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Reactive Racism

By Cally Jetta

A common term is that of ‘reverse-racism’ and I have observed debate between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people as to whether it actually exists or not.

First of all I want to start by saying I am well aware of the fact that anybody can be the subject of racist name-calling. Many of us – black, white and in between have been on the receiving end of it at some point. The second point I want to make clear is that I don’t condone it whomever it’s directed at or comes from. It’s usually adequate enough to just call someone a name (if the shoe fits) without adding ‘black’ or ‘white’ to the front of it. It becomes something different then – a whole new situation, interpretation and level of anger is often the result.

When people say that reverse racism doesn’t exist, what they’re trying to say (I think) is not that Aboriginal people aren’t capable or guilty of racial slurs and profiling, but; that the systematic racism, entrenched societal racism and institutionalized racism that favours white history, values, perspectives and experiences are not levels of racism generally experienced by white people.

Some white people will tell you they have been on the receiving end of racial name-calling. Most Aboriginal will tell you that’s a pretty common occurrence for them.

I also think it goes back to the fact that racism was a non-issue or phenomenon prior to invasion. Maccassan trade was on equal footing, both racial groups interacted on mutually beneficial terms and then both returned to their own lands. The arrival of the British was the arrival of class and race hierarchies.

Since the first British arrivals there are records of Aboriginal people integrating escaped convicts and disenchanted settlers into their clans, the practice still happens today. These individuals are given skin names and access to knowledge and ceremony off limits to others. They are considered kin based on their soul, their heart – which the Elders can read like a book. Skin colour, race and origin were irrelevant so long as they respected and upheld the Lore.

I prefer to think of it as ‘reactive racism’ rather than reverse racism. I believe that’s largely what it is. I feel this racism is often (though not always) fuelled by anger and the internalized feelings of being constantly judged and looked down upon.

When I think about the reasons white people are racist towards Aboriginal people – the list is long. We are drunks, lazy dole bludgers, criminals and thieves, dirty and smelly, stupid and dependent, child abusers and petrol sniffers; complainers and whiners; aggressive and violent, and more. I know it’s horrible to read but these are all things that we have heard or read personally – often multiple times.

When I think about the beliefs behind Aboriginal racism – that comes up in conversations often – the same comments come up again and again. For the most part they are based on anger and the feeling that white people do not respect, value or even try to understand First Nations people and look down us with pity, contempt, apathy or harsh criticism. They don’t mention how white people look or smell; how they raise their kids or remember their past. They don’t mention their drug, alcohol and criminal habits (unless to make a point by comparison). They don’t mention having to pay taxes to support Non First Nations people and rarely is the intellect of other races mentioned either.

They talk of arrogance, ignorance and snobbery. They talk of injustice and discrimination. They talk about being treated like less in so many ways by others- sometimes without these other people even realizing it. In some instances it almost seems a self-fulfilling prophecy – a kind of ‘well if they all think I’m a scary, violent thief – that’s what I will be – there’s nothing to lose’. The constant negative press and demonization of Aboriginal communities contributes a lot to this mindset also I believe.

Some younger Aboriginal people have a great deal of anger. They understand their social status, their disadvantage and their family’s ongoing struggle, pain and grief is inextricably linked to our people’s political oppression – they are angry, feeling hopeless – but have no idea how to articulate what they are thinking and feeling – or how to change it. They lash out at what they believe to be the oppressor – the ongoing source of Aboriginal despair and treatment as second-class citizens. They may not have the self-confidence and self-esteem to see past their defensiveness and in some cases their own negative self-image and they are on guard at all times.

I don’t know many (if any) Aboriginal people who don’t have non-Aboriginal people they count as close friends and family. Yes, even those who say racist things to white people. There is kind of an unspoken understanding that when the term ‘white’ is used it does not apply to those brothers and sisters close to us – or even the majority of non-Aboriginal people – it refers to a mentality, a mind set and the government and other systems of oppression and their supporters.

Could the same be said for those openly racist non-Aboriginal Australians? Would they have Aboriginal friends or even contemplate that possibility? Some would, but some wouldn’t. Their fundamental beliefs and racism are too entrenched to see past the race, to the individual. And that I think is one of the big differences our people encounter in our perspective of racism.

Again, I can only speak for myself and share with you my honest thoughts about issues and realities from my perspective. I hope this may help to somewhat explain why some Aboriginal people reject the concept of reverse racism and maintain that Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal racism are not on par.


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  1. Andrew Smith

    It’s a trope used by the US white nativist movement, and have been aware of its promotion during past ten years by various columnists at a major Australian news outlet, think we all know which one.

