The myth of racial discrimination (1)

Since the concept of ‘race’ is meaningless (common usage being no intellectual defence), then the term ‘racial’ is equally meaningless. What is race? A construct of European colonialism; the ‘white race’ was contrasted against all other races, which were allegedly genetically inferior.

So much for the intellectual competence of those scholars in earlier centuries who sought to prove this. It was no more than the new boy on the patch flexing his muscle. (Mine is bigger than yours!) It may also be that the ‘white’ supremacist had not yet met the peoples of East Asia and those living along the terrain between the Tropic of Cancer and the 40th parallel around the globe; these people are clearly more white than the coppery-white European (except the Mediterraneans).

Funnily enough, when an Asian Caucasian like me marries a European Caucasian, the progeny tend to be whitish in colour; except that the resulting very lightly-tinted ones display an attractive skin colour (like the suntan assiduously sought by white Anglo-Australians).

Since arriving in Australia at the age of 19, I have experienced statements of petty prejudice and acts of discrimination (some very unjust and thereby hurtful). The expressions of prejudice reflected, I realised, my intrusion into ‘white space.’ That this space had been white for only about 250 years, against the reality that it had been ‘black space’ for at least 45,000 years, would not have penetrated the thick skulls of those white supremacists. So, skin colour was the trigger.

Like my fellow-Asian students, I experienced some petty discrimination in service initially, based on my being a coloured foreigner. Disdain was also directed to any white girls in our company. Indeed, in the 1990s, a young Aboriginal youth in my district was beaten up because he was seen walking with a white girl. That was during the ‘Hanson era’ when a new politician complained that there were too many Asians in the country. I too was shouted at in public then. Again, it was skin colour that was the trigger.

Why not refer to this as colour prejudice? It was simply white (repeat, white) supremacy being manifest. There were no ‘races’ implicated.

What of the prejudice displayed initially against the white, Christian, European immigrants who were imported by the government? They were foreign; that is, not British! Racial discrimination? Hogwash! There must be a term for people ‘not like us’! Outsiders? Foreigners? Nothing racially inferior here, is there?

Then, in a competitive work environment, I experienced (between age 55 to 60) overt (and painful) discrimination based on my religion; I did not belong to ‘the faith.’ This was purely tribal discrimination (not one of us). Nothing to do with race!

Ignorant people displaying prejudice through looks and words can be thick on the ground. But they can be, need to be, ignored. Why not? Unjust and hurtful discrimination denying rights or entitlements reflects much more than idiotic prejudice.

Is substantive protection available from legislation in Australia?

Racism and tribalism (3)

Is there such a people as a white race? Where does the Hispanic of Central and South America fit in? How pompously patronising were some English writers in the not-so-distant past who referred to the descendants of some former nabobs of India as having a ‘touch of tar’; or some poor fellow-countryman’s family as having had a ‘nigger in the woodpile.’ The nabobs were English buccaneers who, having taken control of parts of India, had then adopted the lifestyles of the Indian rulers they had deposed, including the taking of ‘native’ wives. Many of the children they produced were then educated in Britain, with some subsequently entering Parliament.
Then there was Winston Churchill who reportedly described Mahatma Gandhi as ‘that nigger.’ In Australia, way back in the late 1940s, a young fellow-student of mine of Irish descent also described Gandhi as a nigger (‘He should have been shot’ he said), in a voice redolent of the catarrh-ridden accent of some English teacher in one of the grammar schools of Australia. It was a time when the ‘micks’ (as the non-Irish referred to the Irish Australians) overtly sought to enter high society, which was dominated by the Protestants, especially the Freemasons.
A slight digression would be relevant here. We Asians, especially our elders, were not impressed with white people; not only because of our colonial experience, but also because their skin colour was seen as not attractive! After all, 85% of mankind is coloured; and some mixture of colours in any one location is commonplace. The white people were thus an anomaly. Worse still, in the tropics, the ‘Europeans’ were described as ‘smelly.’ Apparently, their sweat gave out an odour, attributed to their diet of beef. It was just as well too that we, the younger generation with little to no direct contact with the British coloniser, were taught not to be anti-British or anti-European, while remaining anti-colonial. That is, we were not racist in any sense! My extended family is not even tribal, with cross-ethnic marriage now almost the norm.
When I arrived in Australia, I had no idea that Australia was so racist. The few Aussies I had met in Malaya were friendly people; there was nothing snooty about them. Yet, on a busy Saturday morning in 1949, within the crowded precincts of a fashionable Collins St. arcade in mid-town Melbourne, dressed rather expensively (Harris Tweed coat and the rest of it), I heard a shout. It was ‘Why don’t you go back where you came from, you black bastard?’ To my great surprise, I was the target.

Black? I was a very light tan, as yet unburnt by the Australian sun. Bastard? My elders may not have been as tolerant as I with this insult. It did not take me long to appreciate that the word could mean opposing meanings. Ironically, a European migrant friend and I soon developed this greeting ‘How are you, you old bastard?’ to be used whenever we rang each other across the nation.
In 1995 or thereabouts, after a novice politician, Pauline Hanson, reflecting the values of the more conservative of the populace, had claimed that there were too many Asians in the country, I had rude gestures directed at me in public places. When I subsequently sent the Hanson electoral office my first book ‘Destiny Will Out’ (an experience-based book on migrant settlement policies), pointing out that, as an Asian, I had made some contribution to Australia, I received a nice thank-you note.
Then, in the decade of the noughties of the current century, the proprietor of a small subsidy-publisher, who had described my first book (published in London) as ‘well written and interesting,’ told me that ‘Australians would not want to read about their country from the point of view of a foreigner.’ That was when I spoke to him about my second book.

This book was titled ‘The Karma of Culture’; it was endorsed by 3 senior academics in diverse disciplines. The book dealt with these issues (as defined by a professional manuscript appraiser): the cross-cultural impacts of a culturally diverse migrant intake; the potential for Asian cultural and spiritual values to influence Western thinking about democracy, human rights, and social values; and the consequences of attempted cultural retention by immigrants.
(These are extracts from my book ‘Musings at Death’s Door.’)