A Double Standard for the Coloureds

As a coloured female in Australia, I am very familiar with the double standard.

One notion that has really impacted on me as an adult trying to engage in commercial activities to improve my quality of life (i.e earning an income) I have come to realise something about Australia. I do wonder if it is uniquely Australian?

My realisation: Non white migrants were not meant to sit on top of the dung pile with Anglo Saxons. Ah-ah, no no.

Why? Because the Restricted Immigration Act 1901 did not want coloured people making any economic gains in Australia that may increase their participation in power making decisions. This was true of Chinese people and the Kanakas in Northern Queensland. Let’s get it plain and straight: Non white people were/are brought into Australia because Anglo Saxon Australians are lazy. Too lazy to come up with economic policy to increase productivity other than to dig minerals out from the ground. So the easiest and quickest way out is to get all those rich non whites into the country to increase the tax base- the truth of this is that migrants are hungry for socioeconomic mobility. They will work hard to ensure they aren’t on the dole queues and that their kids are well educated and professional. They are hungry to provide their kids a life they didn’t have. There was never ever, for one moment in Anglo power thinking an inkling that Australia would be represented by an Aboriginal face , a mixed race face or a non Anglo face. Never. Which is why so many government policies, institutions and media companies made sure that mixed race / coloured people would never advance to take up any position of power and would never come to be an ‘Australian’.

Snapshot to the Brits and whites (read South Africans) from elsewhere- why do they come here? So they can take all the plum top executive jobs in banks, government, media companies etc and have a ‘lifestyle’ – live in affluent leafy suburbs with harbour views, drive expensive cars, kids in private schools and of course the mandatory size 10 blonde wife.  The more ‘charming’ she is, the higher the brownie points.  For a white person Australia is a ‘lifestyle choice’.  The red carpet is rolled out- the more you look like ‘us’ (read Anglo), the more you’ll have economic freedom to rise to the top of the dung pile. The ‘White Entitlement’ from white migrants in other countries to Australia never ceases to astound me, their arrogance and confidence only reaffirmed and supported once they reach Australia.

For most coloured people, Australia is represents a stable government, a sense of freedom (albeit covertly limited) and running away from persecution (religious, ethnic, linguistic etc).  Many coloured migrants have given up status and respect from their home countries to give it a go in Australia and many end up realising Australia is great but will never afford them the same status and respect if they are non white.

Sadly, this is definitely the case for Australian Aboriginals. How much of a slap in the face is that for people who have every right to be here and every right to sovereignty and power but denied this everyday?  There in lies the double standard here in Australia- you’re not white enough you don’t stand a chance and especially if you are an ethnic female or an Aboriginal, the original First People of this country. Why is this truth lost on so many people in Australia?

Like ‘Terra Nullius’ how unbelievably convenient.

Well you have every right to….

So currently there’s a lot of talk about how offended people are in Australia with ‘white privilege’ and tarring everyone with the same racist brush. The standard comment is ‘I didn’t do what my forebears did so why are you saying I should have guilt?’ ‘ I am not a racist.’

You are completely right. The British people came here, conquered and took over the land from aboriginals who still exist on it today. They built the country following the paradigm of a Western economic, capitalist, patriarchal agenda. And yes, they deserve the spoils of the country and dare I say an entitled, privileged status.  So if you don’t want to share outside your kith and kin, if you don’t want multiculturalism, if you don’t like seeing different people experiencing the same privileges as you,  then please return the White Australia Policy, please bring in economic protectionism so you don’t have to be impacted by a global economy and foreigners, make your cities smaller and more live-able, the air cleaner , the waterways less congested, the price of real estate less. Throw us ‘the others’ out. Tell all the wogs, the chinks, the Muslims, the ‘others’ to go back to their countries of origin. Make it fortress Australia again.

Now how do you think the people and country will go? How prosperous will Australian society and its economy be?  Who do you think then will be the most affected by such actions and policies?  Think Australia.

Challenging the Status Quo

It stands to reason that I challenge the status quo here in Australia.

Firstly, I am ethnic and young and I really shouldn’t be living in a mostly white upper middle class suburb. Secondly I drive an expensive European family car (how many times have I had disparaging looks from older Anglo folk!). Thirdly, I work in allied health and I don’t act nor look the part.

However, one particular event in my life stands out of when I really pushed the boundaries. I was twenty something and I was going to become a corporate woman. I had just met my then boyfriend who in years to come would be my husband. He was a young, white successful upstart in the management consulting industry and he put me in touch with the owner of a large recruitment agency. Not everyone had the personal details of this multi-millionaire owner of the only large recruitment firm in Sydney in the 1990s, so when Mr Wealthy received my email, he immediately thought I was referred to him by one of his important networking mates.

