The twelve-year-long study from the University of Western Sydney, the Challenging Racism Project, was published today. What I read struck me as somewhere between surprising and disturbing. As reported in Fairfax:

Anti-Muslim sentiment proved widespread in every state and territory, while Victoria recorded one of the lowest levels of anti-Muslim sentiment (42.8 per cent, third lowest after Tasmania and the ACT, at 41 per cent). … While most Australians polled (86.8 per cent) agreed ”a society made up of different cultures” was a good thing, the findings reveal mixed messages on multiculturalism — four out of 10 Australians have misgivings about racial and cultural minorities ”fitting in” to society.

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Dr Yin Paradies said: ”Violence is the tip of the iceberg, we’re looking at the rest of the iceberg. Racism isn’t just redneck bigots who are trying to create problems for particular groups, it’s … ‘I”m not comfortable with these people’, it’s a lower level, and it’s very prevalent.”

This morning, in between destinations and waiting for transport in the quiet inner-city leafiness of Kew, I looked up to see who was shouting. It came from a HiLux ute with a roo bar, driven by a Caucasian man with a crew cut and sunnies. As the ute coasted to the traffic lights, he was shouting out the window over his elbow: “You black cunt! You black cunt! Come on come on, whata ya scared of?”

Then I saw the blue sedan, gingerly trailing the ute by a car’s length, driven by a dark-skinned man who was visibly affrighted. The shouting continued as the cars pulled away from the lights. The sedan driver stepped on it.

This was probably an easy type of coincidence to spot today in various parts of the country. The foulmouthed ute driver was being a little more egregious than saying “I’m not comfortable with these people,” or voting for One Nation.

In a nicely straightforward article, Ross Gittins thinks “it’s best thought of as xenophobia — a fear of foreigners, people who are different, who aren’t one of us.” And perhaps that’s right. So, racism is skin deep, and xenophobia is being stranger averse — which is pretty much what our parents warned us about. Strangers and sweets. Strangers with beads and blankets . . .

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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