December 19, 2005 | Graham

It’s not racist

I’ve been on a beach holiday, watching the Cronulla debate with bemused interest, but with my brain too disengaged to want to blog. Now I’m back from the traditional mystical Australian Christmas ritual, and I could have been on sabbatical for ten years, rather than just a week. Almost a decade on from the One Nation/Pauline Hanson “uprising” and it appears that hardly anyone’s learnt anything. Certainly the debate has barely advanced
Cronulla is of a piece with Hanson’s surprise election in 1996 as the member for a formerly safe Labor seat. The political movement which she subsequently formed went on to be briefly the second largest party in Queensland with almost 24% of the vote in the 1998 state election. Hansonism’s ascent wasn’t violent, and it attracted a different demographic to the Cronulla riot, but it came from the same root cause – a belief that some groups were being unjustly favoured by government policy.
For sure and certain, some of the people who voted for Hanson were racist, but the movement was not racist per se. It did have strong elements of xenophobia, but xenophobia is not racism.
Certainly there were some racists at Cronulla the Sunday before last, and the police arrested a few sad right-wing supremacist types last weekend (whose antics were so Keystone Cops you’d almost think they wanted to get caught). And while the slogans and some of the language were racist, they were an inept expression of what the rioters were really on about.
The essence of racism is unjust discrimination against a person because of perceived characteristics of the racial group to which they belong. So it is racist to refuse to employ someone simply because they are Lebanese, or Anglo. It is not racist to refuse to employ a Lebanese or Anglo because of their behaviour.
I would wager that within the estimated group of 5,000 Anglos there was a large percentage, certainly more than 50%, who have had friendly relations with individuals of Lebanese heritage. I’d also guess that the percentage of those who would be happy to work alongside someone of Lebanese heritage, or have them as a member of their family or social group, would be even higher. Indeed, The Sunday Mail quoted a nightclub owner saying that many of the bouncers in the area were of Lebanese extraction.
Racism is about excluding people from your group who are of a different racial group. The Cronulla riots were about Lebanese immigrants deliberately excluding themselves from the mainstream and going out of their way to antagonise it. While the Cronulla mob expressed itself by scape-goating individuals who looked Lebanese, they were essentially demanding that the Lebanese gangs behave themselves and try to fit in.
A perverse and muddled way to express inclusiveness, but nevertheless, that is what most of the rioters were doing. “We don’t mind you coming here, but please sign-up for the Australian project. We want to get on, but if you don’t want to get on, then watch-out,” is what they were saying. That is not racism.
I said earlier that “hardly anyone’s learnt anything”. One group that has is the federal ALP. Their reaction to Hanson in the 90s was partly responsible for her popularity. This time Labor has been much more restrained. In this morning’s papers Beazley avoided the issue of racism altogether, preferring to talk about “segregation” a word which has resonances which will be reassuring to both sides of the argument.

Posted by Graham at 10:09 am | Comments (4) |
Filed under: Australian Politics


  1. Cronulla,let me begin by saying,that it may not have started as racist,but since reading some comments by some,and watching it on TV,it now has become a racist debate or issue,the one thing that amazes me is,that those on the one side,talks, writes,pass comments,in the following terms,WE AUSTRALIANS,and then go on to say,these Foreigners,that do not like it here and cannot behave or do not integrate,should be sent back to where they originally came from,now this is an issue,we all are foreigners,every Tom Dick and Harry,that have come to Australia in the period of colonisation,that includes the ANGLO or in plain language,the Brit or Pom,the Irish,the Scot,and I sometimes think and what about the Chinese?.There is also the question of racial Slurs and racial terminology that is so often used at our sporting venues,such as at the FOOTY? as an example,and who are these people that pass those comments?,not blacks,so who are these people,and WHO ARE WE AUSTRALIANS?.And then we also have our own Andrew Bolt,and Alan Jones,who for years as long as I can remember,built their careers on the subject of RACE,these Two are somehow part of the built up of RACISM in Australia,when I questioned one Andrew Bolt,his answer to me was oh no I am a CONSERVATIVE?but the fact of the matter is read him back in time,and there is a different picture,all his ANTIS are against non whites,he hides behind,his style of journalism,that,gives the impression that he is,just telling the TRUTH,we all know that he HATES the left of journalism,and the left is,not wrong most times,but Andrew Bolt is an EXTREME RIGHTWINGER, and rightwingers,all over the world,have one thing in common they are racist in their attitude,this then is my opinion,of what now has become a RACIST issue,not APARTHEID not SEGREGATION,but the new Australian one,we still have to find a name for it,any suggestions.

    Comment by Thomas Wertheim — December 19, 2005 @ 4:42 pm

  2. I think the left cause more division than the gangs or yobbos. The gangs and yobbo probably has more in common with each other. They are both extreme but highlight a problem that needs to be investigated.
    There is racism against white big time but no support for those that are victims of it. Especially women.
    I am white but was never born here so for a 3rd generation Lebanese to accuse me of stealing the country from Aboriginals is idiot talk. I am not British nor French but many Arab say I am the reason for all the oppression in the world. I was not born here but an Arab third generation Australian (christian)said he could not marry me after 3 years of dating because I was Australian and he wasn’t??? It was about the end of my fertility life so I have no children because I wasted this precious time being used. Not uncommon.
    I am female so get the raw end of the deal all the time in multiculture society. If I dated them I was used, if a white man marries another race it is because they prefer sudmissive women.
    If I go for a promotion I am always behind white man first, ethnic male with Australian accent second, Ethic male with slight accent third then me.
    If I work for an ethnic boss I get treated like an idiot because I can’t think being a women. If they are nice they patronise you. Here let me show you how to do it when I have been doing this work 15 years longer than they have.
    Some white imports are even worse than the lot of them. So cultural problems do not always come in a different colour. I refuse point blank ever to work for white male South African again. Too many share the same trait to suggest it is a cultural difference.
    Now I am told I am not Australian because there is no such thing unless you are aboriginal.
    So in the interests of multicultural tolerance I have to put up with being pushed further down the promotional ladder, see fellow females suffer racist rapes and sexual harrassment, see our men prefer to marry submissive females of other races and get blamed for all of it because I am a white.
    I am over this country big time. I cannot even call myself an Aussie anymore. Being a bit of this that and the other I have no identity in this country of lables, just another female to abuse.

    Comment by Jane — December 31, 2005 @ 9:10 am

  3. Hmm, can anyone explain to me how this is any different to:
    The Bodgies and Widgies, the Mods and Rockers, Bikers of the seventies, soccer hooligans, and not to forget the ‘push’ of CJ Dennis’ “Sentimental Bloke”.
    It seems to me that what happened at Cronulla was as Australian as Football and Meat Pies – race was just the flimsy excuse for a good stoush.

    Comment by Mark Skinner — January 12, 2006 @ 11:46 pm

  4. Why is it the Aussies are considered racist and not them? A group of ethnics attacking one beach patroller is not racist?

    Comment by Aussie — January 20, 2006 @ 10:51 pm

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