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Is Australia a racist country?

Is Australia a racist country?
by John Pratt

Commissioner Graeme Innes says the UN committee was shocked at the Federal Government's policy in the Northern Territory.

"The actions that needed to be taken in the Northern Territory could have been done on a non-discriminatory basis," he said.

"So what the committee is recommending to Australia is not only we completely remove the suspension - which we haven't yet done - but we entrench in the constitution a provision so that never again can race discrimination law be suspended in Australia."

Mr Innes says Australia is in denial about being a racist country.

Are Australians racist? Some are, as can be seen this week with reaction to the first aboriginal elected to the House of Representatives.

THE first Aborigine likely to be elected to the House of Representatives has received hate mail from people who said they would not have voted for him if they had known he was indigenous.

Mr Wyatt, 58, destined to be the first Aborigine to be elected to the House of Representatives, said his near-certain triumph in WA's ultra-marginal seat of Hasluck had been tarnished by a racist backlash.

The upset Liberal candidate said his office had received at least 50 emails and telephone calls from angry voters who accused him of only being interested in indigenous issues.

Fancy that; our first aborigine elected to the House of Representatives being interested in indigenous issues.

In the 2006 census over 400,000 Australians declared themselves to be aboriginal. Of course these people should have a voice in our parliament.

All countries have an element of racism. The only way to reduce the hatred that racism can produce is to make sure that all voices are heard and all minorities in our communities have representation in our parliaments.

We should be proud of our background and our multicultural society. We need proportional representation so more voices can be heard.

I am proud that at last an aboriginal voice can be heard in the House of Representatives and may many more follow on.


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Problems with Australia's constitution

The first problem is section 25. It acknowledges the states can disqualify people from voting due to their race. This reflects the fact that at Federation in 1901, and for decades afterwards, states denied the vote to Aborigines. Unfortunately, the constitution still recognises this as being acceptable. The section is repugnant and should be deleted.

The second problem is the races power in section 51(26). It says federal Parliament can make ''special laws'' for people of any race. The idea in 1901 was that laws were needed to discriminate against certain races, such as by limiting their choice of occupation or where they could live so as to limit their contact with whites. As stated by the nation's first prime minister, Edmund Barton, the power was necessary to regulate the affairs of the people of coloured or inferior races who are in the Commonwealth''.

Australia needs to have a good look at its constitution. We still have rules that arc back to the White Australia Policy.

We need to recognise that all Australians have equal rights.

Until we act we can still be called a racist country.

Balance, please

It's very easy and conventional to describe some of these laws discriminating against Aborigines as racist.  There was racism and massacre by the white community, indeed.

But one might question whether, for example, the rule in the unamended Commonwealth Constitution that Aborigines were not to be counted at a census and not to be regarded as among the number of the Australian population was racist.

It might have represented what seemed at the time a proper recognition of the reality that the original inhabitants were indeed not part of the settler nation but belonged to a distinct nation living within the same geographic boundaries.

Some decades after the Constitutional amendment around 1964 or so which gave full recognition to Aborigines there were several attempts by Aboriginal groups to establish some treaty between the Aboriginal inhabitants and the Commonwealth.  They all fell at the legal obstacle that the Commonwealth can't enter into something resembling an international treaty with its own citizens.

If something of the kind had been attempted in the early 20th century it could have succeeded on the basis that the Aborigines were indeed technically a distinct nation.

So that recognition, that Constitutional amendment taking away discrimination, which seemed to be a victory for Aborigines, may in reality have been a Machiavellian defeat.

The nature of racism

When we see something wriggling on a dark path, we instinctively jump back. It's natural selection, those who didn't have fast instinctive reactions died of snake bite.

For our ancestors, people of different tribes were dangerous. It's a healthy instinct. In the last few millennia, as trading became more common, strangers spelt opportunity, though caution and distrust was still advisable.

Every individual is instinctively racist. We can only overcome this through strong, repeated conditioning. 

Is Australia a racist state?

Australia is a hectored country, a nagged country. The Soviet Union under Stalin had a democratic constitution, and so does Australia, but Australians do not have the right to vote.

