from Hoopla

By Dr Helen Szoke                                                                                                                                April 4, 2012

What should Australians do to prevent and reduce racism?

I have released a consultation document as part of the process of developing a National Anti-Racism Strategy, and it’s been interesting to see the reaction.

Illustration Robin Cowcher via The Age.

One of the things I’ve found most surprising is that many people don’t actually know what racism is, many deny that it exists, and many also say that naming something as racist is just being politically correct or being over-sensitive.

I disagree. My question to those people, indeed to all of us is, “why don’t we take a moment to walk in the shoes of people who experience racism?”.

I have sat in many consultations and heard people’s stories first hand, felt their grief, frustration, hurt and sense of injustice, alienation and consternation.

Racism is not restricted to any particular age group, gender or demographic profile.

Take the story of a young student of Sudanese background whose teacher once told him that if someone came into the school yard they would kill him first because his “skin stands out”. The teacher also made fun of the student’s name, and told him to “go rob a store or whatever you black people do”. This happened in Australia.

How would you feel if your son or daughter was treated like that? More to the point, what do you think their reaction would be?

I recall the story of a woman from Afghanistan who complained to housing providers about a refrigerator not working. She also requested a house with extra rooms to accommodate three children. The housing providers told her to display a grateful attitude and asked whether she had a refrigerator or extra rooms in Afghanistan.

This sort of attitude is typical of the “go back to where you came from” response.

Is it really the reputation we want for Australia?

Another story is one most of us have heard – the employer who admits to an applicant of Middle Eastern background in a job interview that, if they offered him the job, the business would lose clients because of the sentiment felt towards people of his heritage as a result of 9/11.

There is the Aboriginal woman who, when shopping at a particular store, had her bags searched while the bags of non-Aboriginal customers were not.

She said she reported this different treatment to the store manager, but they refused to act on her complaint. The store claimed that the complainant’s bags were searched because, on the day in question, two other customers had reported seeing her “place items into her bags”.

The woman took her complaint to the Australian Human Rights Commission where the matter was resolved through conciliation with the store agreeing to provide her with a statement of regret. It also arranged for the store manager to undertake cultural awareness training.

I’d like you to ponder on whether something like this has happened to someone you know, or that you have heard about. I am sure you will find it has. Such experiences are not merely anecdotal.

Independent research suggests that racism remains a critical issue in Australia.

And in situations like these, it is those on the margins of society – in small and recently arrived communities – who are most vulnerable.

In recounting these stories, I hope they provide some insight into why we need an anti-racism strategy (though, we won’t end up calling it that).

For years our politicians and media have been saying “Australia is not a racist country”.

That may be true. But is Australia a nation in denial of the existence of racism and the real threat it poses to social cohesion and the cherished tradition of ’a fair go’?

To address racism, it is important for us all to acknowledge the plain truth that it IS alive in Australia. And that it is negatively impacting upon people and communities.

This is the first step towards a truly cohesive and inclusive Australia – the Australia we and our politicians and media see ourselves as part of.

But we need to ensure that others see that as well.

On this basis, the federal Government’s new The People of Australia’ policy which, among other things, aims to develop a National Anti-Racism Partnership and Strategy, is more than welcome news. It is the Government’s acknowledgement of the fact that racism is a critical issue that must be addressed.

I absolutely believe that the design and implementation of this strategy will start a  conversation on the subject of racism and the lasting solutions to the challenges we face in this area. That is why I believe it important for everyone to participate and have a say.

The so-called small ‘persistent pockets of racism’ we are constantly told exist in Australia must not be tolerated.

Together, we need to bring people along to work for a better Australia.  We must realise that we need to name racism so that we are able to identify what we are fixing.

Racism anywhere should be considered as racism everywhere.

Dr Helen Szoke

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25 thoughts on “ARE WE IN DENIAL ON RACISM?

  1. I quite agree with Dr Szoke.

    I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard people claim that reports of racism are mostly fabricated and complain that minorities “pull out the race card” at every occasion. In some ways, this is even worse than the “it was just a joke” response, because it attempts to shift the blame to the victim.

    It’s remarkable how similar peoples’ attitudes towards sexism and racism are in this country. They deny the existence of either, even in the face of evidence to the contrary, and try to make themselves believe that the victims are overplaying it, or being overly sensitive.

    In a society like Australia, everyone has a right to be treated equally, and everyone has the right to insist on this. This is not over-sensitivity; it is merely the state of being proactive about one’s own rights. Why should you NOT cry racism when racist behavior did, in fact, occur?

    While most Australians are not racist, some really are. That’s a fact. We can’t just keep denying it and pretending that everything is hunky-dory.

      • Yeah, oh yeah, lets fuck em good. shoot ’em? Or burn their houses? how about a shit load more propaganda to prop up their fucked up mission?

        Dr Helen Suzuki can fuck off , we’ll be lobbying Abbott to have this worthless lefty bitch fired.

