On Facebook every day I post “My Thought for the Day” and every now and then I put the question: “What word best describes you?” My personal word is ‘observation’ because it covers a multitude of experiences. With very limited formal education, observation became an integral part of my private classroom. From an early age I became a keen observer. Nothing escaped my scrutiny or sensory surveillance’s. I watched people, nature and life in general. I examined and considered.
So it was last weekend when I was watching one of my grandsons playing basketball. One of the boys in the team is from Somalia. A number of families with African heritage have moved to our area. I observed the mateship of their winning endeavours and the generous enthusiasm of their play between matches. The fun, friendship and frivolity of their connectedness was a delight to watch. The dark lad is of enormous talent with a generous smile, a face as black as night and gregarious nature.
I have also observed the total unabashed acceptance by children of different races at school, and at the local swimming pool where mature judgement is made by children unhindered by the prejudicial ignorance of adults.
My thoughts drifted to my own youth and I wondered just what it is that causes people to be racist. I recalled as a small boy being told what side of the street to walk to school because Jews lived on the other side. I lived through the post war era of immigration when Australians belittled and sneered at Italians and Greeks. Then later with bi partisan agreement we accepted the Vietnamese who came by boat. But not before debasing them with the worst part of our own uniquely Australian prejudice.
Memories came back to me of a pub I used to drink at on my way home from work. The beer garden attracted a cohort of Aussie builders who sub contracted concreting work to a group of Italians. I would observe how the Aussie fellows would run them down with the foulest of language and then drink with them, without a hint of condemnation when they arrived.
There was a time when a relation who was traveling by caravan around Australia rang me from some remote area highly populated by indigenous people. After the usual greeting the following words were advanced.
“I’m not a racist but . . . “. When you hear someone say those words they generally are. What followed was a tirade of critical commentary about every aspect of Aboriginal culture and living standards. I have no doubt that much of what she was saying was true however, there was no situation that wasn’t replicated in white city society. Her comments were therefore racist. The singling out of any group for reason of drawing attention to color is abhorrent to me.
More recently I have experienced racism where I live. I have two neighbors (one now deceased) who when talking about indigenous folk have described aboriginals as taking up to much space.
At a junior football final a couple of years ago a teenage boy was standing behind me verbalising a young aboriginal player of immense talent. I allowed the insults to insinuate themselves into the minds around me. The aboriginal boy had heard the remarks and was a bit distressed about it. I turned and said to the boy of uncouth mouth:
“So yours is what a racists face looks like”.
The teenager slunk away probably not used to having his racism confronted. In the unnatural silence that had invaded the group where I was standing I received a couple of congratulatory slaps on the shoulder.
You see, I hate all forms of racism in a way that even someone like me, with a love of the moulding of words as disciples for good, cannot do. It was a little brave of me to do what I did because I am getting on in years but we must confront it.
In watching the antics of children of different races in their play we can bear witness to the sin of the abusers of decency. By the influence of those who cannot concede that we were all black once. And those who believe that superiority is determined by a chemical compound.
Children celebrate difference and prove to us that racism is not a part of the human condition. It is taught, or acquired. You have to learn it and those who tutor it and preach it are to be pitied for their ignorance and imbecility. No one is born a racist but we are born into racist societies.
What is racism?
It is best described in two parts. Firstly it is the belief that one race is superior to another. That it accounts for differences in human character and ability. Secondly racism is, discrimination or prejudice based on race.
Scott Woods puts it another way:
The problem is that white people see racism as conscious hate, when racism is bigger than that. Racism is a complex system of social and political levers and pulleys set up generations ago to continue working on the behalf of whites at other people’s expense, whether whites know/like it or not. Racism is an insidious cultural disease. It is so insidious that it doesn’t care if you are a white person who likes black people; it’s still going to find a way to infect how you deal with people who don’t look like you. Yes, racism looks like hate, but hate is just one manifestation. Privilege is another. Access is another. Ignorance is another. Apathy is another. And so on. So while I agree with people who say no one is born racist, it remains a powerful system that we’re immediately born into. It’s like being born into air: you take it in as soon as you breathe. It’s not a cold that you can get over. There is no anti-racist certification class. It’s a set of socioeconomic traps and cultural values that are fired up every time we interact with the world. It is a thing you have to keep scooping out of the boat of your life to keep from drowning in it. I know it’s hard work, but it’s the price you pay for owning everything.