    It’s basically about consolidating the white or WASP brigade making them both paranoid, deflecting from the powers that be, while being manipulated and justifying them kicking back as a Praetorian guard protecting nativist conservatives; basically for losers or battlers but seems quite widespread in Oz.

    A parallel tactic is claiming ‘immigrants’, refugees and indigenous receive special benefits and treatment which ‘white Australians’ don’t.

  2. Terry2

    When at University, as a student ,we did a critical analysis on racism in Australia.

    The student group was made up of the normal cross-section that you find within the Australian community including those of Anglo. Asian, Pacific Islander and Aboriginal heritage.

    As an Anglo I took the time to sit down with four of my fellow students which included men of Thai, Vietnamese and Tongan heritage and a woman of Aboriginal heritage.

    When we drilled down , we found that what we were talking about under the banner of racism was in fact discrimination particularly in areas of employment and rental accommodation.

    We had some very open discussion in that student group and concluded that if we could overcome those two principal areas of discrimination we would overcome many of the problems faced by minorities and labelled as racist. Interestingly, individual instances of rudeness, verbal abuse and xenophobia were recognised for what they were : ignorance and a lack of education in some sectors of our community.

  3. jimhaz

    [When we drilled down, we found that what we were talking about under the banner of racism was in fact discrimination particularly in areas of employment and rental accommodation]

    Discrimination is about probabilities. What is the likelihood of person from X group/background causing some form of loss to me (or potential gain), relative to A,B,C, D… groups.

    Discrimination is entirely natural and evolved by necessity.

    It is the same as say elders might do when assessing who to allow into their special lands. Ie Bar everyone not of the tribe until an individual assessment of the person seeking access can be made and that assessment needs to be positive.

    Where a groups identity is being fractured or reduced, as it presently is for many white men, racism can be adopted as a defensive tool to create unity to try and save that identity. Though this fracturing does not compare to that of dark skinned people, those groups are at least trending towards identity strengthening, whereas the trend for the non-wealthy middle aged white male is all backwards. Black males are also encountering some identity fracturing that stems from the empowerment of women and the more feminised males. It is not just other groups of people that fracture identity, but technology and the systems that result from it. Just as with bullying some will be more sensitive to this than others.

  4. Bolt

    I lived in Japan for several years. On my return to Oz I was struck by the strong smell of cheese exuded by people of European descent.

  5. Terry2

    Blessed are the cheesemakers !

  6. Roswell

    I lived in the USA for several years. On my return to Oz I was struck by the strong smell of beer exuded by people of Australian descent.

  7. diannaart

    Jimhaz: Black males are also encountering some identity fracturing that stems from the empowerment of women and the more feminised males.

    Well, we can’t have that then “empowered women and feminised men”, what is the world coming to?

    Soon a bloke will have to share the public bar with ’em! Oh, wait, that’s already happened. Next thing, they’ll want to vote… that’s happened too? Is there no place for real manly men any more? We have to listen to that high pitched whine from all these women and those pansy-boys.

    Best we blokes stick together eh, bro? Bro? Bro?

  8. Jack Arnold

    Well, White Australia has a Black History however you look at the data. The successful advocacy by Isaac Isaacs, a Jewish lawyer from Beechworth Victoria and staunch follower of Eugenics, set the stage for the disenfranchisement of Aborigines in the 1901 Australian Constitution and his 1906 High Court judgment dismissing an appeal against Aboriginal disenfranchisement enabled state sponsored genocide politely described as “protection”. The Constitution today STILL includes sections that are discriminatory against Aborigines.

    Perhaps the optimal solution isa referendum to remove the discriminatory sections from the Constitution, a Treaty between Aborigines and settlers, the deletion of the foreign Head of State ASAP and the celebration of the many facets of Australian culture without the cultural cringe engendered by too many years of subjugation by the English. Only then, on “Republic Day” will we be able to truly celebrate Australia.

  9. jimhaz

    [Best we blokes stick together eh, bro? Bro? Bro?]

    Well I generally don’t particularly like males much – it is always about competition, instinctually. I do however have a thing for “good” or ideal masculinity, for solid, wise, creative, generous, deep, humorous and humble masculinity.

    I value it to a degree that I accept far more bad with the good, than virtually all feminist commentator do.

    A lower percentage of women occupy this territory and I wish to protect that which allows it to arise in men. In times of severe trouble I would expect males to once again take control over societies direction. Good masculinity needs experience and overcoming hurdles to develop and males are losing these experiences, becoming more feminine as a result. I think this might be a part of the reason political apathy now reigns supreme or is directed more towards feminine, mothering things like SSM or Changing the Date.

