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'Stop asking me that': Questions about race and identity that need to be retired

Patrisse Cullors and Rodney Divelus, Ryan Griffen, Anita Heiss, Randa Abdel-Fattah, Candy Bowers.
Beverley Wang asked her It's Not A Race guests which questions they no long want to be asked.

ABC News/ABC RN

Dealing with unwelcome questions comes with the territory when you aren't white in Australia.

The questions can often be well-meaning — but the conversations that result can feel intrusive, repetitive, frustrating, and even pointless.

We asked a range of prominent figures to nominate the one question they no longer want to answer, and the conversation they'd much rather be having instead.

Here's what they said.

Anita Heiss, author

Stop asking me for answers to questions you can easily find online.

Try Google, or even an app. If you can find me via the internet, chances are you can find the answer to your very basic question.

Dr Anita Heiss
Anita Heiss says she's tired of questions where the answers are easily found online.

ABC RN: Rosanna Ryan

The conversation I'd rather be having is about Indigenous excellence, not Indigenous deficit.

We need to be focusing on what we have achieved at a community level, and stop having our young people hear about all the disadvantage.

Randa Abdel-Fattah, author

The question I'm tired of answering is:

It's a question that has been asked of me several times and particularly in interview situations.

The assumption is that because I don't wear a veil, I am somehow a moderate or modern Muslim woman.

Randa Abdel-Fattah
"Are you a moderate Muslim?" Randa is sick of answering this question.

ABC RN: Tiger Webb

I'm sick and tired of talking about whether Australia is a racist place.

I want to get past that, and start to look at solutions.


Patrisse Cullors, co-founder of Black Lives Matter

The question I no longer want to be asked is:

The reason is, we all know that all lives matter, but right now we're talking about black lives. We're talking about some of the most disenfranchised communities.

We're talking about how we make sure they get to live long and healthy futures. We have to start there, because when black people get free, we all get a little bit more free.

Patrisse Cullors and Rodney Diverlus
Patrisse Cullors and Rodney Diverlus, are over explaining why specifically black lives matter.

ABC News: Jack Fisher

Rodney Diverlus, co-founder of Black Lives Matter Toronto

The question I no longer want to be asked is:

It's often really frustrating to expect that it's always us that have to be the ones that compromise.

It's us that always have to come to the table. It's us that always have to want to work with the very people who are not listening to us, who are not taking action, who are ignoring our work.

I'd much rather have a conversation about what decision-makers, what police, what our governments can do to actually gain our trust, and gain our support to come to the table.

Ryan Griffen, creator of Cleverman

The question that I no longer want to hear is when people ask "what percentage Aboriginal" I am.

When I say that I'm an Aboriginal man, and they say, "Well, look at your skin colour, you're not," — it really infuriates me.

When there have been laws passed, and there are systemic forms of racism that have been about diluting Aboriginal genes and stealing children, I shouldn't have to debate who I am anymore.

Ryan Griffen
Ryan finds it offensive when people ask him "what percentage Aboriginal" he is.

ABC RN: Teresa Tan

When you come at me with a question like that, you're just adhering to the forms of racism that the assimilation process and the Stolen Generation were built on.

People should just be able to be who they want to be. I'm a proud Aboriginal man, and questions like that really detract from the journey that I'm on.

Candy Bowers, artistic director, actor, activist

The conversation I no longer want to be having is the conversation around diversity in the arts.

For me, those questions are just stalling and excuses, rather than actually attacking the problem.

Candy Bowers
Candy no longer wants to speak about diversity in the arts.

ABC RN: Jeremy Story Carter

I don't want to be asked any more where folks of colour are, or how to program these guys, or why women of colour aren't putting their hands up — these things are untruths.

The conversation I'd much rather be having is with artists, and with young girls in particular, around what they're going to do next: how they're going to birth the diverse canon of films and television and stage work that actually brings truth and love and joy and rage to the screen and the stage.

Subscribe to It's Not A Race, ABC's podcast exploring race and identity in Australia.