The Left loves accusing people of racism. But what does it actually mean?
I never quite know what is meant by “racism” and yet along with “sexism” and “homophobia”, etymological bastards all three of them, it must be the most frequently bandied epithet in the Left’s lexicon. Does it mean noticing the difference between people of different national types, as in being able to recognise that if there’s a Scandinavian in the room it’s probably the blonde chap over there and if there’s a Sicilian it’s presumably the dark-haired lady with him?
Yes, according to white liberal bien-pensants. To distinguish between one race and another as a description of individuals is “racist”. That’s why if someone’s attacked in the street by an assailant of distinctive ethnic appearance you can be sure ethnicity will not be mentioned by those news media that pride themselves on being correct in these matters. The police too, knowing which side their bread is buttered on, fall over themselves to issue descriptions in which racial appearance will not be an identifying element, unless the attacker is white, in which case it will be included so that you don’t racistically jump to the conclusion that the suspect is yet another newcomer to our shores.
All this beating about the bush applies only until the blonde chap from Scandinavia or the dark-eyed lady from Sicily turn against the bien-pensants and threaten their comfortable security. (Unlikely, you’ll say, but I use that example to show I’m not racist, in the same way that airport officials will advertise their non-racist credentials by strip searching anyone except the passenger who actually looks as though he might have a bomb in his intimate apparel.)
When Lefties get a fright the coy anonymity is instantly binned. We know this thanks to two youthful Melbourne gangs. When those gangs ran riot during Melbourne’s Moomba festival, they made the mistake of terrifying “ordinary families” having an evening out. Some of the terrified were doubtless readers of the Melbourne Age or ABC viewers – the kind of members of the respectable middle class for whom “racism” is something only rednecks indulge in. And all at once the silence was broken.
“Police officers are timid when dealing with ethnic-based gangs because they fear being accused of racism,” intoned the Age reproachfully. You don’t say, and who pray has been doing the accusing up till now, or constantly implying it by harping on about the evils of “racial profiling” in the force? Why, the selfsame Age and its soul sisters now shouting the gangs’ Somali and South Pacific origins from the housetops. Talk about an irony bypass.
It therefore seems that to observe a racial difference between individuals is or isn’t “racist” depending on where one stands vis-à-vis the individuals whose race is or is not of relevance. As a definition of racism that’s a bit elusive. What then about old-fashioned racism, racial discrimination as it used to be called, that is, regarding someone as inferior because of their race and sneering at them or not giving them a job? Well, that’s mostly illegal now and scarcely encountered, at least in public. Even our esteemed Race Discrimination Commissioner, Dr Tim Soutphommasane, whose job depends on keeping racism going (“commissioner” sounds as though it’s his function to commission it – “tenders are now being invited for screaming abuse at asylum seekers”) admits that “great progress” has been made in getting rid of old-fashioned racism, as he told the Sydney Morning Herald in 2013:
Decades ago, it may have been commonly assumed that some races were superior to others; few would have batted an eyelid at racial abuse in public places. Today, things are much different. Old attitudes have largely given way to more progressive sensibilities.
Good to hear. Although it appears to have escaped Tim’s notice that some non-Anglos in our community are as yet untouched by “progressive sensibilities” and have a tendency to see themselves as superior to other races. Some folk – how can one put it? – from the Asian subcontinent – no, not rational and enlightened like Tim – have been known to show or express a certain disdain for people of other nationalities. I realise it’s probably racist even to hint at such a thing, and besides, racism of that kind is not really part of the “old attitudes” Tim is talking about. He means the old attitudes of ordinary Australians. It’s not racism if it’s not practised by the Anglo majority.
Tim’s SMH article was called “How best to tackle racism, Australian style” so he is probably the best person to define what racism, Australian style is. Launching his recent book I’m Not Racist But… (doesn’t that But make you feel guilty already?) he announced that, in spite of the “great progress” earlier referred to, “[o]rganised racist extremism appears to be revitalised, not unrelated to the emergence of cyber-racism” (by which I suppose he means nutters on the Internet). He cites some examples. “Anxieties about Islamist extremism have … fed a rise in the harassment of Muslim and Arab Australians.” Dear me, harassment. Well at least it’s not murder, a Muslim specialty. And, sorry Tim, but the “anxieties” about extremism are well grounded; to categorise them as racism is plain wrong. It’s not racist to be opposed to a culture some of whose exponents have made it clear they will kill or subjugate you if they can. It’s self-defence.
“At the same time,” Tim told his book launch, “there has been a marked increase in reports of anti-Semitism, along with signs of growing anti-Chinese sentiment.” Since anti-semitism is pretty well a preserve of Leftists, and it’s Leftists who installed Tim and his Human Rights employers in their sinecures in the first place, he’d do well not to tick them off too loudly. As to “anti-Chinese sentiment”, does it occur to him that where you hear examples of that – and you do, mainly in prosperous suburbs – it’s not on account of some generalised dislike of Chinese, which would be racial discrimination pure and simple, but because people feel that the districts in which they live and have grown up are being “taken over” and becoming alien to them? Most people prefer to live among people who speak their language at least. If that’s racism it’s also human nature, and Tim’s “ongoing challenge of building racial tolerance and cultural harmony” is not going to change that.
It says a lot about the absence of real racial discrimination from Australian life that in order to keep the anti-racist establishment going, racism has had to be redefined to cover perfectly natural human emotions that do not spring from any sense of smug superiority towards other people.
23 April 2016Published in The Spectator Australia