Who’s Racist?

There’s been some focus of late on racism – it’s very topical right now.

I was listening to Jane Elliott on Radio National recently discussing her blue eyes/brown eyes exercise which is used to expose prejudice and bigotry as being based on purely arbitrary factors. Which of course it is. Whilst I disagreed fundamentally with a lot of what she said – or perhaps it was her approach I disagreed with – one thing I did agree with in her presentation was that racism shouldn’t exist because we are actually all part of the one race – the human race – and therefore what we’re really talking about is prejudice based on skin colour, eye shape or some other arbitrary factor.

It also occurred to me that the concept of racism relies on one major thing: minority. Those who believe they suffer racism also believe they are part of a minority. If I say the word ‘racism’ people immediately think of skin colour – and yet Caucasians actually make up the least number of people on our planet but are accused of perpetuating the most racism. So to say you are the victim of racism because you are part of a minority is strictly inaccurate.

Racism is ignorance – no question. Its foundation is in a lack of understanding of others and making assumptions about them based on skin colour or eye shape alone and buoyed by the belief that you are superior to those who are different from you. But we are also led to believe that racism is something perpetrated by Caucasians against non-Caucasians. Really?

When travelling in Hong Kong I heard a Chinese businessman say that the Chinese were the most racist people on the planet. And he said it with pride.

Then take a look at history: African countries; North and South Korea; North and South Vietnam – for that matter, the northern and southern states of the USA. I’m sure there are more examples but these are people of the same ‘race’ who historically perpetrate atrocities on each other. So it’s not strictly white versus black.

I was doing a report for a client recently that involved an African child who was almost strangled in a schoolyard accident. His mother – despite a police investigation being incomplete – believes the ‘accident’ was actually an attack because her son is African. But the children who alerted the principal, the principal and teachers who performed CPR, the ambulance officers who attended, and the hospital staff who ultimately saved the child’s life, were all white.

People like Jane Elliott I believe only serve to perpetuate racism by telling so-called minorities that they are being subjected to racism. She said in her lecture that you don’t realise you’re saying a racist remark because you’ve never been subjected to it – however isn’t she just setting up so-called minorities to expect everything said to them has a racist connotation? (I’m saying ‘so-called’ because as mentioned previously, Caucasians actually make up the least percentage of the human race and are therefore, strictly speaking, the actual minority.) Whoopi Goldberg recently said that she feels like when someone says something to her, she can’t take it at face value but has to question “Hmm, now was that a racist remark”? Why? Because she has been conditioned to believe she will be the victim of racism because she is African American. Historically speaking she has every right to feel this way – but surely we need to allow room for change and the continued evolution of man?

If we set people up to expect racism then of course they’re going to see it everywhere.

I may not have been subjected to racism but I’ve certainly been subjected to sexism, religious vilification – and ignorance. So yes, I know what it feels like.

High on the agenda of Australia’s anti-racism campaign is aboriginal education – we are told that it is the white Australian’s fault that education standards are so low in the aboriginal population – and therefore we are racist and should do something about it. But I know first-hand that many aboriginal people don’t value the white education system and prefer not to put their children through it. A young aboriginal girl recently graduated Year 12 from my daughter’s school. She had to fight her own family tooth and nail just to finish school. They were constantly telling her she was wasting her time and should be like her cousins, staying with them having lots of babies and being paid by the government for it. Yet that same family goes towards the statistics that make up the ‘disadvantaged’ aboriginal population in Australia despite that they have chosen not to participate.

Now before you say this is an isolated example – how do you know? We are told racism is rife but we never hear the flip side stories. Others will say they shouldn’t have to participate in the white Australian education system – that’s a whole other issue but then you can’t use them as statistics for supporting your argument that they are disadvantaged when they don’t want to participate.

Big news right now is the move to ban Muslim women wearing Burkhas in western countries and civil libertarians call the move racist. Why? Burkha wearing is not part of the Arab nation as a whole – it is one component that is a choice made by the women wearing them. It’s not part of their religion – Islam does not insist women cover up completely. It is their choice. Of course husbands can insist their wives wear them but then that’s a cultural argument – not a religious or racist one.

I recently read a comment somewhere where the commenter told the author they were being racist for calling people from the Middle East ‘Arabs’. This is how ridiculous the situation has become – how can calling someone from the Arab Nations an Arab be racist?? It’s like saying calling me Australian is racist or a person from China Chinese is racist. ‘Arab’ is not a dirty word – it describes a nation and the people from that nation are Arabs. The commenter suggested they should be called ‘muslims’ – but not all Arabs are Muslim. So it has become so muddied that the word racist is just bandied about willy nilly.

Even as I write this, and read it back, I wonder “Wow, are these comments racist?” So that serves to show my own conditioning and that I feel like I have to watch every word. And yet I am not racist. I love people – all different sorts of people – and love learning about different cultures and religions. I have friends from many different countries and ethnic backgrounds. I don’t see the colour of their skin or their religion but see them as fellow members of the human race and I learn loads from them all. And yet, some people reading this might view the comments as racist because of their own conditioning – if you view yourself as a minority group member who is discriminated against and vilified, then you will see it – it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. You may also view them as racist if, like Harry Connick Jnr, you get upset on behalf of the potential victim of the racism. And of course we should be upset – appalled – by racism – but there’s no need to see it everywhere just because you think someone might be offended by it – even though you may not be. See how complicated it gets!

