For the record, Australia's racism like America's racism remains intact with no default position
As a nation, we are not better than the sum of the diabolical racism that sees Australian society fractured and many from within the fracture at odds with each
Many argue that Australia is "better" than the racism that mires it knee-deep. As a nation, we are not better than the sum of the diabolical racism that sees Australian society fractured and many from within the fracture at odds with each. The majority of migrants and children of migrants - of the 'diaspora' - retreat into a heads down commitment to a circle of concern and in doing what they can for their small circle of concern because they are overwhelmed by the racism that stands in the way of aspiring and working to positions and stature that Anglo-Celtic Australians near monopolise.
Racism is both ugly and vicious but for many it is subconscious in prohibiting ambition for culturally and linguistically diverse Australians that should be indistinguishably inalienable for every Australian. If racism is to be done in then one must first understand that there is unfairness and discrimination.
Despite that one in four of Australians have been born overseas and that Australia gets off on selling itself as one of the world's most successful melting pots, the non-White Australian has an arduous uphill battle, steeped in discrimination. The institutions of the nation, including the peak body – government – are monopolised by White Australians, predominately Anglo-Celtic Australians. The demography of this nation is not reflected in our parliaments. More than 85 per cent of our federal parliamentarians are White Australians – the majority of Anglo-Celtic heritage. This firmament of institutionalised control continues the racial divides, the 'us verse them', the oppressor and oppressed dichotomies.
White Australia is threatened by the idea that Black, Brown and Yellow Australians should pick up the number of parliamentary seats that would more fairly reflect the makeup of Australia. They scream out anathema such as claims of "ethnic branch stacking" during the preselection of political candidates who are non-White but in electorates significantly populated by non-Whites. It is hypocrisy because of the fact that every day since Federation White Australia is the one that has stacked the numbers at preselection meetings to exclude non-White Australians. Racism is not only limited to the conscious – to the hate-filled ignorance by many Whites of culturally and linguistic diverse peoples. It is also subconscious. Racism can also be predominately subconscious where people subconsciously, but not consciously, exclude or rail against someone because of the colour of their skin, or because of their accent, or because of the cultural content they carry. Subconscious associations are made, after having soaked up the nuanced negatives from near after the cradle of everyday propaganda dished out, this more to do with xenophobia as opposed to misoxeny but playing out as if misoxeny. As a nation, we talk an awful lot about celebrating diversity but in fact the majority of White Australia fights it at every twist and turn.
There are increasingly significant numbers of successful entrepreneurial migrants and some who have managed their way into top end of town business institutions. But it appears that this is as far as they can journey, or as far as White Australia will allow. Take for example Asian-Australians who have contributed significantly to Australia during the last century and there are many Asian-Australians mixing it with the big end of town business institutions but their presence in the makeup of Australian governments is negligible. They are nearly as negligible in presence in mainstream media with the exception of SBS. Mainstream media is nearly as profound in defining the Australian consciousness – and the subconscious state – as are our governments – they are the nation's two peak authorial institutions. If a nation is racist, or whatever it is, it is predominately the cumulative work of governments and media. Racism is signature piece, it does not just happen, it is an imprimatur of our governments.
In 2005, after eleven years as a parliamentarian conservative Liberal parliamentarian and Greek-born Petro Georgiou railed against his own party who were incumbent as the government of the day over their cruel policies on refugees. This led to rumblings from many within the Liberals and there was an attempt to do the numbers to unseat Georgiou at the 2006 preselection but he clung on. On November 22, 2008 Georgiou announced he would retire at the 2010 election. In his farewell speech he slammed both the major parties regarding mandatory detention of refugees and of their other callous policies on refugee immigration.
Xenophobes have a fear of others and that is of the perceived stranger and misoxenists hate the stranger, the foreigner. It is not fear that we battle and need to reduce and eliminate. There is a hate-filled warring and this is what we need to beat. The Cronulla Riots were not brought about by a fear of others – the riots were hate-filled. Our nation is haunted by misoxeny as opposed to the softer version of xenophobia.
The refusal to share power perpetuates power imbalances culminating viciously in levelling the regressive impost of assimilate or perish and has led to veils and layers of racism, to narratives of misery and hate and to the abominable diminution of others and of the self. Without a positive self the individual is vulnerable to one trauma after another, to a constancy of traumas and suffering. Racism is a massive hit on the psychosocial self.
You must understand what racism means to the oppressed, to its victims. The victim is subsumed by feelings that they are perceived as distinctively different. Their values and humanity is open to judgment irrespective of the presumption of inalienable rights and our humanity. The victim, from an early age, maybe absorbed by the idea that they are inferior because those who judge perceive themselves as superior or because they have the right to dominate others because they enjoy the right to rule and in line with the White privilege that our parliaments, in their makeup, without interruption have reflected.
