Getting Over Herself Was Never Really An Option
June 28, 2020
The last person I had to correct for the misspelling of my name was someone from my own employer, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
So writes journalist – and, it seems, attention-seeker - Tahlea Aualiitia:
I was invited to join a panel on representation in pop culture by the ABC News Channel earlier this month, and because the name super (the strap with my name at the bottom of the screen) was added during production, I wasn’t aware my name was spelled incorrectly until after the interview had finished and I was informed by my family and friends.
Faintly ironic, perhaps, at least if you squint. But as claims of victimhood go, and as a basis for an article on how terribly oppressed one is, it needs a little work.
Typos happen and I understand how a slip of the finger on the keyboard turned my surname from Aualiitia into Auakiitia.
Ah, forgiveness. How refreshing. An apology was forthcoming, too, so I’m sure we’re all ready to move on.
But while it was the first time I had done a TV interview, it wasn’t the first time I had seen my name spelled wrong in the media.
Scratch that. Incoming.
Just a month ago, my name was spelled incorrectly by a producer in my own department, the Asia Pacific Newsroom.
Yes, another misspelling of a phonetically unobvious Samoan name. That’s two whole times. A scarring experience, it would seem, one that “can have big impacts among communities that often don’t see themselves reflected in the media.” “I knew I had to call them out,” says Ms Aualiitia, rather proudly.
The next morning, I sent an email to my manager asking to write this piece.
Selflessly, of course, for the greater good.
It’s no coincidence I’m speaking up about this during the latest wave of the Black Lives Matter movement. It’s hard to explain what racism feels like to someone who has never experienced it.
Oh, come on. You knew it was time for some bizarre dramatic ratcheting.
For me, it feels like walking around with a big target hanging around my neck.
Someone misspelled her name, you see.
You don’t know where the next attack — verbal, physical or systemic — might come from, and lived experience means you know it has to do with the colour of your skin.
Systemic name misspelling. It’s a thing now. A racist attack.
And when you're on a public platform like national TV or social media, it feels like that target triples in size.
A sense of proportion is not, I fear, Ms Aualiitia’s strong suit.
We’re then informed, pointedly, that some people can be obnoxious on Twitter and that ABC’s Asia Pacific Newsroom, Ms Aualiitia’s current employer, doesn’t at the time of writing have specific “measures” in place to “support POC talent after a media interview.” To punish obnoxious tweets, one assumes. We’re also told that “research from Deakin University in 2019 found that more than a third of Australian media articles reflected negative views of minority communities.” However, we’re not told the particulars of those articles, the actual subject matter, or whether a negative view might therefore be justified or difficult to avoid.
As grounds for a drama of racial victimhood, it all seems a little unsteady, not entirely load-bearing. But apparently, we’re to believe that two occasions of an incorrectly spelled name constitute racial oppression - systemic racial oppression - and a basis for public weeping and some kind of corrective activity. Such is the fearlessness of our heroine in her ongoing fight against racial bigotry.
There are countless times where the POC talent I’ve met have audibly exhaled in relief when they saw that me, a brown woman, was the one interviewing them.
I’ll just leave that there, I think.
Oh, and if the umbrage above sounds a little familiar, yes, we’ve been here before.
Heavens, a button. I wonder what it does.