“… the process by which systems and policies, actions and attitudes create inequitable opportunities and outcomes for people based on race. Racism is more than just prejudice in thought or action. It occurs when this prejudice – whether individual or institutional – is accompanied by the power to discriminate against, oppress or limit the rights of others.”
Please have patience before I get to the point of my piece.
I once asked on these pages what the difference is between the purpose of life and the reason for it. It was a few years ago, and many people attempted an answer.
My answer was that, on the one hand, the reason for life was procreation, the continuation of the species. On the other, I concluded that the purpose must be that there isn’t any. Well, nothing specific.
I received answers from all manner of people: Folk of different ethnicities, standards of learning and backgrounds.
Sadly, the answers were wrapped in predictability and needed to provide me with what I sought. However, what stood out in their predictability was just how much of our thinking is influenced by our backgrounds.
Racism, for example. Our culture, family, leaders, religion (or lack thereof) and society we live in. Our work and education. Our wealth or lack of it. Our country of origin. All these things impact or even control who we are and what we think. They are more often than not passed on to us but can easily be acquired by any of the means mentioned above.
So shaped are we by all these behaviours that the question “What is the purpose of life?” is an impossible quest but fascinating, nonetheless.
Or the answers one does get are always interconnected to one or some of these persuaders. Mainly though, it is passed on. Somewhere in those baffling thoughts, which are just as mysterious, lies the question of why people are racist. The Bible tells us that it is because of the sins of the Fathers.
Indeed, it’s a sad day for Australia when an opposition leader plays the race card to prevent our First Nations people from being included in our Constitution and, secondly, from having a voice in the Parliament.
This rejection can be seen in many ways, but overwhelmingly, it is racist. We are often told, mainly by our politicians, that we are the most successful multi-racial country in the world. I think the USA should receive that title but let’s move on.
In Australia, conservative politicians have never hesitated to abuse those seeking asylum if it suited their purpose or those who originally occupied the earth they walked on.
We occasionally allowed the former to die, and the latter we have murdered or permitted to die in custody.
We have used any means to oppress those seeking a better life.
Lying, misinformation, lying by omission, subliminally implied suggestions, straightforward propaganda, deliberate scare campaigning and any form of untruthful communication have become the norm in how conservative politicians and the right-wing media converse with the public.
So typical and long applied has this form of racism become that we are now unquestioning of it.
Regardless of the facts, playing the race card is now everyday practice for the Liberal/National Parties. Remember, Peter Dutton said African gangs were “wreaking havoc” in Victoria. Sudanese particularly. With his election as leader of the Liberal Party, he brought many accusations of racism. He had form, as we say.
Do you recall Andrew Bolt’s tirade against Adam Goodes? I think I wrote convincingly, pointing out the writer’s factual errors.
Robert Brown wrote in a letter to The Age on the 13th of June:
“Does Peter Dutton realise that “defeat for the proposed establishment of an advisory body means a lasting setback for reconciliation”, and does he accept his responsibility to the First Nations people and the reputation of the country if this was to be.”
Writing for The Guardian this week, Peter Lewis said that:
“Since then, the Hard Nos have brewed up an ungodly gumbo of fear and loathing: Dutton’s disingenuous demands for detail, alarmist accusations of apartheid, the “look what you are made me do” Stan Grant pile-on, anything to shift focus away from what the upcoming referendum is actually about: recognition and respect.”
At the time of the Goodes’ controversy, I wrote many words on racism and its effect on society. I pointed out the lies Bolt told in reporting the incident at the MCG and the claims by several politicians that violent African gangs were “wreaking havoc” in Victoria.
I shared my own experience of confronting racism at a football match and at basketball matches.
At the time of the accusations, gangs were “wreaking havoc” in Victoria, Waleed Aly reported in a video piece many statistics that placed question marks on recent claims by several politicians that violent African gangs were wreaking havoc on Victorian society.
I have asked many times on social media what specific Australian values are not universally held by other social democracies. I have never had an answer.
Perchance, in London, at the time, Multicultural Minister Alan Tudge, in a speech to the Australia/UK Leadership Forum, suggested a “values” test to fend off “segregation.” The Government was also considering adding the values test for those considering permanent residency to protect its “extraordinarily successful” multicultural society.
“Segregation!?” I dislike the word intently for the images it places before one’s eyes. Still, nevertheless, it is something we have practised for as long as racism has existed and is as crude as life itself can be.
When the Italians came to Melbourne they gathered together in Brunswick, the Greeks in Carlton and the Vietnamese in Springvale, and the Chinese are now in Box Hill. And Indians, well, they are everywhere. Then over time, they will rust into the mechanics of general society.
Some of the challenges to social cohesion today are made less easy by politicians with heinous motives and racist hearts.
Propaganda aims to make you feel good about the wrongs being perpetrated on you.
A decade of LNP governance resulted in a suitcase of conservative bigotry and racism that they have never unpacked and show little effort to do so.
Australian politicians currently have a low trust rating. When people in the LNP who are not necessarily racist deliberately play the race card, they shame themselves and the nation.
Growing up as a small boy in slummy Brunswick, I witnessed this thoughtless small-mindedness. I was told not to walk to school on the side of the street where the Jews lived, but I happily sought their friendship when I arrived.
I lived through the period of Italian and Greek immigration when most Australians, through their ignorance, looked upon them with disdain. Later they celebrated the marriage of their sons and daughters to them, even overlooking a religious divide.
I celebrated as Australia began to absorb the breathtaking contributions of these nationalities that saw us grow as a nation.
Along the way, there were tensions, but they never stopped the Advance of Australia fair.
I observed the advent of Asian immigration and all the recycled hatred, only to see it vanish like the Greek and Italian animosity.
Now we are confronted with yet more odious loathing. This time it is directed at those from Africa. It doesn’t matter what their country of origin if they are Muslim, they will suffer the entire thrust of minorities xenophobia. As 99 per cent of Muslims want peace, so do 99 per cent of Australians.
We have a long history of finding fault with things we don’t understand. At various times we have blamed communists, Jews, women, the devil, indigenous people and, witches, even God for those things beyond our comprehension.
I have been privy to history’s recording of these matters. I am angry with the stupidity of Pauline Hanson. I loathe the inhumanity of Dutton, who would seek to deny our First Nations people the most minor steps toward reconciliation.
Sitting on the platform at Flinders Street Station and watching the passing parade of ethnicity, I can only admire a country I could never envisage from the same seat in the 1950s, even with its rampant racism.
My thought for the day
One side of me wants to hate human beings like Peter Dutton. The other wants to forgive them, for they know not what they do.
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