Are we really casually & comfortably racist? – Vickie Janson
According to Saturday’s Age article Casually and comfortably racist, Australian’s carry racism deep within. Examples abounded and included ‘parodying an indigenous accent’. Presumably it’s ok for all to parody Julia’s accent or the Queen’s accent, but once we step outside the white race its apparently no longer funny.
Am I a racist?
In our multicultural society humor has become culturally specific and the idea we might continue to laugh at our self as a group of multi-ethnic Australians may soon be off limits with any other thoughtless banter. While people can still refer to white yobos or rednecks, if we change the color the same comments become racist. Anti-Asian or anti-Islam is clearly racist while anti-West appears to have some merit. This is consistent with the 2012 report on multiculturalism by British sociologist Marie Macey who notes that antiracism strategies only recognize non-white cultures so that racialisation permeates multiculturalism. This makes you wonder if multiculturalism itself isn’t a recipe for increased racism.
The Age article gave plenty of examples of our so-called ‘everyday racism’ that gets you thinking. Yet I admit, I wondered if most people jokes were really racist, and commenting on traits like timekeeping or story telling in other cultures was really racist, and if stereotyping was really wrong. After all, we stereotype because rather than an isolated incident, we see some traits in stereo. If multiculturalism doesn’t have a sense of humor, it will gut Australian culture.
And I couldn’t help thinking if we are so jolly intolerant why nations are fleeing here. Are the nations that have open borders, sign refugee conventions, provide welfare to others and promote multiculturalism – are these really signs of intolerance? Perhaps multiculturalism is responsible for its own erosion?
Having recently addressed the Australian Association of Pakistani Christians protest highlighting Pakistan’s blasphemy law that legally discriminates and reduces some of its own citizens to second class status, I began to reflect on this idea of racism in Australia and how multiculturalism is fostering it. Is multiculturalism just a recipe for cultural suicide?
Nationalism is on the rise in Europe, indigenous communities are reviving, fundamental Islam and the concept of the Caliphate is reviving and everyone else is strengthening their historical identity, demanding their community rights and being offended by any opposition to this; opposition is often deemed racist.
Meanwhile, while the world fragments, western leaders are still espousing ideas about global community, social cohesion, mutual respect and tolerance. It’s just that we can’t see that anywhere else.
Pakistan, Malaysia and many other nations legally and socially prefer one ethnic or religious group over another. India’s caste system means that the lowest rank, the Dalit’s, face discrimination in every area of life. Recent reports detail how Sri Lankan officials violently repress their critics. Reporting on indigenous cultures, Rick Feneley says South African blacks and coloureds look down on the ‘bushmen’. Are the blacks and coloureds racist too? Saudi doesn’t allow non-Muslims even to enter Mecca and so the idea of Aboriginal land too holy for non-Aboriginal feet is entrenched in many non-white societies. There are genocides in Africa, in Syria and there are constant clashes between the two major sects of Islam – are any of these racist?
Casually and comfortable racist did attribute some of the blame for racist attitudes in Australia to Darwinism, noting his theory of evolution didn’t bode well for the Aborigines and cemented ideas that they were sub-human; ie less evolved as the rest of us. Here’s where a culture with room for God in our schools challenges that with the view that each life has inherent value, a purpose and a future.
So is all the above really racism or just selfish human nature and pride being played out, unrestrained by any Biblical ethics of real equality? Is anti-West sentiment also included in the new racism? When I hear some Islamic groups refer to ‘infidels’ in their everyday conversation and formal messages – clearly a put down for all non-Muslims – is this racism too? Or is it as Macey says, only non-whites who are victims of racism?
Whatever the case – I don’t think the answer is to be found in silencing people or promoting a culture of litigation. I don’t think the shame and honor culture that permeates many other societies is a good fit for Australia. I don’t think we should have a right to ‘not be offended’ – grown ups can handle a bit of that. I believe we need to be bigger on the inside. But we certainly don’t want to foster real racism where people don’t get a fair go socially or legally; we don’t want to create any second-class citizens.
The title of this article got me; Casually and comfortable racist. We don’t want to be racist of course – but we don’t want to lose who we are as Australians either – being free to be casual and comfortable. Most of the world longs to be as casual and comfortable as we are but some would have us join those societies who live in constant fear of simply being honest; lets pray we don’t come to that.