Ignorance is rife – and yes racism is born from ignorance. But it’s time we stop labelling everything racism and stop teaching foreign nationals that they should expect racism and vilification simply because of the colour of their skin or shape of their eyes. Not every white person is a racist – and for that matter not every non-Caucasian is free from ignorance.

The important thing is to remember Jane Elliott’s comment:

We are all part of the one race – the human race.

Remember that, and it’s clear any ‘racist’ feelings or thoughts you have say more about your own ignorance than your victim’s ‘inferiority’.

© Earth Goddess Wisdom – www.earthgoddesswisdom.com

9 Responses to “Who’s Racist?”

  1. 1

    I like this place,came to this site via google

  2. 2

    I’m pretty certain that there are very few”white” people that don’t have a history in some foreign land or other, so white is most definitely a minority. Your culture/nationality is not necessarily where you were born, It is the one you choose to identify with.
    Where racism is concerned I believe most “white” Australians aren’t racist, they just think they are funny. Offending someone just isn’t part of the plan.

  3. 3

    I think the fact that Australia is one of the most multi-cultural countries in the western world – and has been so for over 30 years with relatively few race-related riots/incidents like are seen in other countries that shows a culture more accepting of others. Racism surely does exist but the point I’m making here is ignorance is the problem and our focus should shift to the fact we are all the ONE race and stop the culture that has emerged in the last 10-20 years of an EXPECTATION of racism.

  4. 4
    Melissa Lucas

    Dear writer

    I completely disagree with you. Look up “white privilege” and also have a look at the death of Cameron Doomadgee in the Palm Island police lockup six years ago. Ask yourself if a drunk white man’s death would have been treated with the same contempt and disregard. Racism is about POWER combined with culture, skin colour and other factors. Then look at Australia’s parliaments, chambers of commerce, judicial benches, and senior government positions. See many black, brown or yellow faces? I thought not. Racism is about structures favouring certain pwerful groups over other, less powerful groups. Peace and good information to you.

  5. 5

    Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts Melissa. Racism is ignorance – and it stems from a lack of understanding of someone perceived to be ‘different’ – even Jane Elliott says this.

    I did not say racism did NOT exist and there are isolated incidents like the one you mention of course! However I do have to disagree with your inference that because of the colour of their skin people are excluded from positions of power here. Our last Australian of the Year was aboriginal. We have a number of politicians whose historical ethnicity is based in other countries. In fact a previous leader of the Young Liberal party was Chinese. Having said that, members of parliament and other traditional ‘leadership’ or positions of power should be there because they deserve to be don’t you think … not to simply have an even split of ‘black, brown or yellow faces’? OPPORTUNITIES abound in this country but they still need to be taken advantage of. ‘White privilege’ comes from the fact that Caucasians tend to be the ones who have taken advantage of the opportunities afforded. And in this country at least these opportunities are afforded to everyone. The apparent disparity between ‘white’ and ‘other’ faces in positions of power comes more from a disparity in numbers – when I spoke of ‘white’ in fact being minority I was speaking globally, not nationally.

    It’s also important not to fall into the trap of believing racism is solely whites versus everyone else despite what we see in the media – that’s White Supremacy which is even worse! Other examples of racism are China v Taiwan, Germany v Turkey, England v India, Lebanese Australians v Vietnamese Australians … I could go on.

    Racism is abhorrent but the only way to stamp it out is to stamp out ignorance and remember that one truth – the point of my post – we are ONE race. That is all. And that goes for everyone regardless of skin colour.

  6. 6

    I recently witnessed racism very much based in ignorance and intolerance, two Asian (my perception at the time) people in the waiting room of A&E. Across the room from each other, yelling and being obviously abusive even though I couldn’t understand the language. A translator told me, that these two people were both from the same piece of our earth, both Korean. Problem was the one was North and one was South.

    That is one fight that the Human Race is struggling to resolve.

    I agree with you completely Earth Goddess Wisdom. As for politics I am pretty certain that the Lord Mayor of Sydney was/is of Chinese decent and the current Environment Minister also has an asian background.

  7. 7

    Thanks Raven. Clover Moore is the current Lord Mayor of Sydney and she’s Caucasian but Sir Nicholas Shehadie who was Lord Mayor 1973-1975 and Commissioner from 1987-1988 was from Lebanese extraction and Penny Wong is the Minister for Climate Change, Energy & Water – and may well have taken over from Peter Garrett.

    Unfortunately, the media continues to highlight the “lack” of migrant faces in positions of power so it is easy to make the mistake Melissa made – the general population truly is led to believe there is great disparity and therefore racism by the omission. I guess the truth is less compelling.

  8. 8

    I was a few hundred km out it was the past Mayor of Melbourne Joe So. Good job I don’t teach history

  9. 9

    LOL! The point you make is the same though. There ARE non-Caucasians in positions of power if you take the time to look 🙂

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