So Prime Minister Julia Gillard has shoehorned Nova Peris onto the ALP Senate ticket, thus illustrating that her cackhandedness is no passing fad.
The former Olympian will be set to become the first Federal indigenous Labor representative, and the first indigenous female Federal pollie. About bloody time.
It is shameful it has taken this long – and it’s also a shame that it will be a tainted appointment.
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Welcome to another edition of I Call Bullshit, a column dedicated to codswallop. Today we’re going to look at racism in Australia.
We were treated to nauseating scenes yesterday of a bunch of dumb, drunk idiots taunting, bullying and threatening a woman who was singing in French.
Today in news from the UK we hear that a New Zealander was branded a “stupid, fat Australian bitch” by her neighbour… and a court found the neighbour guilty of a “racially aggravated public disorder”.
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Since last week, plenty of sushi-eating, bubble-tea-sipping Aussies have taken to the Interwebs to voice their indignation on behalf of Asian-Australians over A Current Affair’s “All-Asian Mall” blunder.
They wanted to make clear they were personally aware that the members of our community who cling-wrap their remote controls, chop their food with giant cleavers and apparently want to start specialty stores in Sydney’s North-West are, indeed part of the community.
But as a country, it looks like Australians aren’t all that into “Asia”.
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How racist am I? Hopefully not at all, but I’m a little confused. I’ve got two distinct groups of friends, and with one group a bit of casual racism seems acceptable, while with the other group, even mentioning race gets you into trouble.
So I grew up on one side of town, went to school on the other, and I reckon that’s a nice little analogy for my life. With my two groups of friends I often feel like two different people, but at the same time. Kind of like a hermaphrodite, but on the inside.
The friends I grew up with have mostly settled down in the ‘burbs, and are into footy, furniture and churning out the kids. Which is fine, they’re a great laugh and one day, I’m not sure I don’t want the same.
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It’s not clear when multiculturalism became a dirty word in Australia – to some, anyway. According to my dictionary multiculturalism is about equal rights and opportunities for all, about tolerance, a “sort of new name for the old Australian ‘fair go’. Sounds pretty good.
But the word has quietly dropped away from common use, and perhaps some of its sentiment has too. It’s still an official policy, but sectors of the public seem to have turned off it.
The Department of Immigration and Citizenship – which dropped the word multiculturalism from its title – still has a fact sheet on its website. It wends its way from the White Australia policy to the Government’s official policy, The People of Australia.
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It never looks quite right. On any sunny afternoon in Manhattan’s wealthy Upper West, there are swarms of black nannies pushing young white children in strollers.
At a glance, it’s a deep south plantation fantasy, minus the tobacco fields, bullwhips and chains. But we’re in the north of America. And the north beat the south because of slavery.
Is it a status symbol to possess a black nanny? Is there a modern mammy conspiracy?
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You don’t often hear people challenging someone’s claim to be Italian. Or Swedish, or American. Generally you accept what they say even if they don’t have an accent, or a funny surname, or blond hair.
Aboriginality, on the other hand, apparently remains a contested field.
The Federal Court last week decided that high-profile and controversial columnist Andrew Bolt had breached the Racial Discrimination Act in his columns ‘It’s so hip to be black’, and ‘White fellas in the black’, which questioned why nine prominent ‘fair-skinned Aborigines’ identified as Aboriginal.
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A radio host the other day was discussing the iPod-full of Australian artists that our Prime Minister gave to Barack Obama. Reviewing the collection of songs - which included Midnight Oil - he claimed it proved “political correctness has gone mad’.
(Glenn Beck on political correctness gone mad)
These sentiments were echoed in The Punch the other morning when Kevin Donnelly warned us that the proposed national curriculum was much too ‘politically correct’. The entire curriculum, Donnelly argued, is overwhelmed by politically correct messages and ignores Christianity.
Feeling under siege by political correctness I decided to do something about it: I called a Muslim friend and made some jokes about her cultural background. I figured it was OK, because some of my best friends are Muslim.
