Telling the Truth – Why Racism is Alive and Well in Australia

Recently, a writer friend Nikki McWatters (author of One Way or Another and other books) poured out her shock on social media about a blatantly racist attack on a Korean-born couple who run a much-loved local store in the New South Wales central coast town of Terrigal.

Paul and Isobella, after months of vandalism and racist slurs decided to sell the business. They also decided not to press charges against the teenagers who attacked them – something I’m not sure I could do if I were in their shoes.

Things got much worse sadly, with local media writing what Nikki described as “the worst piece of newsprint I have ever had the misfortune of reading”, in effect enabling the racist attack and praising the main attacker for apologising.

You can read Nikki’s full story here, and I recommend it.

It got me thinking, particularly as the attack against Paul and Isobella happened the first day of the Australia Day long weekend at the end of January.

For those of you who follow my blog from overseas, Australia Day is an incredibly divisive event – most people seem to love it or hate it. I confess, I increasingly have problems with it and the sentiments some of my fellow Australians spout each year.

Essentially, it commemorates the landing and raising of the Union Jack at Sydney Cove by Captain Arthur Phillip in 1788, on a land that (to colonial English eyes) appeared barren and unoccupied. They didn’t consider the local inhabitants, who had been living there for some 40,000 years, counted or mattered. The English even called it Terra Nullius. And the irony that Captain Phillip was leading a fleet of eleven ships, full of convicts is not lost on me or many others.

Some of my aboriginal friends are pretty ambivalent about it, while others find it incredibly difficult and call it Invasion Day . On the other hand, many of my immigrant friends see it as a celebration of their new country – and good on them. As a white Australian, the third generation of free immigrants (read boat people!), I’d like to see the date moved, perhaps to January 1st to celebrate federation.

The thing is, we all need to have a serious conversation about how we treat each other, irrespective of where we originally came from, the colour of our skin and what god we do or don’t believe in. I’ve noticed especially the last few years, really insidious racist views paraded on television, print and especially online media. And it makes me fearful.

I’ve been abused on social media for not celebrating what I see as a colonial takeover of a country. It’s my choice not to do so but I don’t want to stop anyone else from partying. There’s room for different views but it needs to be offered with respect, not absolutes – and never with violence.

Australia’s a big country – my hope is we can all be big enough to live in it peacefully together. To do that, I think we have to be like Paul and Isobella – gracious and forgiving. And like Nikki – brave enough to call out racism when we see it.

 

 

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Anonymous
    Feb 09, 2016 @ 19:48:33

    We still don’t know the race of the offender. Seems like you’re just assuming he’s white and then using that as an excuse to give us a lecture on “racism”.

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  2. Debra Manskey
    Feb 09, 2016 @ 22:18:06

    And I should also say here, I don’t thing the ethnicity of the offenders is the issue. I personally believe that no one has the right to attack anyone the way Paul and Isobella were.
    Call me old fashioned……

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