Crikey



How racist is Australia? Pretty damn racist

Dear Mark Sawyer,

As a comedian I very much appreciated your satirical piece “How Racist Are You?”, published in The Age last week. I think you captured the attitude and tone of Overly Defensive And Clueless White Man perfectly. It’s actually  inspired me to write my own piece called “Hey Ladies, Pipe Down About Sexism”.

Of course, I’m being silly. You didn’t write it as a parody piece. The truth is much more embarrassing. This is what you, and plenty of others, actually think: apparently racism is totes not a thing any more.

Being told by white people that racism is a figment of our imagination is nothing new. I know well enough that when looking for some quality racism, the best place to start is with the guy screaming “I’m not racist!” You did not disappoint.

Thank you for the awkward list of times you didn’t challenge people’s casual racist comments. As the kids say nowadays, cool story, bro. And maybe you’re right — there is nothing that justifies calling Australia uniquely racist. Not the specific genocide of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, cultures and languages, an unparalleled migration history that banned non-white immigration here until the early ’70s, or our one-of-a-kind anti-asylum regime. These are things that happened pretty much everywhere, right? But seriously, why let history and facts get in the way of a white guy’s Feelings About Stuff?

You’re correct, far-right parties like One Nation are a thing of the past. But only because their rampant xenophobia was quickly co-opted, re-branded and shared between Labor and Liberal, making Pauline Hanson totally redundant. In an era where our Attorney-General openly defends the art of bigotry, Hanson’s services are no longer required.

You ask how many people alive are truly racist. I don’t know the exact figures, Mark. But ask yourself if the life expectancy statistics that apply to Aboriginal people — well below the national average — would be tolerated if they applied to any other group in this country. Ask yourself if our system of militarised  border protection and detention — recognised as exceptional the world over — would be acceptable to the Australian public if it was designed to intercept, round up and indefinitely incarcerate white people.

These things cannot exist without a sizeable population of what you refer to as “true racists”. The fact that as a nation we accept and allow such things to happen is not an accident or the result of simple misunderstandings. They are the calculated outcomes of generations of programming. Maybe racism is less about white people making unfortunate comments and more about systemic inequalities that have become the permanent and invisible background noise of Australian culture. To quote you, it may pay to look at the bigger picture.

It’s 2014, champ. Racism isn’t about segregated lunch counters and people refusing to shake hands any more.  Racism is about this country’s obsession with defining boundaries of inclusion and exclusion, and the pervasive and violent ways in which those boundaries are maintained.  Racism is about two major parties collaborating for years to convince a white majority, through various codes, that they are perpetually at risk of losing out to lazy Aborigines, ghettoised migrants, dishonest asylum seekers and suspicious Muslims.  Racism is a government using free speech rhetoric to facilitate racial vilification.  Racism is, in a climate of perpetual fear and hostility, The Age choosing to publish some childish nonsense about how there’s no such thing as racism.

You’re convinced things have changed. I’m pretty confident they haven’t.

*Aamer Rahman is currently touring his solo show The Truth Hurts in the UK and does not miss Australia. 

Tags: , , , ,

Categories: Australia, Journalism, Online, Print

31 Responses

Comments page: 1 |
  1. spot on 100% exactly the opinions i tried to convey when i tweeted about his racist article

    by cairns50 on Jun 16, 2014 at 1:34 pm

  2. Thanks Aamer. The original article had me scratching my head and wondering if Mark Sawyer and I actually lived in the same country.

    by Andybob on Jun 16, 2014 at 1:43 pm

  3. After reading this I just had to look up the offending article. Yep - some people just thrive on feeling outraged.

    by mikeb on Jun 16, 2014 at 2:18 pm

  4. Humour and bite. Thanks Aamer -beautifully written piece.

    by Sexton Marie on Jun 16, 2014 at 2:22 pm

  5. Absolutely correct

    by Daly on Jun 16, 2014 at 2:23 pm

  6. simplistic analysis. easy targets. lack of depth. in fact australia has turned against white refugees from Africa. problem still remains though. racism like sexism is often in the eye of the ‘victim’. often it is indifference not xenophobia or misogyny that drives reactions.m.

    by Malcolm Harrison on Jun 16, 2014 at 2:25 pm

  7. Correct Aamer Rahmen. Thank you.

    by SearchAndRescue on Jun 16, 2014 at 2:50 pm

  8. Pity this is behind the paywall.

    by Matthew Drayton on Jun 16, 2014 at 3:42 pm

  9. spot on!

    by Jimmy on Jun 16, 2014 at 4:12 pm

  10. You’ll never be able to explain to these particular fish the actual water in which they live. But nice try.

    by sparky on Jun 16, 2014 at 4:25 pm

  11. This is a great piece! I’ve actually not read the original Mark Sawyer article, but I’m tempted to now. Although it sounds like it was written as the sort of clickbait that Fairfax is specialising in nowadays and I hate to “reward” tripe like that with a page view.

