We’re not as racist as people think
Recently on ABC’s Q&A panellist Todd Sampson (from The Gruen Transfer and CEO of ad agency Leo Burnett) insisted that if we do not regard racism as a serious issue in Australia “we have stuffed our heads up our butts”.
Not only are such proclamations damaging to our national spirit, they are fundamentally false. If anything, the opposite is true.
Try this experiment - something I’ve done consistently over the past decade - ask Australians from a minority background what racism they have experienced.
Beyond an odd drunken yobbo screaming something late one inebriated night, consistent examples will be few and far between.
When Australians of all backgrounds are asked what they love about Australia and what fills them with pride it is our sense of tolerance and acceptance that they mention first. Ours is a nation that has absorbed people from all backgrounds and done so with relative ease.
We love that our workplaces are filled with diversity and we especially love that our restaurants, cafes and supermarket shelves are reflect our diversity.
Nations where racism is rife usually have a long history of ill will towards minorities. Scratch the surface, as we saw in the former Yugoslavia, and the hatred is felt, with disastrous consequences. Scratch beneath Australia’s psyche and one does not find this.
And the younger the people the more the concept of tolerance and acceptance resonates. Young people are all about celebrating differences. Those among them born overseas feel strongly Australian. The added dimension of their culture of origin merely enhances their personality rather than causing conflict.
We celebrate moments that remind us of our tolerance and seek more of them. Major sporting events or cultural celebrations when the audience of thousands is filled with all colours and backgrounds delight us. We seek media that reflect our ethnic mix beyond tokenistic inclusions and when they get it right we praise them for it (if only they weren’t so afraid to do so).
This does not mean we are not susceptible to fear. It is no coincidence that One Nation’s support was to be found in the city’s fringes and lower social economic areas where financial stress was profound.
I’m also not suggesting that there are no racists in Australia or racially motivated crimes and incidents. Of course there are and the impact on the victims is profound. But these are few and far between and are the antithesis of our society in general.
Next time you hear an Australian proclaim our racist nature ask them for practical examples.
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