"Wealth will increasingly be defined by our ability to go offline whenever we want." - Fernando Gros
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Blog // Thoughts
November 14, 2006

Apparently There Is Racism In Australia!

Shock Horror! I thought the Prime Minister said Australia did not have a Racism problem?!? OK, cyncism aside for a moment. Recently, the South African cricket captain, Graeme Smith warned that English cricketer Monty Panesar would face “unbelievable abuse” from Australian cricket fans in the upcoming tour. Well, not surprisingly, the prediction as already come […]

Shock Horror! I thought the Prime Minister said Australia did not have a Racism problem?!?

OK, cyncism aside for a moment.

Recently, the South African cricket captain, Graeme Smith warned that English cricketer Monty Panesar would face “unbelievable abuse” from Australian cricket fans in the upcoming tour. Well, not surprisingly, the prediction as already come true. Smith’s prediction was based on the experience of South Africa’s cricketers last year and despite attempts to “deal” with the issue, it seems the problem of racism in Australian Cricket is not going away any time soon.

In a lot of ways, cricket-writer and novelist Malcolm Knox’s comments in 2003 sum up the problem (so permit me to indulge in an extended quote),

Racism in Australia is insidious, unadmitted. We have few proud racists. There is no open Klan or National Front here. Our white supremacist fringe – the 10 per cent of voters represented in the late-’90s by Pauline Hanson but who, in the 2001 election, swung back in step with Howard’s dance of Arab-phobia – do not admit to racism. Hanson’s platform of cutting non-white immigration and government assistance to Aborigines was coded as a call from “mainstream Australia” for “fairness” (no pun intended). When Howard talks of pre-emptive strikes against terrorists in Asia, and of de-democratising the rights of non-white asylum seekers, his favourite phrasing is “ordinary Australians think . . .” All ills can be cured if everybody just stops whingeing and swallows the (white, male, resolutely middle-class and anti-intellectual) panacea of “mateship”.

By raising this, one risks being labelled politically correct and a troublemaker. Three years ago, when India toured Australia, I interviewed Indian-Australians who were supporting India. I found two reasons.

One was that it is natural not to let go of one’s birthplace. Presumably those Australians who impose cultural-assimilation policies upon new arrivals are not the ones who slag Greg Norman for his American accent; presumably those who say Muslims should renounce their language and religion once they become Australians are not the ones who accuse Clive James and Germaine Greer of “selling out” their Australian-ness to Britain.

Yet a more pungent reason for those Indian flags at the Sydney Cricket Ground was that fathers resented the exclusion of their sons from local and school teams. Every family I interviewed had a story of a boy who had been shut out of the “in” group because of his race, or his teetotalism, or some other cultural difference.

Lest this be taken as paranoia, one need only look at the make-up of Australian cricket teams at senior levels. The most common name in the Sydney phone book is Lee – and they’re not relatives of Brett – yet all our teams can boast is the occasional Kasprowicz or Di Venuto. If you want a cultural snapshot of Australia in the 1950s, look no further than our cricket.

Rather than shame, our cricket community tends to feel pride in this ethnic wholeness. Yet the Lehmann case has shown that an excess of our greatest strengths – unity, certainty, simplicity – has become our greatest weakness.

Australian triumphalism masks the fact that we lag a generation behind England in resolving the race debate. While English sporting clubs struggle to harmonise different cultures, Australian clubs fix the problem by leaving non-whites out.

This is something I touched on a while back, in relation to the Cronulla Riots of last year. Following on from that story, it seems that not only are more riots likley, but they were actually fuelled by Racism (regardless of John Howard’s asinine claims to the contrary (for more on the story see this and this).

It really is time for Australia to face up to its problem, admit the breadth of the issue and deal with it. A failure to do so will only breed more resentment and more confrontations, which in time will undermine a society that has an aweful lot of good going for it.

[tags] Cricket, Australia, Racism, Cronulla [/tags]

Responses
Damian 16 years ago

Didn’t you know Tikirocker was an adviser to the PM ?

