|Racism is a treatable disease that can affect people at an early age and in pattern that varies greatly from person to person. While most people are immune to racism, in Australia racism is more prevalent among Anglo-Saxon Australians. Lack of moral education at an early age appears to be the one of the main causes of the disease.
On the surface everything seems normal about Australia. It is a friendly, warm and “relaxed” country. However, beneath the surface, Australia is imbued with racism and discrimination. With rare exceptions, Australia is a backward and racist society consumed by greed, “celebrity culture” and ugly nationalism. Racism is promoted and normalised by the racist mainstream media and opportunist politicians. The education system, the police and the justice system are systemically racist. Unlike in other countries, racism in Australia is a well-managed subtle kind of racism. For example, complaining against racism is considered to be an offence and can lead to dire consequences, particularly if the perpetrator of racism is white Anglo-Saxon Australian. Australians from non-Anglo-Saxon backgrounds are told: “Keep your heads down and live with it. Go back to your country if you don’t like it”. In every major institution, from politics to education to sport, all privileged positions are reserved for white Anglo-Saxon Australians. Indeed, one of the most important selection criteria is being white Anglo-Saxon Australian. Whether you are looking for a professional employment or trying to play professional sport, racism plays an important role in the selection process.
In sport, particularly sport in which Indigenous players excelled, racism is used as a tool of intimidation and abuse. The recent racist insults directed against Adam Goodes are a case in point. During an opening match on 25 May 2013 of the AFL’s Indigenous Round between Collingwood and the Sydney Swan at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) in which Goodes played a starring role in the Swan thrashing of Collingwood, Goodes was racially abused by a 13-year-old girl. The girl called Goodes, “F** Ape”. It is possible that the girl had little idea of the racism in her abuse. As Goodes rightly said, it is not the girl to blame for racism; it is the sick environment where she is growing and where the disease had metastasized.
Despite its highly discriminatory selection process – favouring white Anglo-Saxon Australian recruits –, the AFL most decorated players are Indigenous Australians. Adam Goodes is one of them, a dual Brownlow medallist and one of AFL’s most decorated Indigenous players. After “consoling” Goodes and apologising, Collingwood President, Eddie McGuire went on-air and suggested that Goodes and other Indigenous players should promote a King Kong stage musical.
It was an outrageous comment by someone of McGuire’s calibre and position, and proved that racism is part of Australian life. Despite the public outrage and a call for McGuire to resign, the Collingwood’s board – like all sport boards, a collection of old white males most of them have never played the sport in their lives – has offered “full support” to McGuire. “Eddie [McGuire] has been a magnificent president of this club and his ongoing leadership is essential,” Collingwood vice-president Jack Kennedy said in a statement issued by the Club. McGuire is not an “average” Australian. He is a wealthy top executive, with a wide range of executive positions from sport to media. McGuire said that he made a “slip of the tongue”. The cliché has become the property of white Australian elites whenever they revealed their true and ugly racist colour.
McGuire is a serial offender, corrupt, homophobic, dictatorial, and a study in contradiction. McGuire once called Western Sydney the “land of the falafel”, because of its ethnically and culturally diverse population and threatened to “set-up a tent embassy” outside the home ground of the new AFL club, Greater Western Sydney. In the 2010 Winter Olympic, McGuire described the outfit of a competitor “a bit of Brokeback”. Had McGuire been an Indigenous or Muslim Australian, he would have been unmercifully persecuted and humiliated by politicians and the media. McGuire, like his Anglo-Australians ilk is untouchable, no matter what he says. Australian politicians, pundits and academics like to rant about racism among poor and middleclass Australians, unable to admit that racism is a disease of affluent societies with higher rate among the wealthy. Elite racism, as it is called, is systemic and openly practises by the ruling class and the media, in particular, the TV channels, mainstream newspapers and talkback radios. Without racism the so-called “white privilege” will melt like snowflakes. Racism is a form of war. The poor and middleclass are cannon fodder. Overwhelming evidence shows that racism functions to maintain structural inequities that are to the disadvantage of Indigenous (and non-Anglo) Australians.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the health of Aboriginal Australians lags almost a hundred years behind that of White Australians. Australia is the only “developed” country on the United Nations “Shame List” of countries that have failed to eradicate Trachoma – a preventable disease that caused blindness – in Aboriginal children. Kidney disease, gastroenteritis and rheumatic fever are as common in Australian Aboriginal communities as they were in 19th century’s war-torn Europe.
The so-called Australia’s “mining boom” – mostly on Aboriginal Land (‘Native Titles’) – did nothing to ameliorate the appalling living conditions of Indigenous Australians. “Barely a fraction of mining, oil and gas revenue has benefited Aboriginal communities, whose poverty is an enduring shock. In Roeburne, in the minerals-rich Pilbara, 80 per cent of the children suffer from an ear infection called otitis media that causes partial deafness. Or they go blind from preventable trachoma. Or they contract Dickensian infections”, writes John Pilger.Furthermore, Indigenous Australians are the target of racist police and a corrupt justice system. A new report by the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) found that while only 2.5 per cent of Australian population are Indigenous, they make up 26 per cent of the adult prison population. And because of the over-representation of Indigenous Australians in prison, the death rate among Indigenous prisoners is rising. The highest rate of Indigenous incarceration is in the apartheid state of Western Australia (WA) and Northern Territory (NT). The Report reveals that Indigenous youth are the main victims. In WA, 3 per cent of the overall population is Indigenous, but make up 38 per cent of the adult prison population and 68 per cent of the juvenile detention population. In the NT, 30 per cent of the population is Indigenous, but make up 82 per cent of the adult prison population or 97 per cent of the juvenile detentions. It’s tragic that too many Indigenous Australians are incarcerated and it’s tragic that too many Indigenous Australians die too young. It’s tragic that Indigenous Australians who succeed in life continue to live in a society – not of their own making – infected by racism.
Finally, it is worth noting what McGuire said as he went into damage control. “Politicians set the tone for the type of country that we will get and the voters go along with it,” he said. McGuire is right. The decade-long rule of the bigoted John Howard divided Australians along ethnic lines. Howard’s racist policy will be reinstated if the neo-fascist Liberal Party wins government in September 2013. Some members of Tony Abbott’s gang have demanded “special protocols” for refugees released into the community. They want to identify refugees with tattooed numbers on their arms. It sounds familiar isn’t it? Time and again, politicians play on racism and bigotry to score political points and scapegoating refugees is the best rhetoric to spread racism. Indeed, Australia’s inhumane treatment of refugees promotes racism and encouraging racist white South Africans and Europeans to migrate to Australia believing that Australia is more racist than Europe. These “lifestyle” seeking migrants are joining the anti-Indigenous/anti-refugees racist bigots in drove. They want to turn Australia into a country like the ones they have left behind; where racism is more virulent and racially-motivated violence and discrimination against minorities are daily rituals.
Racism is a preventable disease and should be treated at an early age. Moral education will provide long-lasting immunity against racism. Australia is a nation of diverse people and cultures and has the resources and capabilities to build a cohesive and fair society that has the potential to become the envy of the world.
Ghali Hassan is an independent political analyst living in Australia.