Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Cronulla: Overt racism feeds on underlying racism

Tim, on his blog, says:
Racism exists in all countries. Australia is no worse than any other. The question isn't whether there is underlying racism somewhere, but how any given country deals with it. And the fact is, by world standards, Australia has dealt with it better than most. Multiculturalism has been part of this success, but it wouldn't have taken as well as it has without the general willingness of most Australians to embrace the notion of democractic diversity and tolerance.
I agree with his assessment that there is racism underlying every country and culture, but if talkback radio host Alan Jones is allowed to be publicly and openly inciting racism then that's no longer 'underlying' in my estimation and I think this public airing of racist comments is what made the difference on the weekend.

Howard has clearly been irresponsible in trying to simplify these two issues too, because they are certainly connected.

Regardless of the fact that there are small minority of thoughtless morons on talkback radio in Australia who incapable of careful consideration, there are going to be some people who do listen to them and hear things that add credibility to the idea that Lebanese people should be taught a lesson and not be allowed to share Cronulla beach!

The SMS call to arms for "skips to come to Cronulla and give the Lebs a hiding" is obviously overt racism, but Howard is buries his head in the sand and pretends it's completely separate from everyone else in Australia. At its grassroots overt racism is supported by the very underlying racism he denies exists. The 'underlying racism' certainly exists and let's not fool ourselves into believing otherwise.

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Anonymous Inquisitor said...

"Racism exists in all countries. Australia is no worse than any other."

What we ought to ask is if Australia IS indeed worse than some countries and the cultural and institutional factors that contribute to this instead of assuming that Australia is 'no worse than any other' as it has the effect of making the local state of affairs more acceptable due to the pervasity of such a state of affairs in the global milieu.

The movement towards progressive change is slowed down or halted when we compare ourselves with those who are worse off, or where our conditions aren't deemed to be all that bad because similar conditions are assumed elsewhere.

These are the perspectives and language of those who deem existing conditions acceptable and thus relegate all movements for change to the periphery of social movements, which, in turn, only serves to slow down change in the affected areas.

It is only when we compare ourselves to the best or deem trends to be poor markers of 'what ought to be' as opposed to 'what is acceptable' due to its pervasivness, that we can start to truly move forward the Human Project.

Australia, in my experience, is 'worse' than, for instance, the UK. There are active efforts to address discriminatory tendencies. This takes place at the core of social agitation in society as opposed to its peripheral position in Australia.

December 14, 2005 6:17 pm  
Blogger Newsandseduction said...


December 14, 2005 11:23 pm  
Blogger Lisa said...

Inquisitor, I strongly take your point that just because racism pervades other countries, it is no excuse for not trying harder to foster multiculturalism and tolerance.

I don't think that's what Tim meant though and perhaps he should have said "Australia is no better than any other". It's not a competition between countries though; it's an issue of awareness and understanding that is very difficult to measure except when there is a case of overt racism perpetrated by the dominant ethnicity such as this.

It's interesting to note your unfavourable comparison to the UK, but no one would say the UK is without its race tensions. We all have a responsibility to oppose racism and violence when we see it regardless of our nationality or ethnicity.

December 15, 2005 9:15 am  
Anonymous Rowan said...

Haven't we seen this kind of stuff before in black and white footage where crowds of "normal" citizens assaulted innocent civilians just because they had a yellow star sewn on their coat.
I'd like to see Alan Jones become the first prosecution for Australia's new sedition laws. Of course it won't happen because he is a personal friend and former speech writer for our Prime Minister.

December 18, 2005 1:01 am  
Blogger Anthony said...

I agree strongly Lisa. My blood pressure rises every time I hear Howard speak. And it rose even higher when I heard him tell us that no underlying racism exists in this country. This sort of ludicrous approach won't solve a thing.

December 23, 2005 5:55 pm  
Blogger geoff said...

Lisa, important topic and thanks for getting a discussion going. I agree with Tim that there's underlying racism in Oz just like everywhere else, and that what is important is how we in Oz deal with it.

And I agree with inquisitor that currently we are probably "worse" in handling our underlying racism than many other multicultural societies, especially the UK. Why? We had in the past a good basis for getting a good report-card here; as Tim says "the general willingness of most Australians to embrace the notion of democractic diversity and tolerance." What has gone wrong?

Seems to me that it's the political and social turns that have occurred in the past 10 years or so - the current political emphasis isn't on ways to defuse racial tendencies, but rather to use them for political gain.

During the Pauline Hanson era, a friend's grandmother would say "but she's right, you know". Which I suspect is the underlying attitude of a majority in Oz, and such an attitude is politically very useful to tap into.

December 26, 2005 1:55 pm  
Blogger Lisa said...

Thanks for all comments. Blame Christmas and all the madness that goes with it for the 2-week hiatus here -- back to blogging, both reading and posting, tomorrow.

December 27, 2005 9:14 pm  

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