Hey, don’t gaslight me. White people are calling it out too…

In case you’re feeling like this is a rather negative rant on Australian society, let me put your mind at ease- it is. This well written article by a white American might just let you know how unbelievably OK it is in Australia to be discriminatory towards those who are ‘different’. This comes from another person, not me so I hope it goes to validate my feelings and experiences here in Australia.

http://www.smh.com.au/comment/bigotted-thinking-is-more-dangerous-than-the-hijab-20161215-gtbw1q.html. Here’s the article below:

She was the first neighbour we had in Australia. She left us place settings for two, two tea towels, and a kettle on our doorstep after she learned that our things wouldn’t arrive from America for another month and a half.

It was the holiday season. A tough time to make cross continental moves.

On New Year’s Day, she had us over for “a cup of tea”. I can’t remember if she was born here or an immigrant from Scotland, but she was certainly proud of her Scottish heritage. She explained that we were her first guests on New Year’s Day, a detail of significance in her culture. Something called First-Footing.

A custom of Hogmanay: the first guest over the threshold on New Year’s Day, it was hoped, would bring an assortment of humble, symbolic items of food and drink in order to procure good luck for the host in the coming year.

Since we had none of these items, our neighbour had them ready for us to give to her: salt, coal, whiskey, shortbread, and a fruit cake of some kind sat upon a plate on the entry table near her front door. She let us choose the items from the plate that we wished to give her, and then we handed them back to her as we stepped inside.

While we sat in the foyer of her terrace house and enjoyed her homemade shortbread cookies, she proceeded to tell us about “The Neighbourhood”. The neighbours on the other side were an “eyesore”, she said. Italians. “Always talking loudly in Italian on their phones, leaning out the windows. I have to ask them to be quiet five times a day or keep my windows shut. And they hang their laundry across that upstairs balcony. The council really should do something about it. I’ve reported it more than once,” she said.

 

The loud-talking Italian neighbours were one thing, but the Chinese who fed the pigeons in the small park behind her house seemed to be an even greater source of agony. According to our neighbour, the Chinese dirtied up the park. They left litter and food around for the pigeons to pick at, and eventually the seagulls would come and really make a mess of things. “Those birds, they just spread garbage and disease. It was discussed at the last council meeting. Something will be done about it.”

She gave us the lay of the land. The Woolworths on the corner was where the Aborigines gathered. “But they’re relatively harmless. Just drunk. Don’t give them money.” There was a butcher a street over who sold turkeys for the Americans at the holidays, and if I ever needed any jewellery or watches repaired, she knew a good repairman: “He’s Greek but trustworthy.”

My husband and I listened and smiled politely and tried to get out of there as quickly as possible. Our neighbour was kind in her intentions, but her blind unawareness of her basis of judgment of other human beings was disturbing, and in large quantities, a potentially dangerous thing.

Since then I’ve realised that our neighbour introduced us to more than the neighbourhood; she introduced us to normalised racism in Australia. And over the years, I’ve seen it worsen. As it has globally, the anti-Muslim sentiment has grown stronger here. Worrisome generalisations like, “There’s no such thing as a peaceful Muslim,” are becoming more common.

Most people reading this would dismiss that statement for what it is: an uninformed prejudice. That said, there are a lot of people who believe mainstream fearmongers and think that Muslims are dangerous aggressors determined to infiltrate a country and convert its inhabitants to Islam.

These people can’t differentiate between a general belief system and the extremists of that ideology.

Because it’s the extremists of any religion or movement that are the true threat to peace. And we create those extremists ourselves. They are the manifested response to our divisive rhetoric, our mob mentality, and the unopposed false statements and prejudices that are allowed to circulate within our cultures.

A UN special rapporteur on racism, Mutuma Ruteere, in his recent visit to Australia, fingered Australian politicians as a whole as being influential contributors to the xenophobic hate speech that fuels the rise of racism and anti-Muslim sentiment here. Ruteere warned that those who refuse to denounce such speech serve to normalise it within the culture.

Like Peter Dutton, who recently said that “of the last 33 people who have been charged with terrorist-related offences in this country, 22 are from second- and third-generation Lebanese Muslim backgrounds”.

Head of counter-terrorism policy at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, Jacinta Carroll replied: “Fortunately in Australia to date the numbers of supporters of Islamist extremism and terrorism are very low; so low, in fact, they’re categorised as cases and clusters rather than being statistically useful,” she said.

But Dutton doesn’t explain that. Truths like that would contradict his xenophobic agenda, but it’s truths like that that should be shared loudly.

It’s the holiday season again. I’m digging out family decorations and going through customs and traditions that are foreign here but age-old in my family. Australia-wide there are people like me, like that first neighbour, enjoying the customs of our diverse backgrounds, and I find myself wondering about the word “assimilation”, how it stands in such stark contradiction to the multicultural society Australia touts itself as being. How can we be multicultural if we’re all the same?

Muslims are regularly criticised for “not assimilating” into Australian culture, and I wonder what that means. Why are Muslims expected to trade-in their customs and traditions for Australian ones yet my neighbour feels she can freely cultivate and share her Scottish traditions and racist judgments of others, with strangers? Surely, that kind of bigoted, hypocritical thinking is far more dangerous to society than a headscarf.

By Aubrey Perry.