In a country of 20 million there will obviously be some racists, but the number per capita is microscopic relative to every nation of Asia and much of Europe because Australia is not a nation, but a land of settlers with ongoing rapid settlement. Alternatively, Australia is a failed nation.

Probably every boat person reaching these shores is a racist, or 99 percent of them are. I have a very nice Indian friend (air traveller with visa) who has volunteered a remarkable number of racial prejudices or dislikes, Chinese, Bangladeshis, you name it. All bad people.

The Hindu caste system is institutionalized racism. The castes are races, or are preserved racial distinction.

The subject of the thread starter seems to relate to government action, not to the conduct of the country.

More or less...

We are no more racist than the Israelis, for example. Except that we live on a huge desert Island surrounded by oceans and don't have the same worries about rivals as do land locked countries competing with neighbours for a share of scarce resources in a small and overworked region.

Like Israel, we are a colonising society. Our history has obscured the sheer force by which we occupied a foreign land and enslaved or destroyed its few unprepared people, as also happened in Canada and the USA against more effectual resistance. What happened was rationalised through a white armband folk history that prefers to talk in memes of heroic progress against the odds, by our immediate ancestors. Quite true, they lived massively hard lives compared to us and worked hard to create a future out of nothing. But, 'til recently this more sentimental view covered up what actually happened between us and the indigenes.

We are well aware of our good fortune and keep eyes firmly peeled toward the horizon, lest anyone show up to do to us what we did to the Aborigines.

We are not consciously racist, many of us, so much as habituated to and by attitudes we grew up with, which prevent us seeing what holds up so many aborigines, thru lack of understanding or identification of what produces so many troubled indigenous souls. They don't live on fringes or in slums because they are stoopid, but because they were driven to the fringes by occupation of their lands, deculturalised of those traits that kept them alive for 40,000 years in the bush and not given the right cultural conditions to move easily to personhood, as with whites.

If your grandparents and parents are illiterate and homeless and despised, take to drink and you grow up in a dysfunctional background, you come across as unpredictable to other members of society and remain shunned and isolated yourself, a prey to loneliness and the bottle.

As John Pratt notes, far from improving our attitude toward indigenes, things went into reverse during Howard's era, culminating in the vicious-and racist- ritual scapegoating that was the so called "Intervention".

Labor did not dismantle the policy tho, its welfare quarantining was appealing as a precedent for later moves on white welfare and labor is also susceptible to the blandishments of developers eager to get at aboriginal land.

Another incident that summed up the low and negative aspects of race relations in Australia, was the Palm Island fiasco and the arguable violent murder of Doomadgee Mulrunji. This was compounded with the appalling response to the death and subsequent response by the Queensland authorities to the demonstrations there, following his death.

Perhaps that many white Australians feel concerned over the treatment of indigenes and racism in general, expressed in concern at global poverty or the plight of refugees, demonstrates that overt racism is not acceptable, per se, by many here. in this lies a hope for the future, as to whatever positive arises concerning Australian attitudes to "others" in the twenty first century.

We are not so full of malice, as ignorant to/of different people, but suspicious. We fear boat people yet happily give up a seat on a bus for an Afghani mum with a kid, say.

Or cheer ethnic heroes as our own at sport. Most of us aren't consciously loaded with hate based on race; it's such a heterogeneous and homogenous society and racism goes against that cooperativist aspect of our culture. Racism in Australia has morphed into more a nimby thing, we don’t hate people just on race anymore, we are just scared of being dragged into or involved in, other people’s problems and maybe having to contribute something of ourselves in aid of the less fortunate, such as we may have been contributed to when vulnerable, even if only by our parents or other family, when younger. That's the other side of the coin; the"fair go" aspect of our culture that competes with our self-absorption.

Not so much racism in the overt KKK style as unconsciousness laziness, smugness and insularity, with an eye cocked for number one and the main chance for self most of the time. We just don’t "get it " with folk worse off than us, because to be honest, we just wouldn't know any more, what it's like to "do it tough".


 found the reaction to Wyatt absolutely repulsive.  Who do the bogans think they are excpeting in an aboriginal country?

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