It’s a question that isn’t easy for me to answer, being as I have a colour of skin that could easily pass for Australian. It’s only when I open my mouth and my thick Essex accent comes to the fore that anyone would discover that I’m actually English, or, as we are sometimes called here, a Pom.
A guy called John Oliver, the presenter of American TV programme “The Daily Show” thinks we are. He said so on his programme just the other day, although it is a satirical current affairs show, so maybe he’s just saying these things for a laugh, who knows?
Either way, he has described Australia as “comfortably racist“, or to quote him in full “Australia turns out to be a sensational place, albeit one of the most comfortably racist places I’ve ever been in. They’ve really settled into their intolerance like an old resentful slipper.”
I listened to the recording, so I heard how he delivered his comments and you can too over at the Sydney Morning Herald. It was delivered with some humour, but is it a serious point, is Australia really racist?
“Refugees from Afghanistan, Bhutan, Congo, Iran, Iraq, Myanmar, Pakistan, Somalia, Sri Lanka and Sudan have settled in Queensland,” he said and you can read more on that one in the Courier Mail.
So, what’s the truth?
Some time early in 2011, the University of Western Sydney completed a massive study which took 12 years to do and surveyed more than 12,000 people. You can read about their findings on the university’s Challenging Racism page of their website.
If you search for “is Australia racist” on the web, you will find various claims, such as “One in ten Australians is racist”. That one is based on the survey’s finding “Eighty-seven percent like cultural diversity, they see the benefit of it.” That means that 12% don’t, hence the one in 10 quote.
Elsewhere I saw it mentioned that almost half Australians are racist, this one is based on the finding that Anti-Muslim sentiment was running at 48.6 per cent.
Yet on Australia day of this year, this country welcomed a record new number of citizens. Queensland held the biggest ceremony, with almost 5000 new citizens from 120 different countries. 25% of Australia’s population are immigrants; Australia is A Nation of Immigrants.
If Australia is a racist country, it has a strange way of showing it. Personally, I have never witnessed any racial incidents here, but, of course, I know some ugly things have and will continue to happen. Surely there isn’t a country in the world that doesn’t have “some” racism? Every country has its idiots.
The debate over whether Australia is racist is well documented online, not really much more that I can add.
The view from an Indian migrant
A few weeks ago I got a couple of emails, both on the same day and both from people who have moved here from India. One was struggling to get a job and felt racism was at play. The other was from somebody just thanking me for running this website and saying how much he was enjoying his life here.
I replied to both of them, but to the second I mentioned the experiences of the first and asked “Do you think there is racism in Australia?”
Here is his answer, which he has given me full permission to print…
There is DEFINITELY NO Racism in Australia, but a lot of newcomers from Asia feel there is racism until they find a good paying job, a group of friends and most important they feel they are part of the Australian Community. But unfortunately all this takes TIME, and it is during this gap (we could term it the ‘gestation’ period) the human mind develops some negative traits, and the first one that comes is of being treated unfairly.
Let me tell you frankly, I have lived all my 56 years in India and 3 years in Australia. I have felt that the last 3 years spent in Australia are the ones where I have been treated fairly according to my capabilities and skills. I cannot say the say of my time in India, being treated unfairly is part of every Indian’s life every day in all spheres of life. The rich, the affluent, the politicians, the government officials, every one gets a preferential treatment, a humble hard working citizen is not treated on the same level.
So, I would suggest to those who move to live here to have patience and study how they could integrate into this society at the earliest, so that those around them will feel comfortable and lend a willing hand towards their problems. This convince them of the absence of Racism.
To tell you my story in short, I teach Iyengar Yoga (I am a Certified Teacher) and most of my students (rather 95%) are white Aussies. They have given me opportunity and encouraged me to be part of this beautiful multicultural society, where everyone gets treated equally in all spheres, everywhere.
Thanks for your time mate.
C H E E R S
Sound advice, I reckon, for anybody looking to move here and concerned about possible racism. I don’t fully agree with Chandru, as I said earlier, I don’t think there’s a country in the world that has NO racism, but it was interesting to hear his views about being treated fairly, something he didn’t feel happened to him in India but does happen here in Australia.
Well, here in Australia, “a fair go” is one of our catchphrases.
What’s your view? Do you think Australia is racist? Please feel free to comment below, but do make sure you abide by my comment policy. Over to you…