Is Australia a racist country? Of all the difficult questions the Australian people have had to dismiss without hesitation over the years, this is perhaps the funniest.
Not that racism is always funny, of course. We can laugh at the Ku Klux Klan or the Nazis or well-known talk-back radio hosts, but we should never forget that racism has real consequences, and real victims, for whom the words and actions of racists can have long-lasting and enormously distressing effects on their entire lives. So in this article I will be careful not to mention them.
The accusation that Australia is racist is not a new one. It goes right back to colonial days, when Aborigines accused white settlers of racism based on the fact that they were not allowed to mix with the white people or drink in the same pub and that sometimes the white settlers would kill them. The charge was, of course, a false one. Our early settlers were not racist in the slightest: they would have killed anyone who happened to be inhabiting Australia at the time, regardless of race. If Australia had been full of Chinese, or Danish, or Italian people, the settlers would still have shot them. Especially the Italians. This is often a problem for ordinary Australians — outsiders mistake our general misanthropy and random violent impulses as directed towards particular races, when in fact we are just inherently hate-filled.
And so it has continued throughout history. From Alfred Deakin’s woefully misunderstood spoof "The White Australia Policy", to Pauline Hanson’s preference for Christian Muslims over the bad kind, from Arthur Calwell’s jocular wordplay to rugby league statesman Paul Gallen’s earthy, Hemingway-esque descriptiveness, Australians have found themselves at every turn confronted by accusing fingers and politically correct shrieks from those who lack either the courage or the sheer, unadulterated Australianness to lash out blindly at whatever race happens to be in their eye-line at the time.
I’m not claiming there is no racism in Australia. I’m no fluffy-headed idealist, prancing through life believing my country can do no wrong and that evil is confined to storybooks and Indonesia. My eyes are open; I can see the racism all around us. Take the recent film Samson and Delilah, a movie that confronts us with some harsh home truths about the racist preconceptions permeating the relations between white and black Australians. It is indeed shocking that even in this day and age, a man like director Warwick Thornton can still profit by perpetuating the base stereotype that all Aboriginal people are sensitive, critically-acclaimed independent filmmakers. When can we move on from this narrow-minded worldview? When will we accept that the vast majority of Aborigines are just like you or me, with no particular interest in naturalistic cinema or lucrative art careers, or slow, depressing acoustic music? It’s just like the hackneyed old cliché that all Asians are hardworking computer geniuses, or that all Greeks and Italians are bad comedians. Get over it, people.
The point is: Yes, Australia occasionally suffers from small outbreaks of racism, usually imported from less reputable countries, but on the whole we are a marvellously tolerant country. Why, we’ll tolerate almost anyone, no matter what skin colour or unusual facial features or obfuscating scarves they happen to possess. These provocations and many more are borne by Australians with quiet dignity and admirable composure, so nobody can call us intolerant.
You see, racism is all relative. In comparison with other countries, Australia is so non-racist that many people refuse to come here because they find they are too accepted. "Stop treating us so equally!" they cry. "It’s creeping us out!"
Just look around the world. So much racism, so much worse-than-Australia-ness. I mean, ask yourself: would a racist country elect a black president? Probably — that’s what racists do, they overcompensate. There’s nothing a racist likes more than to elevate another race to a position of power to create the illusion of non-racism, and then laugh at them behind their back like high school students pretending to like the weird kid. Let’s be honest: the election of Barack Obama was nothing more than a cruel prank played by the American people, a la the movie "Carrie", and I assure you it won’t seem so funny when a blood-soaked Obama embarks on a telekinetic rampage throughout the Midwest.
On the other hand, a really non-racist country, a country confident in its cosmopolitan outlook and egalitarian convictions, will have the maturity to avoid electing racial minorities until they’re good and ready. Australia excels at this. We know we’re not racist, and that’s why we feel no need to show off by electing the first exotic fruit to fall off the palm tree. Someday, Australia knows, our blacks and Asians and people of Middle Eastern appearance and women and other alien races will have an adequate grasp of modern democracy, and then they can lead. Until then, we’re big enough to admit that our white men are the best. That’s real equality.
It’s not just America that’s racist of course. All other countries have their share of this curse. England, France, China, India, Kuwait — all racist. And what about Israel? Well, Israel is in many respects the perfect society. No, you won’t find me saying anything against Israel in public. But all countries that are not Israel? Racist as a southern beaches surfer wrapped in an Australian flag tattooing a Sol Trujillo cartoon onto the forehead of an unconscious Indian student. ie: pretty racist.
But of course, arguing over whether we’re a racist country just because we racially slur a few CEOs, or knife a few hard-working foreigners, or send a few desperate refugees back home to die, will not really achieve anything. We can go on debating the rights and wrongs of using words like wog or spick or eye-tie or dago or frog or kraut or chink or nip or jap or gook or darkie or abo or boong or nigger or coon or kaffir or towelhead or muzzy or Lebbo or sand-nigger or curry-muncher or fat Sri Lankan bastard — but where will it get us? Will we be any closer to harmony?
No. Actions speak louder than words. If we truly want to end this whole racism kerfuffle, we have to get to the root of the problem. And what is that? Well, if one examines instances of racism throughout history, one can quickly see that in every case, racism occurs only after two different races come into contact with each other. The solution, therefore, seems simple: we have to stop coming into contact with other races.
In the old days, after all, there was no racism. The races lived in peace and harmony with themselves, blissfully unaware of even the existence of other races, let alone of how inferior and/or immoral they were. It’s time to get back to those days. Time to separate out the many ingredients of the human casserole, and set them neatly on individual shelves.
It’s a foolproof approach. And it wouldn’t only work with racism. We could solve sexism the same way — keep men and women completely apart with no chance of ever coming into contact with each other, and sex discrimination would end in a jiffy. We could reproduce by mailing each other sperm in specially-designed envelopes. (I’m only suggesting mailing sperm to women, of course — I’m not weird.)
The point is, strict segregation is the way of the future. Give each race a patch of land, erect a tall iron fence around it, and let us all get on with our lives. The racists will be happy they don’t have to mix with other races, the minorities will be happy they don’t have to get punched, and the rest of us will be happy we don’t have to be constantly reminded of how guilty we should be feeling.
In fact, there’s no reason to stop even there. If we take this peaceful separation even further, we can actually end all human conflict on this planet. Anyone can see that the main cause of conflict and violence between people is the fact that people are allowed to mix with other people. I envisage a day when nobody has to come into contact with another human being, when we can all relax and live as God intended, cut off from the world in individual hermetically sealed pods, with nobody to bother, offend, insult or stab us. An ambitious dream of paradise, but not, I think, an unattainable one.
Imagine all the people … living life in peace.
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