Fight back against racism

Refugee rights rally outside ALP national conference, December 4. Photo: Peter Boyle

Historically, racism has given rise to the belief that different human populations possess different capacities, some superior and some inferior, based on aspects such as cultural traits and genetic makeup.

At its crudest, racist views often hold that genetic makeup can imply specific traits and
characteristics, and has been used as a tool to separate people in our society.

This kind of view became widespread across the world, justifying crimes such as the mass enslavement of Africans, the genocide committed by the Nazis, and the “white Australia” policy, initiated in 1901.

Social Darwinism and fascism have been used to try to justify a hierarchy of superiority based on aspects such as skin colour, nationality and culture.

In reality, there is no link between physical difference in appearance and social or cultural characteristics, but rather racial categorisations are socially constructed.

Racism, along with sexism and homophobia, is a political tool the capitalist class use to divide the working class. A clear example of this in Australia was in the 1860s, when anti-Chinese rhetoric, encouraged by sections of white workers out to protest their privileges and the capitalist class, resulted in mass protests by workers against Chinese migration.

It is highly convenient for capitalists to have working people fighting among themselves or an imagined enemy rather than uniting to struggle against the material conditions of inequality, against their real enemies -- the bosses and the capitalist class.

An example of how racism influences policy in Australia is the treatment of refugees and migrants. At different times, different ethnic groups have been scapegoated, conveniently “blamed” for social problems that are actually caused by the capitalist system.

The shameful policy of mandatory detention of asylum seekers continues in Australia, resulting in significant psychological trauma for people who have already fled traumatic experiences.

But refugees in detention are fighting back. Big protests frequently take place in the refugee camps.

On Australia Day in 2002, while most Australians were celebrating, a refugee in Woomera detention centre climbed to the top of a fence and jumped onto the razor wire below. The incident shocked the world and highlighted the appalling conditions for people in detention.

But former prime minister John Howard's racist rhetoric, with the support of the corporate media, meant refugees remained locked up for another five years. Kevin Rudd made promises to end these conditions in 2007, but they continue today.

Racism allows the unjust detention of innocent people to continue, while politicians and bosses can blame “non-Australians” for unemployment, failing infrastructure, stressed housing and public transport and a raft of social ills. Aboriginal people are also heavily burdened with unjustified blame.

This means people focus on simplistic blame and don't question what truly causes these crises: neoliberal cutbacks, defunding of social services, bosses sacking workers to protect profits, repeated “pro-war” budgets and a system that puts profit before people.

Racism is prevalent in Australia. Too often, the phrase “Go back to where you came from” is hurled at ethnic minorities.

There is no better time to find examples of racism and white pride behaviour than on "Australia Day".

Slogans such as “Fuck off we’re full” and talk of “Australian values” elevate a specific form of Anglo-Australian identity as the only legitimate form of cultural expression.

In response to this, I wave the Aboriginal flag on January 26 and recognise it as “Invasion Day” or “Survival Day” to remind people that we live in a multicultural country, Australia was colonised through invasion, theft and murder of Aboriginal people. We are occupying stolen land, of which sovereignty was never ceded.