  10. diannaart


    You say you don’t like males much, then proceed with a clear preference for anachronistic division of males and females. Interesting, to say the least.

    solid, wise, creative, generous, deep, humorous and humble are all adjectives that apply to women also. Just as working towards equal marriage or considering the feelings of others such as the date of Australia Day are not exclusively “mothering” attributes, but common to men as well.

    In times of severe trouble best for all capable people to work together.

    Not all men are great leaders nor all women passively waiting to be told what to do… well, maybe in jimhazland this is the case and good luck with that.


  11. johno

    I lived in Bali for four weeks (early 80’s) On my return to oz I was struck by the amount of unneeded crap sold in aussi supermarkets.

  12. wam

    Historically, racism in Australia is not hard to understand ‘of Aboriginal appearance’ has been the automatic cause of stares should an Aborigine stray into an area where they are seen. Areas like restaurants, hotels, walking or sitting with a white partner anywhere.

    Xavier Herbert’s hero had no problems in Melbourne where Aborigines were invisible but when he got to qld there was no hiding his ‘beyond’ a tan colour and he was shunned.
    .(if you wish to stir write ‘it is unusual for an Aborigine to be so aggressive’ under a nick kyrgios photo)

    The stereotype of Aborigines was exploited in all forms of media and still is today. ‘They’ is used by Australians to denigrate many non-race groups with some awful consequences but those groups can remove their ‘colours’ to avoid the stares but not Aborigines they are fixed targets.

    very funny Diannaart you have all the qualities to be a bloke. Jimboo reminds me of gerry harvey who said the rabbott was a good bloke and gillard was not a good bloke. Wrong on both counts,
    .I find it sad that the Anangu have known Uluru for thousand of years the rest of Australia have known of Uluru for 25 years but still know nothing of the Anangu whose culture believes in self respect so they have not closed the rock to climbers but have asked people to respect their wishes and choose not to climb.

    Respect for Aborigines is not part of the Australian history nor our culture and it is certainly not part of jan 26th

  13. diannaart


    very funny Diannaart you have all the qualities to be a bloke maybe some bloke is missing his (qualities). 😉

    As for JH – a reminder we are a long way from the human race reaching any form of equity.

  14. jimhaz

    [Respect for Aborigines is not part of the Australian history nor our culture and it is certainly not part of jan 26th]

    Well it is, there were a lot of aboriginal ceremonies on Australia Day. It was all I noticed on gov funded TV in the morning.

    [Jimboo reminds me of gerry harvey who said the rabbott was a good bloke and gillard was not a good bloke. Wrong on both counts]

    I voted for Gillard and I vocally supported her taking over Rudd. Abbott is too stupid and swims too hard against the tide to be a good bloke as a pollie, but he’d be OK down the pub (if one was a sporty type person).

    What I’m really talking about is the difference between Whitlam and Gillard, and the fact that Whitlam or Keating types now do not seem to be arising from the ranks anymore.

    I also find women in general are more likely to adopt trends or whatever is fashionable and politically this issue of “How much do they think for themselves”, relative to men, worries me. it worries me in terms of the 1984 scenario that we seem to be heading rapidly to.

    I think they have evolved to adopt herd thinking to a greater extent from necessity. I cannot judge how large this perceived difference really is in this modern world where males are feminised, but it could easily affect policy outcomes, and it is certainly the case that irrational non-herdly males like Trump, need to be brought down. Clinton may have been rejected (only just, and unluckily, like Gillard) partly for her use of the feminine minded leftie herd.

  15. amethyst3009

    Jimhaz: “I also find women in general are more likely to adopt trends or whatever is fashionable and politically this issue of “How much do they think for themselves”, relative to men, worries me. it worries me in terms of the 1984 scenario that we seem to be heading rapidly to.”

    i do not understand this sentence at all. “more likely to adopt trends’, what on earth do you mean?

    ” how much do they think for themselves” – well just as much as men think for themselves!!

    Seriously Jimhaz, there are ‘trendy’ men and ‘non trendy’ men, just as there are ‘trendy’ women and ‘non-trendy’ women. So people (of any gender) think for themselves, some people (of any gender) are simply sitting on the couch, watching reality TV and sucking up MSM ‘news’.

    ‘Thinkers’ and ‘non-thinkers’ are not divided along gender lines.

  16. jimhaz

    My interest is in the 1 in a million,,nahh billion. Some form of champion that can merge the good from both the left (mothering) and right (fathering), and I cannot see that being a female.

  17. diannaart


    You really speak a load of unsubstantiated rubbish.

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