19 years ago I became a Canadian citizen. I was sworn in by a Sikh Canadian wearing a turban. It was one of the proudest moments in my life. Canada isn’t perfect, but I have never once heard a Sikh called a “rag head” – which I was shocked to hear when I was last in Australia, only 2 years ago.
Racism in Australia is nasty. It’s everywhere. Implicitly and explicitly. If you are white in Australia you experience white privilege every day, whether you know it or not.
Racism in Australia is deep, widespread and affects everyone who is not white anglosaxon. Yes seriously, “Real Australians” are better than anyone who:-
- Speaks with any kind of non-English accent
- Uses a non-English language ‘in public’ – even a native Australian language for god sake.
- Is not from a “white” country (Australia, South Africa, UK, Canada, USA)
- is from non-English speaking European countries.
- Has non-white skin or features.
- Doesn’t follow a Christian religion
- Has special needs like autism, downs syndrome or cerebral palsy
- Came to Australia escaping fascism, war or persecution etc.
- if they were forced to escape on a boat thats even worse.
- Even if they’ve lived in Australia for 60,000 years – not good enough, and actually – thats the worst.
As an immigrant in Canada I had it easy. I came from a “white” country – Australia. I saw what happened to other immigrants to Canada with more experience and qualifications than me but not lucky enough to be white. I experienced white privilege and I know how lucky I am. But no matter how bad it is in Canada – Australia is worse.
Australian racism is tiered. It is worse for some than for others. If you are from Europe but have white skin, you are almost ok, especially if you learn to drop your accent. Darker skinned Europeans are worse but still not too bad. Asians are probably next- and black skinned people are probably almost ok if they come from the USA, but less ok if they are from Africa or PNG or New Zealand.
But everyone in Australia knows – the Aboriginal people of Australia are at the bottom. Those who came first, who lived in Australia for 60,000 years before the whites arrived, who have their own “Australian” languages and culture, and who had their lives and land taken so that “real Australians” could have a place to live, they are looked down on by everyone else.
All Australians know; white, European, Asian, African, Middle Eastern – they all know they have someone else to put down. Australian indigenous people are at the bottom of the pile. They are abused, tortured and killed by police with impunity. They are treated with disdain, ignored, insulted, manipulated and used. They are ridiculed in public but more in private by people who should know better.
It’s Australia’s shame. I’m ashamed of it. It’s really way past time to start doing something about all tiers of racism in Australia, but especially when it comes to first Australians.
Why not start with the most meaningful thing that needs to be fixed? Make the change first that will matter the most.
Indigenous Australian lives matter!