Major Essay. Example

  • Category:
    History
  • Document type:
    Essay
  • Level:
    Masters
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Despite two centuries of immigration, usually at relatively high levels, persistent racism reveals that Australia has still not accepted its own nature as a largely immigrant nation. Discuss.

Introduction

According to the Oxford Dictionaries1 racism can be defined as :-

The belief that all members of each race possess characteristics, abilities, or qualities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races: theories of racism.

prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior.

Racism has no proper scientific basis. It is a purely social construct with its roots in the idea that some races and people are superior, simply because they belong to a particular race, or to a certain ethnic or other group. Many different things can set off ideas and misconceptions of racism Such ideas are often founded in a fear of people who are different in some way, whether in customs, values, ways of viewing things and religion. It also includes obvious differences such as skin colour and physical appearance. There can be negative attitudes towards those with foreign accents, or who use non-standard accents.

The root word from which we get racism is of course race. The American Anthropological Association 2 says that race is a powerful idea and a long lasting one which was invented by societies for their own benefits. It has however also fostered ideas of superiority, inequality and discrimination for hundreds of years, as well as influencing how we relate to other human beings.

Why does racism exist? Humans are social beings who live out their lives alongside other people. Humanity organizes itself into various kinds of social groups, from families to nomadic bands, and over time into villages, towns, cities, and countries. Psychologists have long known that belonging to a group exerts a strong influence towards conformity upon the behaviour of its members. It has been observed that some people react strongly and will alter their attitudes and behaviours so as to better fit in with the ‘in-group’ they’ either belong to, or would like to belong to. .Racism can be seen to be a part of such conformity behaviour.

Racism can affect a person’s self-worth as well as their educational, social and work opportunities. Fernando saw it as not just creating unnecessary stress, but as serving to bring on depression3 and serving to bring on a sense of hopelessness. When it is institutionalised, as in government policy, it can also deprive a country of needed skills, and even of more ordinary, unskilled labour.

Racism is obviously destructive. It devalues people and so disempowers them. It affects not only individuals, but also communities, creating divisions. It is in opposition to the democratic idea of equality and the rights of everyone, whatever their racial background, to be treated fairly as set out in the Declaration of Human Rights 4.

Racism is an ideology that gives expression to myths about other racial and ethnic groups, that devalues and renders inferior those groups, that reflects and is perpetuated by deeply rooted historical, social, cultural and power inequalities in society, and this is true within Australia.

In 2010 Shah said :-

Racism and discrimination have been used as powerful weapons encouraging

fear or hatred of others in times of conflict and war, and even during economic downturns .5

On a local scale it also affects individual lives, young and old, in negative ways, when

people have to face up to racism face to face, or in the form of institutional racism which affects

their daily lives and prevents them making the most of their lives.

Racism in Australia

Racism can of course occur anywhere in the world, wherever people come into contact with those who are in some way different to them or are perceived to be so. Despite the fact that Australia , from the arrival of the first white settlers , has been a country where people of different races have lived side by side, racism in Australia is very prevalent. The web site ‘All Together Now’ 6has modern day Australians making comments such as ‘It started in kindergarten.’ ‘It is everywhere’ and ‘You just have to live with it’ and ‘It does more damage than bullets.’ The report states that during the previous year one in eight Australian residents experienced racial discrimination. This is a slightly lower figure than in the previous year, but still an unfortunately high level. This is after more than two hundred years of immigration from many nations following the first British settlement and colonisation in 1788. Aboriginal societies were broken up, and a new nation came into being, based to a huge extent upon immigration. Yet, despite its reliance upon emigration to populate the country and make use of its many resources, in 1901, as a result of an influx of non-Europeans, the country developed anti-Asian campaigns which led to the Immigration Restriction Act, often referred to as ‘White Australia policy’ 7of 1901 and it was 1973, three generations later, before the act was finally dismantled completely .

So, despite the racial mixture which now makes up modern Australia, racism is present, almost expected. It is especially prevalent against aboriginal people who were perceived by early British settlers as uncivilised , an idea that is taking a long time to die away entirely. It is also often aimed at young people, with 7 in 10 teenagers having had some experience of racism.

So prevalent is racism said to be in Australian schools that the Federal Government launched a new programme to deal with it in July 20138. The programme’s theme is in direct opposition to the well-known school yard chant ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.’ This juvenile racism can take a variety of forms from mocking someone’s accent or clothing; telling jokes which show people of a particular race in a bad way; graffiti or refusing to sit next to or share with someone from another culture. So this is direct – speaking to the person concerned or in their hearing, as well as indirect, as in the graffiti. It may of course involve school staff who chose to ignore what is going on, or who may favour a particular group and discriminate against another. Morrisey9 claims that because it is often hidden, indirect racism, such as refusing to engage, is very difficult to deal with and to overcome. Yet such behaviour at the very least makes someone feel uncomfortable and an outsider. She also mentions ‘benign ignorance’ which is what happens when someone is perhaps trying to give a compliment, but is actually insulting someone’s race e.g. ‘Considering you are ……you’ve done surprising well in the exam.’ She also describes how jokes, banter and mockery are often seen as ‘just a bit of fun’ in the same way remarks by boys about girls or vice versa are often defended in the same way. Those involved often simply do not realise that their words or actions cause harm.