He organized for an interview with one of his senior recruiters for a position in their recruitment team. Boy were they disappointed. They knew I was a female but they didn’t expect me to look so young and so ethnic. Needless to say the interview lasted all of 20 minutes. But wait there’s more. I get a phone call a week later asking for me to attend an interview out at their Parramatta office for a potential role in their outsourcing department. Mr Wealthy White Man was going to make sure that I paid for wasting his time.  I was interviewed for one and a half hours by some old codger who talked mostly of his time doing voluntary work in out flung places in the world. On several occasions I got up to go and was told to sit back down if I wanted the job. In the end I did end up just leaving (no I’m not slow -after 1/2 hour talking with this person I realised it was pay back).  My point is that I didn’t look the part, I challenged the status quo and I am an ethnic female who is suppose to have no access to those jobs and I shouldn’t have used a boys network to get an interview. That is how we keep people like me in my place-‘ get to the back of the bus, shut up and sit down. ‘

On the other hand, stupid ambitious white men can be bolstered purely by their gender and race. I take Tony Abbott and George W Bush as examples. Due to family connection and/or the boys club these average intelligent men made it to the top job of their respective countries not on merit alone.  Tony Abbott even scored a Rhodes Scholarship and I wonder about all those bright females who topped the HSC in the past years having a shot at it too. Sexism plays a huge role in Australia so I get a double whammy being racially ‘other’ and being a female.

Taking Julia Baird’s quote I now have a Mantra “Carry yourself with the confidence of a mediocre white man.’ I have to say it’s working.

The Media Making ‘Australians’

I have a number of observations on the continual portrayal of who and what is an Australian in this country and continual media bias. Let me use Nick Kyrgios as an example. Not withstanding bad behaviour should never be condonned, Corinne Grant, a white Australian woman wrote an article about this on Hoopla:

“Nick Kyrgios is un-Australian Apparently Nick Kyrgios is too rude. He swears, throws the odd tantrum, and his clothing is way too loud. Many Australians are tut-tutting about this young man and his potty mouth. How very un-Australian! Acting like a self-entitled dickhead is the preserve of middle-class white men, not young upstarts with Greek-Malaysian heritage and less than lily-white skin. Rage Level: Deep indignation. Whatever happened to tennis stars with names you could pronounce and acceptable skin tones? What about that nice John McEnroe? Or that Lleyton Hewitt? Sure he was a bit arrogant, but that was different. He was white. That lovely Andy Murray dropped the f-bomb quite a few times sitting side of court after losing a game the other night, but he’s Scottish. It’s so cute when a little white-faced ranga goes off tap. It’s rather different when a brown boy with a mohawk thinks he has some sort of right to belong. We decide the tennis champions in this country, and the manner in which they win.”

In fact just in today’s SMH there was a report on the expletive laden barrage of Andy Murray’s girlfriend. But I guess when you’re white and beautiful, it’s more permissible.

The media certainly know who to prop up as our nations faces and who we would rather sideline. The treatment of Michelle Leslie and Shapelle Corby is a another case in point. You could argue that Ms Leslie donning female muslim attire to curry favour with her prosecutors didn’t exactly warm her to Australians but the treatment of her in the media and the response by the Australian public was vastly different from Shappelle Corby. Yes the facts of the two cases did differ however I do know that Michelle’s offense was much less than Shappelle’s and yet on talk back radio the vitriol towards Michelle Leslie was quite astounding and disproportionate to her ‘crime’. Ms Corby on the other hand was deemed ‘one of us’ and therefore worthy of the attention and sympathy from your average Australian. I’m only gathering this from the tone of talk back radio and newspaper comments sections and the fact that Channel 9 thought her ‘Australian’ enough to retell her story in a telemovie.

A few years ago in a baby photo competition by a well known Australian brand, a multiracial couple sent in their photo of a Eurasian baby; part Chinese and part Anglo Australian. The awful amount of name calling and questioning whether that child was truly Australian enough to win an Australian baby competition was really disgusting. That baby was born in Australia and her identity and worth as an Australian should never be questioned nor based on her phenotype. The fact that the general public saw fit to abuse this couple highlights a couple of issues : a) the general lack of manners and respect in Australia towards difference b) the publishing of such commentary by the media and allowing it to take place c) the lack of media advocacy and support for the family. It kind of slaps in the face of a ‘fair go’, a supposed unique Australian value.

There are many examples of how a white face is chosen to be splashed across the front cover of popular women’s magazines (e.g The Australian Women’s Weekly), how a white story is more relevant and important than a person of colour and how indigenous news is treated by mainstream media (read articles by Celeste Liddle).

Even in popular television programs, you’d be hard pressed to find a non-white face. A very good play on the issue of media and it’s whitewashing in Australia is one called ‘Lighten Up’ performed at the Griffith Theatre in Sydney. It challenges the over use of white Australia in film. Even in media outlets like Foxtel, its own productions still cling to a white Australia but they feel good about themselves inserting ‘foreign’ channels for the rest of us. Why can’t a non white Australian face be used in Australian drama? What’s so uncomfortable about that when you walk down the streets of Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane and Darwin and see many non white Australian people?

If we are to accept differing phenotypes as being Australian then we need to have responsible and fair portrayals from our media, and we need the heads of these mainstream media organizations to re-engineer who is an Australian. As challenging as this is for Anglo Australians to let go, putting your head in the sand long enough will only lead to suffocation.