Racism is preserved in many and various ways. Even Christian art propagates the myth of Jesus being white when in fact he would have been dark skinned and of Middle Eastern appearance. But art depicts him as white with European features and more often than not as effeminate.
Christians also cannot bring themselves to the point of accepting that dark skinned people were responsible for the introduction of religion into society. No white person has ever introduced a major religion. Some Christians even quote Bible verse to justify white superiority.
Even the law disproportionally targets colored (I hate that term) people resulting in levels of incarceration much higher than other groups.
The worst perpetrators of racism are those who do it through the guise of free speech. People like Andrew Bolt. A journalist of mediocre talent who writes in a grammatical style attractive to the intellect of 13 year olds, unable to challenge the mind (or his argument) with a word, or sentence.
Recently he wanted the law changed so that he would be freer through his column to abuse and defame. When the legislation was turfed because of its unpopularity Tony Abbott felt obliged to phone this journalist of such little virtue and apologise.
People who support Bolt and his racism need to ask just why it is that he is fixated on the subject of race (and Muslims and climate change) and the answer is simple. Murdoch has built his news empire on smut and controversy. The formula has made him extremely wealthy. And there is no doubt that Bolt is paid extraordinary amounts of money to proliferate the pages of the Herald Sun with this sort of gutter journalism.
Let us not forget what Justice Bromberg, said about Bolt’s use of language. He said:
“His style and structure is highly suggestive and designed to excite. His style was ”not careful, precise or exact” and the language not moderate or temperate but often strong and emphatic”. There is a liberal use of sarcasm and mockery,” he wrote. Language of that kind has a heightened capacity to convey implications beyond the literal meaning of the words utilised. It is language, which invites the reader to not only read the lines, but to also read between the lines.”
We should also remember that during the London riots, of the not too distant past Bolt in one of his pieces used the word ‘aped’ to describe the copycat behaviour of some people. The use of the word was legitimate in that sense until you appreciate that he was talking about black West Indians, and then the word became racist. Bolt keeps coming back to skin, or the color of it as if it were a sexual fetish that gives him endless gratification.
And it must be said that Andrew is presumed a racist and has been found to on many occasions lie in his writing, particularly on the environment. In addition he has been known to defame a female magistrate.
He wants the law changed so that in the future under the guise of free speech he will be able to vilify at his heart’s content.
Take two recent examples from his TV program, ‘The Bolt Report’.
Bolt is an opponent of an attempt, which has bi partisan support, to recognise Indigenous people in the constitution, contending that to single out any particular group is racist because it divides Australians? Former Labor minister Craig Emerson thus declared him aracist by his own criteria.
“Then you are a racist,” Emerson said, “because of the comments you made in relation to Indigenous people. By your own criterion, and that’s what you did. You identified a group of people and went for them.”
He was correct. Emerson’s remark relates to the legal case in which Bolt was found to have breached racial discrimination laws in articles that implied light-skinned Indigenous people identified themselves as Aboriginal for personal gain. He was guilty by his own admission.
Another more recent example is when he quiet bizarrely declared that ‘’aboriginals weren’t here first’’. As I said earlier he has this thing about race that sends him into some kind of mental climax that needs constant stimulation. If you want to figure out the argument he was putting go here and then explain it to me. I cannot.
I will end where I started with my observation of that gregarious dark skinned boy playing joyfully in fellowship with his light skinned mates, and the fact each was different in color, one to the other didn’t enter the unblemished purity of their companionship. And I silently prayed that it never would.
Wonder When the Seed Is Planted
I look upon the child’s face and see
Innocence – unblemished purity
Translated in looks virtuous
How sweet how incorruptible
Then it happens with measured subtly
The distortion of youthful thought
Insinuated into free
And immature minds
I wonder when the seed is planted
When evil first takes hold
And intolerance evolves
To become scum on the pond of life
Who grants permission to damage the child?
Of its pristine purity
The wonderment of adventure
And unfiltered creativity
Is it the sin of the father?
That makes a child loathe
That makes them xenophobic
Racist just like him
When does it take root this hatred?
That enters the child’s mind
To be carried with them always
Fermenting as they grow
Are parents so imbued?
With experiences of the past
That forgiveness is impossible
Bad memories seem to last
So they pass it onto their children
And intolerance lingers on
Licking on the finger of hate
It seems to have no end
I can only ask that compassion
Might replace their putrid sin
And the cry that is inside each heart
Will – let understanding in.