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Islam doesn’t have much of a reputation for a sense of humour. Maybe its best comics don’t get an airing here in the west – there might be an equivalent of a Peter Cook or a Lenny Bruce doing stand-up at a nightclub in Tehran.
But as a general rule, the more orthodox practitioners of the Muslim faith are more likely to crack a fatwa than a funny. And there are a few Danish cartoonists who found out the hard way that poking fun at the prophet Mohammed by daring to draw a picture of the guy can land you some pretty bad reviews, and also result in your nation’s embassy being burned to the ground.
In Australia, the relationship between Muslim communities and the wider community has often been fraught. The tension has been strongest in Sydney, particularly in relation to the Lebanese Muslim community. There was an amusing and hopeful moment last week which suggested that a genial kind of mutual accommodation may be taking hold.
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Andrew McLeod, addressing the United Nations last week, argued that the AFL must address racism in football, citing their laws that prevent insults and threats on the basis of a person’s race.
His address, on Australia Day, coincided with hundreds of speeches around the country assuring those taking up Australian citizenship that the nation’s racial vilification laws prevented discrimination against them on the basis of their race.
Race is also emerging as a hot topic in the controversy about a referendum on indigenous recognition in the constitution. Options for change are already citing “people of any race,” “racial groups” and “all racial backgrounds” and the race power contained in section 51 (xxvi) (1).
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Last week Gordon Brown called one of his voters a bigot. Her crime, voicing her concerns about immigration policy in the UK. Brown was condemned for an act of outrageous insensitivity and dutifully marched back to her home for a 45 minute apology.
Talking about immigration is not easy in western democracies. There is an elite consensus that seeks to deny the conversation. Apparently, we’re not mature enough to have this discussion without our raw, untamed racial prejudices overwhelming our capacity for reason and having their way.
To protect us all from our dark side, the self appointed elite apply the tags of racism, bigotry and dog whistling to anyone who cares to discuss the topic. After all, it’s for our own good.
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I’m still not sure how it happened. We headed out to Olympic Park on Friday with two other couples to see Beyonce’s Sydney show, planning to bop the night away to her awesome collection of insanely catchy dance tunes.
We ended up wiping away tears and struggling to speak as the concert turned into an emotionally-charged celebration of the best features of life in the west – women’s rights, civil rights, democracy, freedom of expression, a philanthropic sense of community.
The word “pop” of itself sounds frivolous and popular music is generally ignored or ridiculed as the shallowest cultural genre. But at some point during Beyonce’s show, the concert underwent a strange transformation, as if she’d read the “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness” passage from The Declaration of Independence and decided to build a stage show around it.
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One of the most disturbing things about this morning’s counter-terrorism raids in Melbourne is the profile of the suspects, who were allegedly planning a Mumbai-style machine-gun attack on Australian Army barracks.
They were, The Australian reports, construction workers and taxi drivers of Somali and Lebanese descent, living in suburban Melbourne.
Combine this with the admission of Anglo-Australian terrorist Shane Kent that he was part of a terrorist organisation and it’s clear terrorists don’t look like anything in particular and could be living in your street.
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WHITE supremacy is so yesterday, don’t you think?
But the skinheads are using a modern medium for their oh-so-1950s messages. And, as with so much online, it’s a rare chance to see inside a different world. A strangely amusing world.
I came across a couple of sites by accident, and before I knew it I was Googling around checking out the rantings of racists. With each new site, I was mentally preparing myself to be outraged, appalled. Filled with a towering sense of injustice.
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Last November, a curious list was posted to various websites in England.
It had no author, it carried no commentary but included the names, occupations, addresses and personal details of some 12,000 people who were members of the British National Party.
The privacy breach may have been of concern to some liberal commentators but for British authorities and political leaders, it was an alarming wake up to the rise-and-rise of the far right movement in the UK.
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Here’s my guilty admission. I sat through Samson and Delilah and I wanted it to end.
The violence, the petrol-sniffing, the exploitation – white and black, and the indifference were all confronting.
But it wasn’t my squeamishness that had me longing for the closing credits. What did me in and left me feeling completely bombed was that for much of the movie you are placed in the shoes of Aboriginal young people who have seemingly little to live for.
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