Was Olivia Mahon’s Africa themed party racist?

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Olivia Mahon a young Australian threw an African themed party that has polarised views amongst contributors on this platform. Some believe that  Olivia’s party was harmless fun that should be treated as such whilst others believe that it was  deeply offensive and racist

Here are the views of the various contributors

Vera: I think that if all is put in context then the intention was not to be offensive. If you are sensitive the whole party stings….if you are not -you can have a good laugh abt it. If you attend comedy shows and hear what guys say about stereotypes then you will cool down about this one. I think it was just fun which caught some people wrong.

Victoria: I fail to see context in the photos. How would we put KKK in an African context? If, as she tried to explain, the whole idea was to celebrate “the country Africa” and all its beauty, how are the white-clothed fitting in?

Sitinga: I think it was highly offensive … When you have people dressing as the KKK , who was responsible for maiming, killing lynching etc… It is no longer just fun. And instead of comparing it to dressing up like Greeks. Replace Africa with Israel(another historically oppressed group) and the same people having a jewsih theme party to honor them and they dress up as Jews (some rich jews, some poor jews, jews with the curly hair and long beards, wear jew afros, and paint their aking slightly tanned) … also with others dressed up as the Gestapo and others dressed up as Palestinian suicide bombers or freedom fighter and no one would be sitting there trying to make excuses for her. If we think its not ok for them to make fun if jews in this way why accept it for ourselves. She wouldn’t be making excuses for herself either if it was jews. Sorry, she gets no pass from me on this issue – and the Black face is a problem for many other reasons — it’s not like making fun of any other folks because of the history of how africans have been treated – trayvon Martin, African immigrant in Europe, racial dynamics in the continent itself–

Freedes: Or if they dressed up in costumes with the swastika on it, like Prince Harry did

Mark: I think we are becoming too sensitive for our own good. She made fun of Africans. Thats about it. We should be out having a party making fun of the Australians and making a joke of their Kangaroos or something.

Doreen: I am with Sitinga on this one. What particularly offended me was not so much her ignorance but it was her attempt to excuse her actions and her undermining the feelings and opinions of those who have been offended. She is, amongst other things being patronising in her response, in addition to refusing to check her privilege. When this story was brought to my attention I initially found it (you gotta be effing kiding me) funny but now any kind of humour that can be taken from this whole situation has been eliminated for me based on people’s responses because there appears to be a wide spread refusal to acknowledge how something like this can in the very least be problematic and at most outright offensive and racist. She may have not consciously or intentionally set out to be racist in her actions but she was and there was backlash which she has decided to avert by making herself the victim of “overly sensitive” brown folk. We really need to understand that the perpetuation of racism isn’t solely reliant on intention or malice but it is also nurtured by the normalisation of historically oppressive and offensive ideologies and mindsets and excusing ignorance without challenging it or setting out to create knowledge around issues people are ignorant of. In my opinion calling ourselves overly sensitive about such matters is more counter productive to our quest to challenge supremacist ideology and systemic racism than people catching a fit about such incidences because at least when that happens, dialogue and debate takes place.

Vera: So would there be the same furor if a black person did a white party with kkk dress and colonial garb. These reactions interest me because I truly find that sometimes as ‘minorities’ we overreact to things which should be left alone. To me she is a young girl trying to hav fun…..and unfortunately she never thought that her party would throw her in the murk. To be fair though I tend to think that racism is sometimes connected to lack of exposure so we should look at it as an opportunity to educate rather than a personal offence.