Because it is such a common problem among young people there is a necessity to get the message across to Australia’s young people, but Taha10 reports that not only have 89% of those aged 13 to 17 experienced racism, 50% of this took place within schools , with another 25% happening on the Internet. Videos, plus information sheets are to be shown in schools. Research beforehand found that, when presented with a group of people from various backgrounds, the children overwhelmingly assumed that if panel members were not white and Christian they were therefore not Australian. A government spokesperson in Taha’s video report says that Australia already had ample legislation in place and it is education that is needed so that people know their rights.But is is obvious that this education is not working. The spokesperson was presumably referring to such initiatives as the launch in 2012 of a national anti-racism strategy11 .Will such things, however well designed and well meant, stop someone being turned down from a job with an excuse? Will it stop a child calling a classmate a rude name? Probably not, but at least it will provide tools to work with.

Despite this evidence the presence of racism is often denied. Nelson 12 links this denial to government policies which have retreated from ideas of multiculturism towards an idea of harmony. She claims that this denial of the existence of racism narrows the possibilities for change, especially in the cases of racism which is systemic and institutional. Nelson goes on to say that if the public admit that these forms of racism do exist, then this will make change more likely. Very recently a new government was elected in Australia . As part of its manifesto the right wing party wants greater control on migration. Is this a form of hidden racism, or are there sound economic and social reasons for such a policy?

Racist ideas and actions are not just those which belong to individuals, but can be part of the policies and practices of governments and institutions, the police force, the army and so on. This type of racism reflects the cultural ideas, assumptions and conveniences of the dominant group, so that the particular practices of that group are promoted as the norm to which those which other cultural practices, ideas and values should be required to conform. Thus type of racism systematically gives advantages to dominant groups and, on the other hand marginalises those who belong to other groups and puts them at a disadvantage. Henry, Houston and Mooney 13claimed that Australian health services are “institutionally racist” and that ‘ such racism stems from Australia being, or at least having become, an uncaring society.’ They were referring to the poor health service provision and funding available to some Aboriginal people, and how their life’s spans are considerably shorter than other Australians as a result. This is an unevenness of power, which could also be seen when a white led Australian government thought they knew best about the future of aboriginal children and removed many from their homes14 . Racist actions on the part of members of the dominant culture have the effect of marginalising those from minority groups, cutting them off from services perhaps or education. Think of South Africa during the apartheid years when some children had an elite education and others didn’t even have schools or proper clinics.

This is extended to attitudes towards modern day migrants, as when the Australian Government has a recent (undated) web page headed ‘If you come here by boat without a visa you won’t be settled in Australia.’15 The page is in English, but is available in a number of Asian languages , so is obviously aimed at certain people groups. This is institutional racism by another name.

This doesn’t just extend to migrants, but exists against Australia’s own people. Morrisey 16

mentions racism in sport, where members of minority groups have, in many sports,

only relatively recently begun to make an impact. Calma 17stated that:-

It is clear that the fear of racism in Australian sport is a major barrier to participation for

many individuals and groups in society, what isn’t so evident is what we are doing to address

the issue.

The report ‘What’s the score?’ 18 goes on to state that :-

While racist attitudes have remained strong in Australia over the last

10 years, there has been a considerable reduction in overt racist behaviour, due in part to

the development of strong social norms against openly expressing racist views.

This however it was felt, did not always extend to every area of sport, or Australian life in general.

For many years, Australia encouraged migration, even, for many years, encouraging ‘the ten pounds poms’,19 one of whom became prime minister in 2010. It continues to do so,20 but is quite choosy as to who can obtain visas, despite the rescinding of the White Australia policy more than a generation ago. That it is obviously a multicultural society is clear when one sees that a government document is available in 25 languages, some indigenous and others not. Yet racism is still very much a reality which the country, from government downwards, does not deal adequately with.

Racism is a form of bullying, and Kleinschmidt21 says it reflects the bully’s sense of inadequacy, so it seem that Australia is still insecure as a nation made up in the main of migrants.

Conclusion

Modern Australia is still a relatively young country, and this seems to bring with it a degree of insecurity as to who Australians are, despite the fact that the country has long been a place where people of many races and backgrounds interact. Racism is a form of bullying, and bullies are often insecure.

There is already adequate legislation, local, national and international, but it cannot work alone if there is no will to improve matters. It can be shown however that education and government initiatives can help to overcome such difficulties, whether among small children in a kindergarten, among older individuals, or institutionally. To cut racism right down may well require more than legislation and rules. It requires a real change of attitude, and a willingness to interact, to understand and to share, but eventually it is to be hoped that being more accepting of any differences will become the norm.

