Discrimination also lies at the heart of many injustices closer to home. The over-incarceration of Aboriginal peoples and widespread violence against women cannot be remedied if we refuse to recognise and respond to anything other than one-off violations of individual freedoms. Anti-discrimination laws are sometimes denounced as “social engineering”… Society is already engineered. Women earn less than men, people with disability are disrespected and disbelieved in criminal proceedings, and job applicants with foreign-sounding names are less likely to get interviews than equally qualified Smiths and McKenzies. If the goal is to rid society of the distorting effects of social engineering, then addressing discrimination is not a hindrance, it’s essential…

Recognition of the importance of non-discrimination is one of the great contributions of the modern international human rights framework. Unlike some of the legal, political and philosophical traditions that preceded it, you don’t have to be white, a man or a landowner to claim human rights protections.

Strip equality from human rights and we’re left with a world where all humans are free, but some humans are more free than others.  

- Rachel Ball, on proposed changes to Australia’s anti-discrimination law, specifically racial vilification in the media. Ball is the director of advocacy and campaigns at the Human Rights Law Centre, Australia. For an example of why racial vilification laws are necessary, read my discussion of Indigenous writer Anita Heiss’ case against media personality and bigot Andrew Bolt. Bolt, a White Australian man, used his media platform to question the authenticity of Indigenous leaders based on the fact that they were not “Black enough.” He did this to both discredit Indigenous leadership, but also to slur Indigenous Australian history of colonial violence, dispossession and removal of children from their communities.

Sociologist Shamus Khan on Re-framing Poverty

Programs that focus on the “culture of poverty” and the alleged “attributes” of poor people don’t get to its root cause, which is, quite simply, that millions of people don’t have enough money. Poverty is not a fixed trait; we can easily make people less poor by giving them enough money so that they’re no longer poor.

There’s considerable evidence that this method works. Progressive thinkers have recently suggested that, in light of such evidence, a guaranteed basic minimum income should be central to addressing poverty and building a better society. But let’s not assume that this is just a liberal idea cooked up by the economically naive: Conservative economist Milton Friedman argued that a similar idea, in the form of a “negative income tax,” might be the path to prosperity. In imagining the poor as moral failures, we have created an elaborate system of government surveillance, security and regulation, infantilizing and demonizing those who are suffering. Instead, we might look to policies like a guaranteed basic income or a negative income tax, in which we give people money and treat them with the dignity their humanity entitles them to.

Source: Al Jazeera.

I’ll be co-hosting #ScienceChat on Twitter on the 9th of April, 2pm PDT USA/ Thursday 10th April, 7am Aussie time. Dr Buddhini Samarasinghe and I will be tweeting from our account @STEMWomen and our amazing colleague Profesor Rajini Rao will be one of our distinguished guests. We’ll discuss how we can improve women’s participation in Science Technology Engineering & Math. We’ll also talk about how we can address intersections of discrimination in STEM. 
The discussion includes 10 scientists from various fields, including sociologist Jessie Daniels, science presenter Julia Wilde (thatssoscience) Modzilla Science Lab Director Kaitlin Thaney, academic blogger Dr Isis, amongst other guests.
Join us using #sciencechat High-res

I’ll be co-hosting #ScienceChat on Twitter on the 9th of April, 2pm PDT USA/ Thursday 10th April, 7am Aussie time. Dr Buddhini Samarasinghe and I will be tweeting from our account @STEMWomen and our amazing colleague Profesor Rajini Rao will be one of our distinguished guests. We’ll discuss how we can improve women’s participation in Science Technology Engineering & Math. We’ll also talk about how we can address intersections of discrimination in STEM. 

The discussion includes 10 scientists from various fields, including sociologist Jessie Daniels, science presenter Julia Wilde (thatssoscience) Modzilla Science Lab Director Kaitlin Thaney, academic blogger Dr Isis, amongst other guests.

Join us using #sciencechat

Maiko dance.

Source: Vine by Vine JAPAN.

Why we shouldn’t excuse “casual” racism: In the video below, an American entertainment reporter has confused Samuel L. Jackson with Laurence Fishburne. Rather than letting him off politely, Jackson riffs on him: “We don’t all look alike! We may be Black and famous, but we don’t all look alike!” The reporter tries to laugh it off but Jackson says, “Hell no!” After speaking about his role on Robocop, the reporter mentions the other cast members. Jackson says: “Make sure you don’t confuse them with those *other* White actors.” 

People explain moments like these away as a “slip of the tongue” on the one hand, or as “unintentional” or “casual racism” on the other hand. There’s no such thing. Racist exchanges, including getting one individual mixed up with another due to their racial appearance, belie the entrenchment of racial hierarchies. This isn’t about Jackson having similar facial traits reminiscent of Fishburne. They look nothing alike. 

White people are not mistaken for other White people simply on the basis of the colour of their skin.

Social decorum often demands that people of colour restrain their responses to racism. I’ve written about this before with respect to Muslim-Australians, who report feeling that they must control their anger when faced with racism so they don’t contribute to the stereotype of the “out of control Muslim.” Even Martin Luther King is supposedly not allowed to look angry about racial oppression. The reporter quips he needs a “spanking” to try to erase the significance of his mistake. Jackson does not simply use humour to mask how offended he feels; he makes it clear that this mix-up is not okay.   

Beneath this reporter’s faux pas lies something deeper. It’s the “you all look alike to me” attitude that perpetuates discrimination and violence against minorities. Jackson is not having any of it. As it should be.

