Racism schmracism


This, about Australian racism, is good-

Our tradition of fear and loathing on these shores began with the first European arrivals. Presently, in 1788, a British fleet ferried human refuse across several oceans to fulfil Jeremy Bentham’s vision of a thieves’ colony in the empire’s back yard. Enlightenment visionaries got their continental panopticon with its seas and wilderness in place of walls, and an uber-gaol in place of decommissioned battleships on the Thames scooping the overflow of full prisons.

Our forebears called Port Jackson a penal settlement. If founded today, it would be a ‘detention centre’.

And then this-

We enlightened Australians might like to think we left xenophobia behind with the days when we couldn’t buy bok choy at the supermarket.

Hanson and her heirs know otherwise. They know our fear of the Other. We heard Pauline’s bleating demands for quasi-parental explanation and her claims of Asian invasion by stealth. Could it be that Australian racist statements reflect fear and loathing in the soul: ghosts of our mongrel past and geographical illegitimacy? Lacking the midwifery of independence war myth-making, we were a foundling country, abandoned where we didn’t belong, and fearing the Other all around us: in the outback, the Pacific and Asia.

No wonder this essay was “Highly Commended by the judges of the 2010 Eureka Street/Reader’s Feast Award.”


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