Racism is pernicious and it is the most divisive issue between human beings. It not only cobbles together inequalities but also to a sense of inferiority. There is no other more pressing issue for humanity, for each nation to address than racism. Racism is the most powerful propaganda weapon by any dominant culture that peddles on the surface its ideologue but despite any ideologue seeks to turn people against people in order to secure an ulterior motive. The history of humanity, but even more so modernity, has been polluted by this diabolical ploy.
Many believe that anger at establishment politics in the so-called 'western world' led the marginalised who vote and led significant numbers within the working and middle classes to reject the so-called established political parties and their narrow corridor of discourse. People are used to betrayed expectations and that constancy has always been on and will continue. The rejection has been coming for a long time – the numbers of the so-called disenfranchised building overtime – but they have been built on the back of racism and not on correcting some sort out of control political machinery or repairing the world order. Even the muddled-minded know that this is not likely to ever happen. What is happening is all about a desperate sense of self borne of the tangibles of selfishness and hate as opposed to the presumption that we can repair the political machinery. The pollsters and so-called political commentators do not have the eye on the ball; they carry on about economics when it's about racism. Who carried Trump across the line and who brought on Greece's Golden Dawn Party and who brought on Jean-Marie and Marine Le Penn and France's National Front Party and who brought on Australia's One Nation Party, are predominately people who buy into racial superiority, racial divides, racism as terror. In the United States millions who had never voted before went to the polls driven by a feeble-mindedness and sick voyeurism to flicker the prospect of the making again of an America that once was. The Ku Klux Klan found a candidate, the long suffering feeble minded of the Bible belts also turned out. These souls are the are the product of both xenophobia and misoxeny and voted because of threats to their authored selves, to their citadels, to threats to their muddle-minded limited order of things. They did not turn to vote because of the neoliberal project and globalisation disproportionately looking after the wealthiest. Socialists and the right-minded do not vote for the Trumps and the One Nation Party.
Every nation that does not stand up to the peddling of misoxeny, that does not invest in educating the nation to coming together understandings of one another, to appreciating diversity instead of seeking to extinguish it everywhere but on paper with assimilate or perish doctrines well they pay the price in hate-filled divides.
The conscious and subconscious hating comes in various forms, including in legitimately felt sense of superiority – where truly people feel that that their way of living, that their cultural content are superior to those of others. That's still dangerous because it pits people against people, denying a polycultural diversity, and that's the precursor to eugenic type policies by the dominant or the oppressor, depending on who you are within the dichotomy.. If anyone believes that 'social engineering' is a thing of the recent past then they're mistaken, social engineering occurs in every bit of policy making.
Without racism, there would be no Ku Klux Klan. Without racism there would have been no Jewish Holocaust. Without racism there would be no Palestinian crisis. Twenty-two years ago, in a 100 days of genocidal slaughter the Hutu majority government was responsible for slaughter of 800,000 Rwandans, mostly of Tutsi heritage. Without racism this tragedy would not have occurred. People should never be pitted against each other. There should no place for pitchfork standoffs in political and national conversations. If sincere coming together discussions on racism and the ways forward had occurred decades ago there would be no One Nation Party. Trump's rise to Washington needed a narrative of blame and a narrative of hate. But their opportunity for their rise had been sowed by his political predecessors, who they themselves sold division and hate to justify or excuse or more aptly to disguise their suite of ulterior motives and deeds. John Howard and Kim Beazley were abominable in nurturing fear among Australians with the Tampa incident, with the SIEVX. They put personal political ambition before the national interest.
In the late 1970s and in the 1980s moral leadership was demonstrated by the then government in assisting Cambodian and Vietnamese refugees who came in what appeared waves of boats. My sister-in-law, just a baby, came from Vietnam on one of those boats, which nearly sank. Children who arrived from these countries without the English language and without possessions came to my school. I became friends with some of them. One of them, a landmine victim, profoundly dragged his right leg.
During this period Andrew Peacock led the way, telling his government he would resign if people fleeing Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge killing fields were not assisted. Similar compassionate support came from Fred Chaney and Malcolm Fraser and ensured an adequate level of humanity.
Mandatory detention was enacted as legislation by the Paul Keating government in 1992 but 'indefinite' detention was not its intention – it was intended as a 'quarantine' check. But the lazy crafted legislation raised an ugly spectre a decade later. But let's not romanticise the reception of refugees in the 1980s, it was harrowing however not as unwelcoming as our contemporary where we have gone so far backwards that many are surprised.
