like Helen, you happen to be the product of a relationship between people from markedly different cultural and ethnic backgrounds, then you may find yourself defined out of any specific group or community.

These days, genetics allows us to delve sufficiently deeply into our past to discover that we are almost invariably the product of a mixture of ethnicities.

In my own case I know that I have Norwegian, English, Cornish and Germanic blood lines, which is a pretty typical mix for a "Caucasian". In short, I am a mongrel, not a pure bred.

Unlike Helen, I can initially pass as a native of any one of my notional ancestral homes, at least until I open my mouth when my Australianness becomes evident.

Of course, I identify as entirely Australian even though, according to race theory, only Aboriginal people can truly claim to be indigenous to this country.

Interestingly, my daughter, who speaks fluent Spanish with a distinctive Northern Venezuelan accent, is routinely recognised in Spain as Venezuelan.

Even more amusingly, my Peruvian "daughter" (a much loved exchange student) was, upon her return home after a year with us, promptly identified as an Australian who spoke really good Spanish. In fact, she has a mixture of Spanish, Czech, Italian and Incan genetics but, of course, identifies as entirely Peruvian.

My point is that using race to characterise people is not merely scientifically invalid, but often positively misleading. It tells you almost nothing about them.

As Martin Luther King said, you should judge people by their character, not the colour of their skin.

If more of us bore King's admonition in mind, then Helen and millions of others like her, would not find themselves unjustly characterised as not quite fitting in anywhere.

Thankfully, her PNG relatives seem to have accepted her as one of them. Hopefully, the Australian mob do the same.

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