Well Robin, ya ain’t wrong, mate! Anglo-Saxon ‘Australians’ whilst superficially decent, hard working Christian folk who, whilst not regular church goers, none-the-less profess to a certain spirituality, are racist! All you have to do is scratch the surface and there you have it, not an embryonic Klansman but fully fledged pillow case wearing, cross burning racist.
On Saturday 19 March an Aboriginal friend and I were denied entry to the Marlborough Hotel in Newtown. The only discernable reason for our exclusion from this ‘fine’ establishment was that my friend is very clearly an Aborigine. He looks like an Aborigine, so was excluded from an establishment that appeared to be admitting every low life who ever drew a breath in Newtown.
If the ‘security’ who excluded us had bothered to look beyond my friends colour they would have found an articulate, tertiary educated upstanding member of the community. But, they could not see beyond his colour and their own prejudices.
Ironically two days later, Monday 21 March was the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. The week which witnessed my friend and I excluded from the Marlborough Hotel in Newtown and included the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination also witnessed a rather sordid incident involving Australian Defence Force Personnel in Afghanistan.
Up to a dozen Australian soldiers have been caught up in posting shocking racial slurs and offensive comments that could lead to discharge or even prison on Facebook.
Soldiers are accused of posting comments on Facebook which describe Afghanis as “ragheads”, “dune coons”, “sand niggaz” and “smelly locals.”
What exactly is racism?
Racism takes many different forms. It can range from abusive language or discriminatory treatment to genocide, simply on the basis of someone’s ‘race’ or colour.
The definition of racial discrimination is contained in Article 1 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, to which Australia is a party:
“The term “racial discrimination” shall mean any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life”.
Stereotyping is one of the key components of racism and included:
- they reduce a range of differences in people to simplistic categorisations
- transform assumptions about particular groups of people into ‘realities’
- are used to justify status quo or persisting injustices
- reinforce social prejudice and inequality
Referring to people as “ragheads”, “dune coons”, “sand niggaz” and “smelly locals” contravenes Article 1 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, which is a United Nations international treaty.
While the personal opinions of certain members of the Australian Defence Force, expressed in pejorative terms, about Afghanis is reprehensible and should be dealt with as swiftly as possible, the issue is much bigger if those personal opinions actually represent the ‘accepted’ prejudices of Anglo-Saxon Australia.
When considering the ‘accepted’ prejudices of Anglo-Saxon Australia it is worth remembering that three out of four Indigenous Australians experience racism in their everyday lives.
When were the negative stereotypes of non-Anglo-Saxon Australians formed?
It all started with the INVASION of Aboriginal Australia by Anglo-Saxon Convict Settlers about 233 years ago. When Anglo-Saxon Australia’s convict settlers arrived they brought with them the concept that “we whites are better than everyone else”, a mentality that is still alive in many Aussies today.
It’s like a DOG mentality – take what you want regardless of whether or not it is yours (land, resources, stolen generation, etc) and don’t SHARE with the rightful aboriginal land owners. As long as they benefit from there takings, they are happy and bark like a dog if different strangers (other immigrants) come close to it.
That’s the convict blood in them. Being drunk, loud, arrogant, rude, cocky and devious is their nature and culture and proud of it.
Ok you got me, I’m stereotyping Anglo-Saxon Australians, which is unfair and most people would argue is unjust – and so it is – but that is what happens to us every day of our lives!
What is not an unfair argument is the one that postulates that former Prime Minister Howard played on the underlying prejudices that exist within Australian society for short term political ends and in so doing, unleashed a wave of racist invective against all non-Anglo-Saxon Australians which will be felt for decades to come. The wave of racism unleashed by Howard is still being given life by the many members of Australia’s Federal Parliament, who still harbour the prejudices that Howard brought to the surface, during his decade long attempt to turn back the tide of multi-cultural Australia.
Early on in Howard’s reign, on 24 March 2000 to be exact, a UN committee on the elimination of racial discrimination published a report criticising Australia for failing to override mandatory sentencing laws in effect in Western Australia and the Northern Territory.
These laws require that repeat offenders be jailed even for trivial crimes, and human rights campaigners say these target the kind of offences committed by Aborigines.
The UN report said the mandatory sentencing laws could be in breach of the UN convention on the elimination of racism.
Australian Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock responded by arguing that the committee’s report seemed to rely exclusively on information from non-government organisations.
He also accused the UN committee of intruding unreasonably in domestic Australian affairs.
He was backed up by federal Attorney-General Darryl Williams, who also said that the report was not balanced.
“It puts in question the credibility internationally of the committee. The committee should reconsider its report and take a more balanced perspective,” Mr Williams said.
The responses from Ruddock and Williams have unsettling parallels with the types of responses that came from Nazi Germany when their racial policies were challenged by the outside world.
Following on the heels of the UN report was a report by Amnesty International accusing Australia of violating the 1951 UN Refugee Convention. The human rights group based its accusation on Australian troops boarding a Norwegian vessel (the Tampa) carrying asylum seekers to stop it reaching the nearest port and the government proposal to introduce retroactive legislation to allow the ship to be forced out of Australian waters.
I could go on detailing the hypocrisy and double standards of Howard and his government when it came to the human rights of Australians other than those of the dominant Anglo-Saxon group, but what would be the point?
Australia and the United Nations
Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd is stepping up Australia’s campaign to secure a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council in 2013; this seemed to have been the primary focus of his hectic 13-day diplomatic mission to Africa, the Middle East and Europe in January of this year. Australia needs to obtain 128 votes to secure a seat.
Australia was a late entrant in the race against Finland and Luxembourg for a seat on the council in 2013-14 and deputy Liberal leader Julie Bishop has called on the government to abandon the bid, calling it a waste of diplomatic resources.
Rudd has countered Bishop’s call to abandon the bid by arguing that more than 3500 Australian troops are deployed in UN peacekeeping missions around the world and it was worth pushing for a place at the decision-making table.
Is a country whose soldiers refer to those they are supposedly protecting in pejoratives such as ragheads”, “dune coons”, “sand niggaz” and “smelly locals” worthy of a seat on the United Nations Security Council? The answer is obviously no!
Is a country that regularly ignores the provisions of international treaties to which it is a signatory, worthy of a seat on the U.N.’s most powerful body? No!
If Australia were to win a seat on the U.N.’s most powerful body in 2013 it would prove to be a human rights disaster of Indigenous Australians, as it would signal to all those Australian rednecks so lampooned by Robin Williams that Australia’s undercurrent of racial intolerance is acceptable by the rest of the world.
Australia’s undercurrent of racial intolerance is unacceptable. Australia’s use of pejoratives when referring to Indigenous peoples, whether Australian or not, is unacceptable. Increasing the opportunities for Australia to export its corruption to the rest of the world is unacceptable.
My hope is that the rest of the world, instead of presenting Australia with the prize of a seat on the U.N.’s most powerful body, holds Anglo-Saxon Australia accountable for all of the crimes it has committed against humanity.