Jeremy Ganga 16 years ago

Thanks for this. It confirms my decision not to accept a parish based job in Adelaide last year – although my wife’s relatives try desperately to convince me to do so. I did not feel I wanted to spend energy on a process which I had gone through over the past 17 years of living in the UK. Fortunately, we are way beyond abusing sportsman on the basis of their ethnic background. It happened as a matter of course in the 70’s and has slowly diminshed ever since – to a point where it no longer occurs. Though it is still happening in some places on the continent. Great blog read, thanks Fernando.

Rodd Jefferson 16 years ago

Fernando,

While I won’t say that Australia doesn’t have a challenge with racism, my gut reaction is that I hardly think the above post mounts a sufficient argument to show it exists.

That said, there’s no question Australia has an implicit racism – why implicit? Just ask an Australian if they think they’re racist and they will say no, but then watch the same person choose not to sit near a non-white family in the park and you’ll see how obvious it is. The first thing that needs to be fixed is being prepared to admit there’s a problem.

Fernando Gros 16 years ago

Yes Damian, the old Tikirocker approach. Yell there is no racism, till everyone shuts up, then make snide comments about people of Asian descent. Sadly, it is all too prevalent.

No repeat after me,

There is no racism in Australia

:-0

Fernando Gros 16 years ago

Jeremy thanks for your comment. The UK is not without some problems on this front, but in all my time in London, I never once encountered a problem whilst speaking Spanish out in public. In Australia, it is frequently an issue.

That said, my limited experience of Adelaide is actually far less confrontational than Sydney on this point. Kind of surprising really, since Sydney is *supposed* to be more cosmopolitan.

Fernando Gros 16 years ago

Rodd – I’m really trying to mount a full argument as to whether there is racism in Australia. To me that is just self-evident. To me, if someone can yell “f*ck off back to where you came from” to a father and child in a crowded McDonalds, without anyone raising an eyebrow or interferring, if someone in a Deacons meeting can say that despite making up 13% of the local community a particular ethnic group is “just not the kind of people we are trying to reach,” then there is obviously a problem. I could easily blog everyday from now till Christmas with examples of the racism I have personally seen in the past decade, without even going back to the good old “pre-multiculturalism” days.

I don’t know, maybe I *should* layout a better argument, but my honest view is that if people don’t at least have an inkling there is something wrong, then a blog from some bloke who left years ago is not going to get very far.

That said, your use of implicit racism is exactly the thing I have described as latent racism (which ties in with tacit racism). In my experience not that many people in Australian churches are explicit racists, but an aweful number are tacit and latent racists.

neha 16 years ago

i am someone who loves INDIA and next to my country i love AUSTRALIA. probably since the age of 5 i wanted to visit AUSTRALIA. in the 2003-2004 border-gavaskar trophy very few had faith in INDIAN team approx 37% of people and i was among them i would get up and listen ,understand the entire commentory and missed my colege festival for which i had no regret.
the one thing that brutally tore me apart were the images of AUSTRALIANS throwing bottles on the INDIAN FLAG at the adelaide oval where INDIA won.i always have loved AUSTRALIA because of the beauty she has ,just like my MOTHER INDIA..but i dont know how beutiful are the hearts of the AUSTRALIAN CRICKET supporters.

Fernando Gros 16 years ago

Neha – thanks for your comments.

John Smulo 16 years ago

I’ve tried really hard to resist commenting on this post; there’s a lot of personal baggage for me with this. I saw and experienced a lot of racism during my time in Australia. I’m not saying it doesn’t exist elsewhere, but the greatest problem I saw in Australia was denial.

Like you Fernando, I could blog from now till Christmas (2007!) of examples I saw in churches, but certainly in the general public as well. I doubt there’s much of a statistical difference between the amount of racism by Australian Christians and Australians in general. Though I may be speaking too broadly as I only lived in or near Sydney.

There’s a significant historical background to this with the 1901 Immigration Restriction Act and much more. But it’s difficult to explore this with much substance in this type of forum.

Fernando Gros 16 years ago

John thanks for your comment and in particular for highlighting the issue of denial.

