I received a lot of feedback from my previous article (“Aren’t you sick of being called a WOG?“), whilst most people were supportive, and some were negative, what surprised me the most was that some people actually told me they believed “racism ended in Australia in the 1980’s”. For a moment I took a step back and I wondered if that could possibly be true. Have I simply imagined the racial vilification I have received for the last 20 years? Is that possible? Did I simply spend too much of my time on hallucinogens I didn’t know I had taken?
Unfortunately my self doubt on this subject did not last very long, as I had the pleasure of reading the comments below a recent Greek Reporter article applauding the progress of some Greek-Australians “Greeks Among Northern Territory’s Top 150“.
This wonderful, educated, and above all decent human being going by the highly sophisticated name of Wyatt, had the kindness to share with us his personal and well thought out comments on the matter. You can see the comment for yourself here.
Now, it doesn’t matter if this little boy needs to hide behind a keyboard and hurl anonymous abuse at us, nor does it particularly matter if he is just bidding his time reading Greek Reporter whilst he sits in his caravan drinking beer whilst waiting for the next dole cheque to arrive in the mail.
None of that matters.
What matters is the psychology behind what our dear friend Wyatt said and the psychology behind the response, lack of response, and the cultural interplay that they represent.
First of all it’s interesting to note that of all the articles he chose to comment on, it was one that was lauding our progress as a community. God forbid we receive praise (even modest as it was given that the Northern Territory probably only has a population of about 200 – just kidding!) as a community, as a culture that brings something of value to this country. Not acceptable apparently, we need to be put in our place and be reminded of who is in charge of this country.
Does this experience sound familiar? When I once told a co-worker I was planning on visiting the beautiful Greek islands where my parents are from, she told me loudly in front of a group of people “isn’t that a country where people get around on donkeys?”. I felt like saying to her “no, you pasty skinned ignorant cow, it is the country that invented democracy, laid the foundations for today’s sciences, maths, and architecture, whilst your ancestors were running around in caves beating each other over the head with sticks”. But like most Greek-Australians I felt humiliated and just shut my mouth and accepted it.
Secondly, the sad, somewhat limp response to Mr. Wyatt’s comment was one of accepting the idea that darker skin is inferior, and denying that we have it. Does it really matter? Are we really in such a defeated state in Australia that we need to deny or apologize for the color of our beautiful olive skin? Why have we accepted that pasty skin is better than olive skin?
And finally, the lack of any other responses to this Andrew Bolt reading-Pauline Hanson loving- “true blue” – Aussie Aussie Aussie oi oi oi-Liberal party voter. I imagine most of us who read his comments probably thought “just another idiot” and ignored him.
And that’ s where the problem comes in.
For too long we’ve stood by with our mouths shut, agreeing to the B.S. of a loud minority in Anglo-Saxon Australia about wog-this and wog-that, letting these people get away with claiming that they are the only “real Australians”, internalizing their racism, and none of us daring to tell them otherwise.
No one daring to tell them that we have all made this country what it is today. Regardless of the color of our skin, our eyes, or even our hair — our hopes, dreams, and values are not so different. No matter how long ago (or not) our forefathers came here, they and we, all have migrant routes*, we all came here looking to work hard and build a better life for ourselves and for our families. We are all in this together.
This is the second in a series of articles exploring racism in Australia. If you’d like to be notified of future articles, join the facebook group From All the Lands on Earth we Come.
* except of course for the Aborigines.