Risk Australia will again be a discrimi-nation | Midweek Musings

SHIFT: It seems that the focus on eradicating overt and shocking racism has created an environment of casual discrimination where ageism, sexism and other isms are being ignored and indeed fostered through social media.
SHIFT: It seems that the focus on eradicating overt and shocking racism has created an environment of casual discrimination where ageism, sexism and other isms are being ignored and indeed fostered through social media.

A bank robber took advantage of the new normal of everyone wearing masks and burst into a bank, forcing the tellers to load a sack full of cash.

In his rushing around, the robber's mask slipped down, revealing his face. The bank robber quickly put his mask back on.

Worried he may later be recognised, he asked one of the tellers, "Did you see my face?"

In fear, the teller said, "Um... yes."

The robber shot the teller without a moment's hesitation.

The robber then looked around the bank and noticed some of the customers looking straight at him. He asked one woman "Did you see my face?"

Too afraid to lie, the woman said "Yes, but only part of it!", but the robber shot her all the same.

Everyone in the bank by now was very scared and looking intently down at the floor in silence.

The robber yelled, "Well, did anyone else here see my face?"

A man tentatively raised his hand and said: "Sir, I didn't, but my wife here got a pretty good look at you."

Shame on you for even smiling at that one.

A recent study at McGill University in Montreal revealed what some of us suspected for some time; that there is good reason to be concerned about the role that the consumption of social media is playing in boosting misperceptions.

We know that a "Karen" is an insulting stereotype for a middle-aged, white woman who apparently uses her "privilege" to demand her own way at the expense of others.

No doubt you heard through one source or another about the woman last month who would not wear a mask on entering a Bunnings in Melbourne. Her identity was later unmasked with her name publicly revealed, yet social and traditional media alike continued to dub her the pejorative "Karen" from Bunnings.

We know that a "Karen" is an insulting stereotype for a middle-aged, white woman who apparently uses her "privilege" to demand her own way at the expense of others.

I in no way agree with that woman's refusal to wear a mask on her entering Bunnings, but I also feel no agreement with her public shaming for being misinformed - remembering Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews was originally telling Victorians earlier this year not to wear masks - and I am a little bemused as to how people can make such racist slurs in the midst of the current global anti-racist conversation.

The Australian Human Rights Commission states on its website that: "discrimination happens when a person, or a group of people, is treated less favourably than another person or group because of their background or certain personal characteristics" and that "this is known as 'direct discrimination'".

It's hard to argue then that calling a white woman who is middle-aged a "Karen" pejoratively because she is white, middle-aged and female is not simultaneously racist, sexist and ageist and thus "direct discrimination".

But how could such an openly racist title take off so easily in the midst of the current massive focus on racism?

It is our honour in the modern age to be able to read or watch interviews with those who are or were among the very best in the world at what they do. When asked "how" they did it, they predominantly tend to share pretty much the same boring advice. They tell us that they practised what they did so much that they ended up doing it automatically and without thinking.

German philosopher Josef Pieper (1904-1997) mused on this concept of doing without thinking in investigating how pianists could play thousands of notes at a concert without making a single mistake. If the pianist was to stop and think "Now, I have to hit this G and now that F sharp and now..." they would end up stopping and starting and making numerous mistakes.

Perhaps the massive increase of focus on racism at the moment is stoking the very fires it is attempting to put out. What happens now when a white, middle-aged woman has a genuine complaint? Will she not be looked on as a kvetch and her grievance ignored? Might she even be ridiculed as being a "Karen"?

Come on Australia! Discrimination breeds discrimination. It would be a sad paradox if now we brought back discrimination all over again.

Twitter: @frbrendanelee

This story Risk Australia will again be a discrimi-nation | Midweek Musings first appeared on The Canberra Times.