    by Saugoof on Jun 16, 2014 at 4:34 pm

  12. These are things that happened pretty much everywhere, right?”
    I know this is meant to be sarcastic, but it’s good to get the facts right:
    “Not the specific genocide of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, cultures and languages,”
    -didn’t happen in North and South America, the Caribbean etc didn’t it?
    “an unparalleled migration history that banned non-white immigration here until the early ’70s,”
    - tried migrating to Japan?
    “or our one-of-a-kind anti-asylum regime.”
    Heard of Frontex, the EU’s “border protection” in the Mediterranean? Or the many countries that don’t take asylum seekers at all?

    by Jill Baird on Jun 16, 2014 at 4:40 pm

  13. But a self-identifying, whingeing wog is not, cannot be racist?Coz…?

    by AR on Jun 16, 2014 at 4:57 pm

  14. Jill Baird, Japan doesn’t discriminate. They simply don’t do migration. The EU’s border protection system is different from Australia’s therefore ours is still “one-of-a-kind”. What are you actually trying to say?

    by Hugh (Charlie) McColl on Jun 16, 2014 at 5:36 pm

  15. And only white Australians are racist? Picking on the poor non-racist and thus morally superior coloured people? Pull the other one. Seems to me every big wave of migrants to come to Australia has demonised the existing population to justify their take-over. Can’t wait for the alien invasion!

    by 64magpies on Jun 16, 2014 at 5:46 pm

  16. This is the quote I’m challenging:
    “calling Australia uniquely racist”
    It’s the word “unique”, meaning there are none others like it.

    by Jill Baird on Jun 16, 2014 at 6:12 pm

  17. And Japan does ‘do” immigration, and on a discriminatory basis:
    “In the early 1990s, Japan relaxed its relatively tight immigration laws to allow special entry permits for foreigners of Japanese ancestry in South America to make up for a labor shortage.” (Wikipedia)

    by Jill Baird on Jun 16, 2014 at 6:27 pm

  18. I would appreciate a definition of racist.

    I want my children and grandchildren to grow up into a country where they are not accused of being racist because of the colour of their skin.

    I oppose separation of children in sectarian schools -including separation on the basis of ANY religion. I believe that a person’s belief is their business and should be no business of mine. Nor should I be forced to pay for its promotion out of the country’s taxes.

    I oppose honour killings and discrimination against women and homosexuals.
    I oppose people who go around throwing bombs at other people
    I oppose circumcision, particularly circumcision of little girls
    I oppose halal and kosher killing and vivisection
    I prefer to see the faces of my fellow Australians so that I can smile at them, but wont get too upset if they dont want to know me.
    I want Australians to believe in the common good not the good of tribes,clans and the preferences of members of the insecure and aspirational middle class.

    You can call me what you want,racist or not, - but not late for dinner. I grew up in a schoolyard when we talked about sticks and stones breaking your bones but words never hurt us.

    by ely margaret on Jun 16, 2014 at 6:51 pm

  19. I support you Jill, and I will expand and say that all countries have a restrictive immigration policy. Name a country which doesn’t & I will say it has porous & open borders.

    I feel that since 1901 Australia’s immigration policy has & still is based on an english test. Slogans & placards call an english test racist then so it be.

    What I am upset about is everyone learning english & then really calling white anglo celtic people racist because of it. Go figure.

    I repeat there has been no colour coding of people coming into Australia. Show me evidence of explicit colour coding.

    All countries have a restrictive immigration policy. It is the way of the world.

    by wbddrss on Jun 16, 2014 at 6:51 pm

  20. The ultimate tragedy is not the brutality of the bad but the silence of the good.”
    Martin Luther King

    Thank you for your lack of silence Aamer.

    by Miss 888 on Jun 16, 2014 at 7:31 pm

  21. Racism is not exclusively a white condition, in fact all races harbour some racism. To be aware of that reality is the first step to help us assess our attitudes to each other. I am not sure that the problem is even racism, but more a national selfishness. We are doing it so tough here right?
    Even with First Nation people, attitudes are often about the money “we give them”. Although, the “intervention” is certainly racist in effect, until the same rules are applied to all Australians - something we would not tolerate.
    I do agree that we would not accept treatment of the true illegal immigrants (visa over stayers) in the same shameful way we have treated asylum seekers who come mainly by boat.
    If you consider either our treatment of First Nation people or Asylum Seekers racist, then you may be categorising things unreasonably. It would be much better to use more adjectives - evil, shameful, selfish, short-sighted, unfair, un-christian, un-muslim, un-Buddhist. You get the idea. You cannot however, call these things racist and believe that will assist in the cure as it will just get people’s heckles up.
    But my point is that it doe not matter if we think Australia is racist - it only matters that we convince the majority that these thins are wrong and must change. We need to learn and teach compassion, only then will we be able to look to the future as a truly multicultural and fair society.
    We are clearly not a fair and compassionate society at this point, as the article attests, and we must all speak out against these injustices, not just here but in our every day lives to our friends, our family and to people we meet. Change will happen from the bottom up, and not enforced from politicians down - they just reflect our society, not drive it.

