SAD: Betheina Kuku with the recent vandalism to her car. SAD: Betheina Kuku with the recent vandalism to her car.
WHITE people are racists. We saw that last month when a black Sudanese woman had her car vandalised with racist graffiti (“Attacks may force family to leave” Herald, 22/6).
But white Australians are not the only people here with racist opinions; they are just the ones expressing them at the moment – because they are able to.
There are deep wells of visceral racism in the Chinese community against white (and black and other Asian) people, but they keep their mouths shut. Indians are mercilessly racist too. So are Arabs.
There are strong racial feelings within the African community here between various ethnic groups. In Africa they call it tribalism – racism by another name. I have been told by an Aboriginal man that something similar obtains within the indigenous community.
All that doesn’t bother the white Australian community, since it’s not on the receiving end yet.
Racism is a fundamental human instinct. Don’t tell me that in your unguarded moments you don’t feel something of it. The racism we all share is ancient, natural, understandable and, in general, no massive problem. We tend to like our own people better than others, that’s all.
Most of the time we can handle dealings with other races pretty well. We know there are differences in looks, language and character, but people reach across that divide all the time, everywhere in the world, to do what they have to do in life and to get a little pleasure and company.
Racism is a problem when the expression of that feeling takes violent and demeaning forms. But I believe there are likely to be personal, not racial, reasons for most of these.
I knew a Burundian refugee in Newcastle who was being threatened with a dog by someone in his street. It looked racist. It turned out that the dog-man was about as far down the social scale as you could get. The Burundians gave him a chance to get one rung up from the bottom.
He wasn’t a racist. He was a personal problem.
Racism becomes a public problem when politicians use it to build a power base.
Hitler did. So did apartheid South Africa. Politicians everywhere (even here) know that race is a winner.
Just the thing to stir up fear of those who are “not like us” so the pollies can save us from them. They throw their babies overboard don’t they? People like us wouldn’t do that. We’ll decide whether that type of people come here or not.
This dog-whistle, silent political racism that never owns its name is the biggest source of racist feeling in the country. Its tentacles descend from the manipulative politician, through the toady shock-jocks and politicking media, down to those in society who can most easily be persuaded they are under some sort of threat.
The young and those with personal problems can’t easily deal with that. Here comes the graffiti. The dog threats.
It’s no sin to like your own people best. It is a sin to turn the Australian people towards a hidden but active dislike of other people. God bless Australia. God damn everyone else.
Conservative parties are the main culprits – the far-left parties flagellate themselves for their own apparent sins and seem to believe other races are blameless and good.
The issue is not being helped by this black-and-white approach – good v evil. Racism is a deeply human thing. It’s one of those natural parts of life like obesity, skinniness, religion, diet, sexuality, ear size. It’s human.
Consider these two stories.
I gave an old woman a lift home once from a shopping centre. At her place an African woman passed by. “They’re very bad people!” said the old lady. “She pushed me into the gutter one day!”
Did she? Didn’t she? I don’t know. It was probably just a piece of the mud life throws at us sometimes. Some get hit, some don’t. We have to learn how to deal with it. It’s not a racist thing.
My father always disliked black people and said so. He ended up in hospital where I found him being attended by an African nurse. She impressed him a lot. He was surprised to find that, in his opinion, she was the best nurse there. He still didn’t like black people – but he liked this one.
Personal experience mostly overrides politically induced prejudice. And so it should. We always get along better without that.
There are no people who are “racists” and others who are not.
But there are people who are foolish enough to become the hands, mouths and pens of mendacious political pretenders.
Put your fingers in your ears when you hear them start to speak.
Tony Troughear lived and worked in Kenya for 20 years.