References

A Guide to Australia’s Stolen Generations www.creativespirits.info/aboriginalculture/p…, accessed 7th September

All together now, 2013, http://alltogethernow.org.au/racism/, accessed 7th September

Australian Government, Fact Sheet 8 – Abolition of the ‘White Australia’ Policy, undated, http://www.immi.gov.au/media/fact-sheets/08abolition.htm accessed 7th September

Australian Government, undated, If you come here by boat without a visa you won’t be settled in Australia, http://www.immi.gov.au/visas/humanitarian/novisa/ accessed 17th September 2013

Australian Government, Migrating to Australia, 2013, australia.gov.au/topics/immigration/migrating-to-australia Accessed 6th September 2013

Australian Government, 2012, National Anti-Racism Strategy Launch, http://www.humanrights.gov.au/news/alerts/national-anti-racism-strategy-launch-2012, accessed 7th September 2013

Calma, T., 2004, What’s the score? A survey of racism and cultural diversity in Australian sport. http://www.humanrights.gov.au/sites/default/files/content/racial_discrimination/whats_the_score/pdf/whats_the_score_report.pdf , accessed 17th September 2013

Creative Spirits, undated, A guide to Australia’s Stolen Generations, http://www.creativespirits.info/aboriginalculture/politics/a-guide-to-australias-stolen-generations accessed 17th September 2013

Fernando,.S, 1984, Racism as a cause of depression, International Journal of Social Psychiatry, Spring;30(1-2):41-9. www.worldcat.org/title/Racism%20as%20a%20cause%20of%20depression accessed 8th September 2013

Henry,B., Houston,S. and Mooney,G., 2004, Institutional racism in Australian healthcare: a plea for decency, The Medical Journal; of Australia, https://www.mja.com.au/journal/2004/180/10/institutional-racism-australian-healthcare-plea-decency accessed 17th September 2013

Kleinschmidt, K. , 2012, What are the causes of bullying? EHowMom, http://www.ehow.com/info_8187024_causes-bullying.html, accessed 17th September 2013

Morris, S. and Connelly .E., Julia Gillard: The ten pound Pom who became prime minister of Australia, The Guardian , 24th June 2010, www.theguardian.com/world/2010/jun/24/j… Accessed 6th September 2013

Morrisey, B, 2012, Confronting Indirect Racism, About Equal Opportunities, http://www.aboutequalopportunities.co.uk/confronting-indirect-racism.html Accessed 9th September 2013

National Anti-racism Strategy, 2012, http://itstopswithme.humanrights.gov.au/it-stops-with-me/strategy Accessed 6th September 2013

Nelson, J., 2013, Denial of racism and its implications for local action. Discourse Society, 24-89 http://www.academia.edu/3526619/Denial_of_racism_and_its_implications_for_local_action Accessed 6th September 2013

Oxford Dictionaries, Definition of Racism in English, 2013, http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/racism , accessed 17th September 2013

Shah, A., Racism ,2010, Global Issues, http://www.globalissues.org/article/165/racism, Accessed 6th September 2013

Taha, M., July 31st 2013, Anti-racism campaign launched in schools, ABC News, http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-07-31/anti-racism-campaign-launched-in-schools/4854954, Accessed 7th September 2013

The American Anthropological Society, 2013, Final Report of Commission on Race and Racism in Anthropology, http://www.aaanet.org/cmtes/commissions/Final-Report-of-Commission-on-Race-and-Racism-in-Anthropology.cfm, accessed 17th September 2013

United Nations, 1948, Declaration of Human Rights http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/ Accessed 6th September 2013

What you say matters, 2013, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WiQq_XAVPLg, accessed 7th September 2013

1 Oxford Dictionaries, Racism in English, 2013

2 The American Anthropological Association , Final Report of Commission on Race and Racism in Anthropology 2013

3 Fernando,.S, 1984, Racism as a cause of depression, International Journal of Social Psychiatry, Spring;30(1-2):41-9.

4 Declaration of Human Rights, United Nations, 1948

5 Shah, A., Racism ,2010, Global Issues,

6 All together now, 2013

7 Australian Government, Fact Sheet 8 – Abolition of the ‘White Australia’ Policy, undated,

8 What you say matters, 2013

9 Morrisey, B, 2012, Confronting Indirect Racism, About Equal Opportunities,

10 Taha, M., July 31st 2013, Anti-racism campaign launched in schools, ABC News,

11 National Anti-Racism Strategy Launch, 2012,

12 Nelson, J., 2013, Denial of racism and its implications for local action. Discourse Society, 24-89

13 Henry,B., Houston,S. and Mooney,G., 2004, Institutional racism in Australian healthcare: a plea for decency, The Medical Journal; of Australia

14 Creative Spirits, undated, A guide to Australia’s Stolen Generations,

15 Australian Government, undated, If you come here by boat without a visa you won’t be settled in Australia

16 Morrisey, B, 2012, Confronting Indirect Racism, About Equal Opportunities,

17 Calma, T., 2004, Introduction, What’s the score? A survey of racism and cultural diversity in Australian sport.

18 What’s the score? A survey of racism and cultural diversity in Australian sport.,2004, page 7

19 Morris, S. and Connelly .E., Julia Gillard: The ten pound Pom who became prime minister of Australia, The Guardian , 24th June 2010,

20 Australian Government, Migrating to Australia, 2013

21 Kleinschmidt, K. , 2012, What are the causes of bullying? EHowMom,