In June 2013, I wrote about Norrie, a transgender woman from New South Wales (pictured above), who had successfully petitioned The New South Wales Court of Appeal to be given the right not to list her gender as either male or female. 
Predictably, this New South Wales decision had been appealed and it went to the High Court. This morning, they ruled that New South Wales law can indeed recognise non-specific genders other than male or female. 
See the legal document below.
High Court ruling: NSW Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages v Norrie
 
Photo and news: SBS News. High-res

In June 2013, I wrote about Norrie, a transgender woman from New South Wales (pictured above), who had successfully petitioned The New South Wales Court of Appeal to be given the right not to list her gender as either male or female. 

Predictably, this New South Wales decision had been appealed and it went to the High Court. This morning, they ruled that New South Wales law can indeed recognise non-specific genders other than male or female. 

See the legal document below.

High Court ruling: NSW Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages v Norrie

 

Photo and news: SBS News.

Italian-Australian activist Anna Moo talks about her attraction to social justice and how she worked with a group of migrant women in the 1970s to achieve policy changes on migrant women’s reproductive health. In the video, Moo says:

We really wanted to connect back with the women that we were advocating with. They were not aware of health services that might have been available to them. The W.I.C.H. [Women in Industry Contraception and Health] education project was developed in conjunction with Australian women and women from many different backgrounds with the support of a number of organisations.

And the fantastic aspect of that education kit is the fact that it was taken to the factories by women who were themselves from multicultural backgrounds. Each worker spoke a language, a community language, whereby women could actually ask questions and be supported through the discussions. You know, what’s really amazing is that we still have Women in Industry Contraception and Health, it’s called a different name but it’s still that organisation… 

It’s really a testament to what women can do together.

Source: Immigration Museum.

Scientists should not simply stick to doing science. Perhaps we need to extend the scientific method to include a requirement for communication. Young scientists should be taught the value and necessity of communicating their findings to the general public. Scientists should not shy away from controversy, because some topics should not be controversial to begin with. The scientific evidence for the efficacy of vaccines, the process of evolution, the existence of anthropogenic climate change is accepted in the scientific community. Yet, within the public sphere, goaded by a sensationalizing mainstream media and politicians seeking re-election, these settled facts are made to appear tentative. Science is based on evidence, and if that evidence tells us something new we need to incorporate that into our policies. We cannot ignore it simply because it is unpopular or inconvenient.

- Dr Buddhini Samarasinghe, molecular biologist and science communicator, argues the idea that “Scientists Should Stick to Science” needs to be retired. This is an much-needed and punchy piece on the importance of public science. Read the whole thing on Edge.org

Also check out all of Buddhini’s public science outreach on Google+. See other examples of Buddhini’s public science writing at Scientific American, which hosts her Hallmarks of Cancer blog posts, a series designed for a lay audience seeking to understand the common features and complexities of various cancers.

Childs_13 by azherhameed on Flickr."Children study in a yard with scrap collected for recycling, in Hyderabad, India, Friday, Nov. 20, 2009. Twenty years after the U.N. adopted a treaty guaranteeing children’s rights, 1 billion children are still deprived of food, shelter or clean water, and nearly 200 million are chronically malnourished, UNICEF said Thursday. Some of the worst abuses play out every day on the dusty streets of India, where government and aid groups’ efforts to help children are overwhelmed by the staggering poverty and the dislocation of millions of rural villagers who flood the cities in search of jobs. (AP Photo/ Mahesh Kumar A.)" High-res

Childs_13 by azherhameed on Flickr.

"Children study in a yard with scrap collected for recycling, in Hyderabad, India, Friday, Nov. 20, 2009. Twenty years after the U.N. adopted a treaty guaranteeing children’s rights, 1 billion children are still deprived of food, shelter or clean water, and nearly 200 million are chronically malnourished, UNICEF said Thursday. Some of the worst abuses play out every day on the dusty streets of India, where government and aid groups’ efforts to help children are overwhelmed by the staggering poverty and the dislocation of millions of rural villagers who flood the cities in search of jobs. (AP Photo/ Mahesh Kumar A.)"

Excellent investigative report on self immolation by the Pulitzer Centre.

Street music in Istanbul.

Source: Vine by Buseeguldal.

This is a really beautiful video that’s circled around my brain for a couple of months since I first watched it. John Green reflects on what it was like being a “nerd” who wasn’t especially good at school. He was bored and he was unhappy. He says he often had violent fantasises in response to the victimisation he experienced. He notes that with perspective, he can see that the people who were cruel to him then probably had their own problems,  though this is no excuse for their behaviour.

Jamie Kilstein on white male privilege.

Via Tommy Leung.


Ask the powerful five questions:
What power have you got?
Where did you get it from?
In whose interest do you exercise it?
To whom are you accountable?
How can we get rid of you?
Only democracy gives us that right. That is why no one with power likes democracy and that is why every generation must struggle to win it and keep it; including you and me, here and now. 
Tony Benn 2005.

Via: Phil BC.
[Image Tony Benn and quote as above] High-res

Ask the powerful five questions:

What power have you got?

Where did you get it from?

In whose interest do you exercise it?

To whom are you accountable?

How can we get rid of you?

Only democracy gives us that right. That is why no one with power likes democracy and that is why every generation must struggle to win it and keep it; including you and me, here and now. 

Tony Benn 2005.

Via: Phil BC.

[Image Tony Benn and quote as above]