Antoinette Lattouf On Overcoming Australia’s Anti-Black Attitude
Antoinette Lattouf first discovered that standing up to injustice comes with a cost in the schoolyard.
At the age of 12, she describes being uninvited from a peer’s birthday party over her ethnicity, and, without missing a beat, maturely responded: “That’s okay, that must make you feel pretty bad. Do you want to talk about what it’s like to live with a racist?”
In the years since, the Lebanese-Australian journalist has continued to subvert the status quo, questioning how our racial dynamics and imbalances came to be, and why mainstream Australia just laps it up instead of pushing for real, meaningful change.
Her new book How To Lose Friends And Influence White People — a play on the 1936 classic by Dale Carnegie — offers advice and analysis on a post-Black Lives Matter world, slowing down to reflect on the momentous international movement, and the next steps forward on the home ground.
After centuries of benefiting from a system that rewarded white people for nothing more than being born a certain colour, the Black Lives Matter movement challenged institutions in power and placed racial inequality under the microscope.
Suddenly, the ruling majority were called upon from their ‘lucky ledge’ as Lattouf describes it, and forced to look down at the reality on the ground for everybody else.
“So much of racism and the patriarchy is directed at white supremacists — and in many ways, rightly so. But progressive, middle-class white women also like to pat themselves on the back, and not identify what they’re doing to maintain white supremacy,” she told Junkee.
Lattouf’s favourite metaphor in her book are the attributes of ‘pale, male, stale, and Gayle’. Gayle, she says, is like Karen’s cousin — she might share an infographic when injustices hit the news cycle, but turns a blind eye when called out on for being all talk and no action.
Often we hear words thrown around like ‘white guilt’, ‘microaggressions’, and ‘critical race theory’, but many use these buzzwords without fully understanding what they’re fully about. Lattouf draws these key terms out — explaining their context, discourse, and history — in an accessible and non-judgemental way, while still asking Australians to be held to a higher standard.
““THERE IS AN APPETITE FOR CHANGE. WILL CHANGE HAPPEN OVERNIGHT? ABSOLUTELY NOT…””