    by Darren on Jun 16, 2014 at 9:48 pm

  22. Aamer, you left out the stolen generation, stolen wages, racist ‘intervention’ welfare policies, Andrew Bolt, Alan Jones, Cronulla, and Howard’s lies about ‘children overboard’.

    by Abdullahi Williams on Jun 16, 2014 at 10:54 pm

  23. lazy Aborigines, ghettoised migrants, dishonest asylum seekers and suspicious Muslims. Racism is a government using free speech rhetoric to facilitate racial vilification.”

    Thats exactly what our problem is Aamer….

    I never saw an aborigine I didn’t think was clean living and hard working - even in places like Bourke where the rotten merchants shutter their capitalist businesses at night to escape sharing their wealth with the less fortunate…

    Never saw or met a Muslim I didn’t like…the most progressive, female friendly and tolerant religion ever invented by man….

    Never met an asylun seeker whom I didn’t believe had his identity papers eaten by a hungry dugong and was able to buy his ticket to Oz with money found at a Baghdad bus stop…

    And I never had any use for this free speech BS….look where its got us Aamer….not able to use our righteous offence to blast those racists into the virgin rich world with the old roadside bombast….bring on the Caliphate mate….I need a spell on the wagon.

    by Ken Lambert on Jun 16, 2014 at 11:09 pm

  24. Onya Aamer. That Sawyer piece was dumb as.

    by Tom Rigby on Jun 17, 2014 at 8:07 am

  25. Excellent piece Aamer, very well said

    by abstarr on Jun 17, 2014 at 9:22 am

  26. Brilliant as usual.

    by Cher Tan on Jun 17, 2014 at 12:43 pm

  27. this comment is really about a particular point on the previous article which I think is important (and which others may have ready made).

    it seems that the article posits (wanky I know :-) that we or our remarks can get out of being defined as ‘racist’ if we simply redefine them as ‘stupid’ instead.

    that is pretty stupid apology of an argument.

    it is not an ‘instead’ - just stupid AND racist.

    (by definition, you could say. not all stupid people are racist, but all racists are stupid.)

    racist is still racist (of whatever flavour/degree).

    saying it may be ‘stupid’ or ill advised. but that absolutely doesn’t make the remark, which simply reflects the thought and mindset, not racist.

    I will allow on some occasions that people may make remarks that reflect an attitude on some issue that they have not realised is inherently racist in some way. but they will only get a better understanding/wake-up call if they are called on it.

    by Don on Jun 17, 2014 at 12:43 pm

  28. That was one of the best articles I’ve read in a while. Sick of the I’m not racist but….

    by Cherrie Frazil on Jun 17, 2014 at 4:56 pm

  29. Well said Aamer
    Stupid people make stupid comments and in some cases write articles like Mark sawyer just did.
    I’m not one to pass judgments, but in my opinion Sawyer is just an attention seeker who stops at nothing to get his name on paper. We should probably make concessions as he just wants to be noticed
    He obviously knows nothing about the daily struggle non Caucasian Australians have to go through in this non racist beautiful country called Australia.

    by khal taher on Jun 17, 2014 at 11:42 pm

  30. I missed the article in the Age. However, I don’t think I have ever thought that Australia was anything but racist. The average Australian, being lazy, is inclined to let someone else do the thinking. He/she mindlessly follows the last person who expressed an opinion.

    It is the Andrew Bolts of this world who continually keep this open sore rubbed up and weeping. Anyone who listens to right wing radio jocks and/or reads the Murdoch press is bound to be racist. Look at the owner.

    by Venise Alstergren on Jun 22, 2014 at 6:33 pm

  31. Venise

    Terribly racist all of us poor souls…Australia must be one of the most intolerant, narrow and fiendishly bad places to escape to…

    That must be why 53000 souls have bought a ticket to Oz in the Gillard-Rudd era to get away from all those better places on the planet. you know….Sri Lanka with all those fish curries and lovely beaches….Iraq with all those fragrant Arabian nights…..Afghanistan with all those sun bronzed beturbaned ones with the friendly AK-47’s….Syria with the magic of Damascus and don’t they treat their donkeys so well?

    Australia is a damn disgrace to the whole human race…

    by Ken Lambert on Jun 23, 2014 at 8:18 pm

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