In addition to the above sentiments by Aubrey Perry, let me give another example – John Oliver, a journalist who was once with the Daily Show US, now has his own program. Mr Oliver has not once but on many occasions mentioned the casual racism in Australia in his shows this link being one of them back in 2013: https://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/tv-and-radio/australia-is-most-comfortably-racist-says-daily-show-presenter-20130416-2hxg5.html

I’m not making up my experiences of being in the ‘out’ group here in Australia. Where as I’m not the recipient of violence I have been the recipient of hate, bullying, intimidation and exclusion. I can give one of many examples of incidences living in Sydney, one being of a neighbour calling the police because my husband told a tradesperson not to obstruct our driveway. The neighbour reported to police that we damaged the tradie’s ute when we did nothing of the sort. This would be one of many examples of the casual racism we receive on a daily basis. The outcome, thankfully (and because my husband is white) was the police telling the racist neighbour to leave us alone or a protective order would be issued. I’m thankful that a) Australia has the rule of law and due process but I suspect works better if you’re white b) the more polite racists in my area (Sydney’s Snore Shore) just pretend I’m faceless and nameless- ignored and excluded like I don’t exist- ten times better than being targeted and assaulted like our indigenous people. There is still a long way to go for a non white ‘out’ group person to be fully accepted as ‘Australian’ especially in areas of perceived white privilege.

How ‘Australians’ Look at You

Youth is a wonderful time that cushions and wraps you up in a world of naivety. Then you grow up and you become more aware of a few realities.  One of these was how other Australians actually view me.

I’ve lived in Australia for most of my life and I have Australian friends who don’t see me as being different to them. But occasionally I have reality checks that make me realise how the average stranger views me differently.

Case in point: Living in America

I lived in the Pacific North West of America for two years. In my first year I organized a BBQ with some Australians living in the region. I was in contact with a few Aussie families who spoke with me at length over the phone and then….they met me.

Utter and bitter disappointment. I’m not the world’s most confident and outward person and yes charm may not be my forte but I don’t have a disability in social skills either. In fact I’m much better at small talk than my husband who will only engage in the act if it means a pay rise. The reaction of the Australians at the BBQ was really quite something. Some of them just walked away and had their own party elsewhere. Some people hung around but mostly , I sensed an overwhelming tone of ‘You’re not Australian, why did you trick us’. I felt really awful because I had prepared footy games, cricket, a lamington eating competition, pies and sausage rolls and so much more and all I got was a rather rude reception from the people I had invited. It was Australians saying to me ‘you don’t look Australian’ and ‘you’re not one of us’.

Now some of you will say that these were just people with no manners and you’re right. Does that mean we’re a nation of bad-mannered, impolite , crass people? Surely not.

Another Case in Point: Meeting Aussie blokes in Canada

I met up with an Australian girlfriend of mine in Canada who introduced me to her aussie friends there. They were a group of young IT professionals, obviously looking for a date. Now I don’t know what my friend told them, but all I got from one of the disappointed faces was ‘ thought you were an Australian’.

Travelling Around Asia:

This happens to me when I travel in South East Asia as well, especially in Singapore. The excited look on an Australian face only to see I’m a ‘wog’ with an Aussie accent. The look of ‘she’s not one of us’ plastered all over their faces. And because I’m partly English and speak with a slight English accent, the Poms (English) don’t take too kindly to me either. I talk more about this in my post ‘To thyself be True’.

I might think I’m Australian, but most of my experiences in Australia and abroad make me believe I’m not.  Good thing I’ve skin as thick as cow hide and I believe myself to be a citizen of the world, where there will always be a place for me.

Advance Australia Fair and a Fair Go

Do you notice how many times the word ‘fair’ is mentioned in ‘Australian’ vernacular, illuminated in the national anthem?

Of course a double entendre is not intended here? The choosing of words and syntax speaks volumes about the writer, the audience and the intended message. My apologies for the Captain Obvious statement, however most people lack awareness on how language can send a sentiment or tone of what is the ‘norm’, acceptable and expected.

Australia was ‘settled’ by the British. Never invaded or occupied. This land was deemed empty;  ‘Terra Nullius’. How convenient!

Advance Australia Fair- fair as in just or fair as in albino like people?  ‘Fair’ in a ‘fair go’ is intended to be an action that is reasonable and just, a layman’s term for due process?

I’m intrigued by this notion of a fair go because I firmly believe the one thing the British were pretty good at was ‘due process and a legal system’. From this, an individual could expect order and rights, so to speak. I’m not a lawyer and I certainly am not intending for legal arguments here; however I wonder from a cultural perspective who the real recipients of a ‘fair go’ are in Australia? Indigenous Australians, a non-white migrant? Does a fair go really exist when you hear (researched fact) that it takes over 100 applications for someone of Indian heritage or a muslim name to land a job interview than a person of Anglo Saxon background?

I’m really conflicted with this one because a fair go raises many contradictions for me here in Australia. From my personal experience I have been both the recipient of a fair go and someone who hasn’t received a fair go. From my experience and observations,  I can see a fair go is given if it doesn’t upset the apple cart. As a non-white person, if you’re not going to threaten anyone or take a resource/opportunity from anyone , you get a fair go. However as soon as you enter the upper echelons of privilege your access to having a fair go seems to diminish and more so if you are a young ethnic female of colour.

I have a friend who is a speech therapist of Asian background. She has often come across rude parents who don’t readily credit her for her skills because they question if her English is good enough, despite English being her native tongue. She may not have such an issue in migrant rich areas of Sydney, however in ‘whiter’ suburbs of the upper middle classes, many parents may take issue with a person of colour instructing their child about their own native tongue.  How dare! She has been the recipient of disrespect from parents and other allied health professionals who deem her phenotype incompatible with being a speech therapist. Is this a fair go?