Sitinga: I understand the argument about being sensitive and that we should take it as fun etc.,some of the costumes were bad on their own, but when you add the painting of the faces and the KKK, its a whole different ball game … I think sensitivity on our part it is justified in this case especially since they didnt show any to Africans . Images are a very powerful thing…There are important power dynamics at play – particularly in the neo-colonial era where peoples lives are at rick because of pharmaceutical testing (and killing folks) etc…its also about how people represent us or think about us..it may be an issue that some argue we should take lightly, but what happens when these are the same people who become CEOs NGO or Govt, UN, workers , soldiers etc.. when they have to make decisions whee African lives are at stake…and the image of africans that they remember is of bones sticking through noses…do we trust them to make the right decision then? if one of them was your doctor, would you trust them with your life after seeing these photos? But back to the holocaust analogy, no one makes fun of the holocaust and tells jews to get over it (that they are being too sensitive about the holocaust) and just go make fun of the germans, Hitler etc in exchange. We experienced the same treatment as the Jews (concentration camps in Namibia, Kenya and well, slavery..and colonialism) so we should be allowed to be mad . We can ‘get over’ these things once people stop targeting us and respecting our lives – dumping radioactive stuff on our continent, fuelling and funding wars on the continent, sending folks to kill villager protesting against unarmed companies, telling us to grow tobacco (that we cant eat) until we die off, medical experiments etc.. my main point is, these are every day things that are still on-going so as long as those types of things occur, we must call out how insensitive they are… these are the people who will work in Africa and ‘save’ us …? really? we are not sensitive enough, the Jewish community would never stand for this – it would be on headline news! (I guess I could have written the post judging by the length of my response, lol sorry folks)

Thoko: I also think it has to do with ignorance and a lack of sensitivity, which aren’t excusable.

Mark: In my opinion forever acting the victim acts as a self fulfilling prophesy. President Museveni at the 50 yeer celebration of the AU argued in his speech that we are taken advantage of because we allow it. The Leakey family proved that mankind started off somewhere in Africa. Copious archeological, lingual and cultural evidence supports this. Everyone is African basically some just went north and are now more powerful. Forever lamenting about being downtrodden keeps us there. Freedom and power(to make our decisions and tell our story) is not given, it is taken. A 20 year old throwing a party 6 timezones away should not destabilise our psyche.

Ossob: Doreen and Sitinga make excellent points so I won’t repeat them. Mark and Vera I understand your concerns of victimisation but I urge you to reread Doreen/Sitinga’s points and take some time to truly reflect on their message. Imagine if you were invited to that party. The least you would feel would be offended if not disgusted and enraged. This is racist and it definitely needs to be exposed for what it is. Exposing and condemning racism and trying to have a dialogue about it so that African people and culture’s are not disrespected in the future, is NOT victimisation. It is justice. It is freedom and power to confront such narratives and it is only cowardice and apathy to ignore them, for fear of being a ‘victim.’ Something else to consider: the frequency in which these kinds of acts happen. They happen A LOT.This is far from an isolated incident and reflects a deep conviction in the western imagination of Africans as inferior and subhuman. Simply refer to Soc Images that regularly curate racist outbursts from white people. I challenge anyone to find this many links/news stories of black or nonwhite people doing the same.

One last thing. It is very concerning to see fellow Africans expressing the same dismissive attitude about racism as its perpetrators (westerners in this case). Racism isn’t just some emotional reaction that people need to get over.Racism is a real force that tangibly hinders the progress of people of colour, and hence, the world as a whole. I don’t need to find links to validate this statement because I think we all know its true.

Sitinga: Please get don’t get me wrong, I go to comedy shows and some of them say offensive things and can be funny about it… theres a place and a time, and a way.

I agree that some people act like victims and use it as an excuse, that is not what I am advocating. I dont think you need to act like a victim to acknowledge that someone’s doing something to offend you. As an example, my saying that its offensive wont prevent me from going to work tomorrow or befriending all white Australians. People have just never acknowledged that certain things in African history were wrong. They apologised for the holocaust, Japanese internment camps…etc.. but no one wants to say sorry to us for colonialism , slavery, or concentration camps…I don’t thin kits possible for folks to move on without an apology, mush less an acknowledgment that we were wronged….even just saying sorry would be a huge step. P.S. People think Obama is going to apologize for slavery before he retires.

The reason for sharing these views here is to solicit input from our readers.

Were you offended by Olivia’s birthday them

Are we as Africans too sensitive about race issues?

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