I’m not really interested in trying to prosecute the idea that Australia is much more racist than other countries I’ve visited. It is the strident denial of the problem by some, in particular politicians and church leaders that is to me pernicious and corrosive.

neha 16 years ago

as soon i heard this shocking news i remembered you with a hopefull heart that you will tell me the answer of my question .
my cousin says that when she wears salwar kameez (an INDIAN dress) people stare at you and think that you are a muslim?.you stand out in the croud? people turn back and see you again and again?
is that true?
please its my kind request that you make it clear that any lady who wears a salwar kameez is not necessarily a muslim she can be of any other caste. salwar kameez is a casual wear just like a jeans and a shirt in your country.
some of my relatives say that people discriminate saying you are an INDIAN…
but some of my relatives say that nothing like this is seen by them?
why has racism to be born in this world?
our globe is so beautiful…..
every country is distinguished by their different floura and fauna isnt racism an obstacle for people who want to work in different countries or migrate or tour other countries?

Fernando Gros 16 years ago

neha I honestly cannot comment. any thoughtful person would know that a salwar kameez is a region outfit and not a religious one. but all around the world, people who are unfamilar with different customs make assumptions and mistakes. it would not surpise me to hear your cousin has been singled out in this way, but I have not, personally, seen it happen.

joe 16 years ago

I tried to resist this bu i cannot hold back, mabye i have the advatage of hindsight
but it is people like YOU THAT ARE THE PROBELM.

You keep on saying Australia has a ‘RACISM’ problem, if you say it often enough then any indiscretion will be seen as racism, people like you make me sick.

Fernando Gros 16 years ago

“Joe”

Typically I just delete comments where someone is too cowardly to back up their words with a real name, email and if possible website. When someone actually has something to say, instead of just taking a cheap shot, then they usually want to put their name to it.

But, I’ve chosen to approave this comment, as I have on the rare occasion done with other similar comments, because it really speaks for itself. There is no counter argument here, not evidence in opposition to my claims. In fact, there is nothing but the shrill of voice of some anonymous bully who wants people to bury their head in the sand.

Indiscretions that are “not” racist – very intersting language there!

Australia either has a Racism issue, or it does not. If I am wrong and it does not, then it should be possible to mount evidence for that claim and to explain all the instances that look like racism as being something else. But if there is Racism, then it needs to be addressed and pretending it doesn’t exist will never fix the problem.

And neither will shouting down people who address to the issues in the hope they will be fixed.

Roberto 16 years ago

Racism, intolerance and hate are the disease of humanity.Those who practise it are spiritually and mind-sick.

Mind sickness is much worse and dangerous than the common diseases. You can not see it, you can not touch it and it doesn’t ache. Neither a x-ray or exam will alert you about it.

Happy 2007!

Fernando Gros 16 years ago

Roberto – I agree.

All the best for your new year as well.

Peter 16 years ago

Firstly, thanks Fernando for a great thread.

I’m a ‘Pom’ with a Phillipino wife living in Sydney. We are both professionals who lead a privilaged lifestyle which insulates us from the worst of the bigotry.

What really struck me on moving to Autralia wasn’t so much the racism (you get that everywhere to a degree) but that no-one seeme to have grasped what a mutli-cultural society actually is.

On hearing that I had emigrated, everyone expected me to be cheering for Austrlia during the Ashes. (Yes, I know)… My point is everyone expects immigrants to adopt ‘Austrlian (Anglo Saxon) values’ on entry to the country. This argument is debunked by simply by asking what values there forebears adopted from the Aborigines when they emigrated to Australia?

More concerning is the total lack of understanding that people have to integrate into a new society at there own pace. You cannot legislate or force anyone to abandon their values and loyalties. Just ask any St Kilda fan who has just moved to Sydney…

Fernando Gros 16 years ago

Peter, thanks for your comment. I agree completely, there is a widespread lack of understanding as to how intergration and adoption of values and social practices work. When my parents emigrated there, they avoided the obvious “ethnic” suburbs, eventually settling in a very Anglo-Cetlic beach community worked hard at the language and generally intergrated as much as they could. But at almost every point in everyday life, they encountered narrowness.

It’s a country with so much going for it, if only more people woud admit the problems and speak publically about them, it could be so much better.

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