In the 1980s there were also forms of offshore processing but as regional collaboration. There was Galang camp in Indonesia and Hei Ling Chau camp on a Hong Kong islet. These were places with horrific conditions, of deprivations and human misery. However, there were UNHCR personnel at the camps to assist with resettlement. Galang Island refuges camp opened in 1979 and was closed in 1996 after all the refugees were resettled. It had two camps – one for newly arrived refugees and another for those approved, who received English classes and cultural information about the country of their resettlement. Most of the refugees at Galang preferred Australia for resettlement and Australia took a significant proportion of those who opted for Australia. This was because Australia had shorter waiting periods and less bureaucratic red tape. The USA and Canada took in large numbers, too. However, their waiting periods were longer. Australia had committed to taking in 40,000 and in the end without any fanfare took in 70,000.
Babies were born in Galang and people died there. Alongside the UNHCR, Doctors Without Borders and Save the Children maintained a near daily presence. Hong Kong's rocky islet of Hei Ling Chau maintained a closed camp with razor wire. Many of the refugees broke down, many died. However, Hong Kong refused to push boats of refugees back out to sea, as on occasion the Thais did.
The poison of racism now toxically pollutes of humanity with the evident reality that it will unleash into the futures of our children and their children tsunamis of cruelties and abominable times that today still remain relatively unimaginable. The neoliberal project is predominately White-owned but its root causality is a disguised elitism, benefit to the very few. To meet this exploitation even the White masses must be mobilised. But whether Black, Brown, White, no right-minded individual would subjugate their mattering to the grossest wrong-doing. Martin Luther King touched on the roots of racism that are found in its use like a tool for exploitation.
America wants to be great again, but America was never great – a country that has dished out its brutality the world over, more than 100 military engagements since World War 2, and its subversion of the internal affairs of other nations is well-known. Racism is always used as part of the propaganda package. The centuries before World War 2, the America that sells itself as the land of the free built its economies on the back of Black slavery – for a long time 90 per cent of the American economy was intertwined with slavery. The poor White masses were taught not to dissent at their own starvation level wages or the slave would replace them. This narrative of the self is sold by Trump, Golden Dawn, the One Nation Party, but is reinforced by counter-narratives such as John Howard's Tampa response, the turning back of the SIEVX (353 drowned) and mandatory detention. The reinforced narrative has brought home in all its racist fury by back pedalling politicians in the Rudd and Gillard governments.
In the racist mire there are conscious understandings but also unconscious. The White was sold their superiority over the Black, that as Luther King said, "When (the White's) wrinkled stomach cried out for the food that his empty pockets could not provide… a psychological bird told him that no matter how bad off he was, at least he was a White man, better than the Black man." Australia's roots to its racism are no different, one built on White privilege.
Wherever we turn to for political leadership on countering the racism, there is no-one, only arguers of this and that, not of racism per se. My old political alma mater, the Greens, are not the answer – they may tinker with social justice but only on the edges of the neo-liberal project, they do not have the courage to stand up and radicalise the national discourses. They remain a party of putrid White privilege, like all Australian political parties – Labor the best of a bad lot. When Greens NSW Senator Lee Rhiannon spoke up for Palestine she was shut down viciously by the Greens. When she wanted to lead the Australian Greens, the party apparatchik panicked and corralled her. There is no political party in Australia that is doing away with White privilege, that is standing up to racism and that understands racism. The racists I grew up around, the schoolyard racists, they now fill our parliaments – they hide behind the sorcery of lies, a false language of reconciliation but if they were to wear their heart on sleeve as does One Nation there'd be less difference between them than is publicly portrayed.
There is no default position to Australia's racism because as long as White Australians deny the demography of this nation to fairly reflect Australia at every level of engagement in this nation, as long as White Australia deny the fact of our brotherhood and sisterhood, deny an embracing of each other in the highest offices, then every Australian covenant is one of racism. The only journey other than to retreat and endure, is to fight the struggle for change, to rise and be heard and to inspire.
Many Australians will attack me, will deride me as a stirrer, will be hostile in the denial of racism – this I have endured since a young child and in every year since but even more so during each year of the last two decades where we as a nation have betrayed the expectations that many of us in the 1970s and in the 1980s believed were a fast approaching future. But the chattering classes, predominately made up of White Australians and a smattering of the assimilated, will be the ones who will argue that all is well and that we are some sort of 'great nation'. But millions of Black, Brown and Asian Australians know all too very differently.
* Gerry Georgatos is a suicide prevention and prison reform researcher and advocate with the Institute of Social Justice and Human Rights. He is a member of national projects further developing suicide prevention and prison to hope to well-being to education programs. He is also a prolific writer on the ways forward from racism.
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