I’M NOT A RACIST, BUT…
Racism is one of Australia’s worst-kept secrets.
If you scratch a little deeper beneath our white sand and easy-going attitude you can find ugly, hateful feelings of resentment from otherwise seemingly ordinary people.
How many times do you hear, “I’m not racist BUT…” Or how about, “Some of my friends are Middle Eastern, Vietnamese, Chinese, Italian BUT…” What follow can be the most absurd statements arising simply because of someone’s nationality or religion.
Australia has a reputation for being laid-back and generous. However all is not what it seems in this land of plenty. For a country that prides itself on having a ‘no bullshit’ attitude – we are hopeless at having an honest, and sometimes painful, discussion about the level of racism in our community.
And it doesn’t take much to get the debate going.
Legendary neurosurgeon, Dr Charlie Teo, has got the conversation started in the lead up to Australia Day. Dr Teo, who is the son of Chinese immigrants, is giving the New South Wales Australia Day speech.
I heard him explaining on radio that he ran his original speech by his family. His initial premise was that racism is no longer such an issue compared to when he was growing up in Australia. However his daughter disagreed. She told him she no longer goes down to Bondi Beach on Australia Day.
This sunny young woman had been in the mood to celebrate our national holiday, so she went to the beach proudly wearing those Aussie flag stickers on her cheeks. However, she had been abused by a group of people, who told her to “go back to where she came from”. She wonders where that might be – given she is a born-and-bred Aussie.
The good doctor discussed this with his colleagues. One of his registrars, who happened to be of Indian descent, had told him that he had been spat on at the bus stop because of his colour.
Such bigotry is shocking. And it makes me feel like I need to apologise and say we’re not all like this.
All well and good to apologise but it’s impossible to deny that racism is a real problem in our country. I’ve heard usually sensible people say, “well other countries are more racist than we are!”. Does that make what we do right? No. Such an explanation doesn’t make any type of racism okay. And besides why can’t we be better than the rest of the world in how we treat one another?
Recently I was enjoying my comfortable middle-class existence in one of my local cafes. I got chatting with Mario, the gourmet food supplier. He had a delivery of sensational olive oils, pasta and cheeses. Here was a trivial, but tasty benefit of living in a multicultural society.
Now despite living in Australia for over 40 years, Mario still has the thick accent of his mother country. He tells me that life is good in Australia; he had his children here and now his grandchildren are getting ready to start university. But he’s getting out of the food industry because “the Indians are now taking over the kitchens”. Huh? That is simply not true.
|Page 1 of 2||next >>|