  2. ARE WE IN DENIAL ON RACISM? Yes if you cannot differentiate between the benefits or otherwise of a cultures foundation text regards Other particularly women, and the color of their skin, etc..

    If seeking security and harmony One should not judge a person, a community, a Nation by the colour of their skin, the level of their intellect, their physical dexterity nor their table manners but One must certainly judge them by the character of ALL their “insulting, dangerous, and wrong” foundation text regards Other, particularly as it relates to the status of women relative to men.

    For only after complete examination by oneself (not taking anyone else’s subjective word for it) of the Foundation Text regards Other and Women and ignoring demonstrative pious claims utilizing select abridged versions of the Foundation text to hide the truth, will you be able to conclude such a person, such a community, or such a Nation will eventually cause you more harm than good and is really not worth having anything to do with.

    Otherwise you are indeed a Pathological Altruist Cultural Relativist (PACR) and will in time realise too late as the Nazi Panzer Lieutenant on the Polish Russian border did after WWII.

    “The country had become the country of silence. We didn’t know this was the beginning of the genocide to which we would lend our hands and our courage.” Apocalypse: World War II

    For PACRs are responsible for enabling the ‘Permanent terror’ and consequently enabling the counter-terror which inevitably rises as a result.

    • @markjuliansmith- I think you may have good intentions, but your posts are largely incomprehensible… you should work on that.

      • seems english is his second or third language, still more coherent then grant and his ilk, seems another example of racism, this person is trying to learn our ways and contribute to subjects affecting our society and all you can do is cut him down, dammed if you do, dammed if you dont, same racist attitude of “try to be like us but your different so you will never be like us” maybe we need to teach logic a schools also

        • Actually, it’s more like ‘if you’re going to write long posts, at least make sure you write in a way that people will understand.’

  3. I agree that racism exists, no one can deny that, but the author fails to point out that it is a two way street, and attitudes from both sides could do with self examination and criticism. Mark Julian Smith has cracked the code on the martian language I think.

  4. Seemingly intellectual justification is just another sign of arrogant watering down of fundamental ethical and moral issues in Australian society. There is an undeniable fast accelerating momentum of exposure to these problems in Australia, which can connect and fuse a country together or destroy the moral and ethical fiber of the Australian population. The Australian deeply engrained habits of denial, ignore till it goes away, ridicule anyone who doesn’t think the same as us is going to blow up in our faces in a big way in the very near future. Anyone serious enough about a cohesive Australian society with a serious dose of integrity should be compelled to search the internet for the fast growing opposition towards Australia and Australians in general. The slogans or keywords like “I hate Australia”, “Fuck Australia”, “I hate fucking Australians” are more then unsettling to me. If anyone in our country thinks that we are best to ignore these slurs because we are above it all, then we should take a humble five minute in humility and think it over if there is maybe, just maybe something wrong with us or the way we are interacting with people from other cultural backgrounds. Australia is more and more exposed to the rest of the world thru globalization, media and internet. Australia has to become part of the globe and not some Nation that thinks that everyone else has to tow the line according to Australian ideas, the ideas of 20 Million people in the midst of a 7 Billion world population.

  5. I love this article – I do agree that a lot of people after my interaction with vblogging do not actually know what racism is nor do some people know how to emphasise. Hence I really liked how she told people to walk in the “victims shoes”::
    “Take the story of a young student of Sudanese background whose teacher once told him that if someone came into the school yard they would kill him first because his “skin stands out”. The teacher also made fun of the student’s name, and told him to “go rob a store or whatever you black people do”. This happened in Australia.

    How would you feel if your son or daughter was treated like that? More to the point, what do you think their reaction would be?”

    Great article by the antibogan

    • Well Kim, Source? sounds like bullshit. Or just more ethnic wingeing? I’d say the latter.

      The teacher was actually correct, that these Somali’s are committing shit loads of crimes.

      • So the APP is not racist, and welcomes people of all cultures…except Muslims, and africans, and asians, and any other ethnic whinger.

        So the APP welcomes all people as long as they’re white? No, wait, then we’d have to get rid of women, gays, lefties, the APP definition of leftie (Everyone apart from two people), anyone who disagrees with them in anyway….

        Why don’t you just say the truth? The APP hates everyone, except themselves.

      • Well, buddy, pretty soon the legislation that convicted Bolt will be reversed.

        Tony Abbott has stated as such publically today on ABC 1.

        Bolt will appeal his ‘ conviction’.

        • dont like Australias laws you can fuck off like you tell recent boat people (convicts were the first boat people) illogical hypocrite, these bloody self intrested blowhards always trying to change Australian law, go to the country where you respect the law and immigrate back

        • Gosh, did he now Grant? And ain’t it great that politicians always do what they promise. Especially Tony Abbot-he always does what he says he’ll do, doesn’t he?

          Meanwhile, I think you’ll find stating that you want to kill children, as the party you support does, while not illegal, is still political suicide.

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