Today, I listened to a Neil Mitchell interview and it pissed me off. Granted, this is not the first time listening to Neil Mitchell has pissed me off, and the time he interviewed Meriki Onus from Warriors of the Aboriginal Resistance stands out in my mind. But today, he pissed me off again.
It was an interview he conducted with a Superintendent on Monday (but which I accessed today due to social media shares) about the planned "Flag March" being held this weekend by fascist/nationalist groups, along with the counter rally being organised by the Campaign Against Racism and Fascism. The interview was of course littered with the same old conservative white man observations I've heard time and time again. But it was when he stated "I blame both sides for it" when referring to the race hate on the street that my ire rose.
I've heard this claim trotted out before, and each time it angers me. Today it angered me so much that I wrote the following on my Facebook page:
No, I don't agree with the many media and social media commentators taking the "they're both as bad as one another" line when talking about the actions of nationalist and fascist groups, and those who stand against them. I'm not condoning violence here. Rather, I am stating plainly that there is something fundamentally wrong with a society which will so willingly neutralise the acts and ideologies of those who promote hate and fear based upon the race and religion of others. As this country remains willing to neutralise and tolerate such things, I believe individuals and activist groups taking stands against hate and fear is essential.
It reminded me of when I saw news reports following Coburg referring to the leftist groups as "extreme anti-racism groups". See, apparently now, being anti-racist is an extremist action. The problem here being that it actually is. Anti-racism; thanks to centuries of denying colonial invasion, decades of the White Australia Policy, years of Hansonism and Howardism, Cronulla, Islamophobia (even though the Muslim connection to this land mass predates white invasion by up to an estimated 200 years) and bipartisan practice of despicable asylum seeker policy; is considered a radical act. Racism is so very embedded in the fabric of our society and apathy towards it right now is so high that to take an active stance against it is considered terrifying by many.
What. The. Fuck. How can so many in this country be so comfortable with this? How can so many just join in the bleating chorus by saying that standing for acceptance and collaboration is as bad as standing for fear, hate and racial purity? Is their "just as bad as one another" response really about them not questioning themselves and how comfortable they are with the existence of racism - violent racism at that - in their society?
I wish I could say all this is a surprise to me, but it's not. My life has been framed by this experience. Aboriginal people are at the vanguard of racism in this country. Sure, plenty of other groups experience horrific racism here, but everyone who is not Aboriginal is higher up the rungs of the social ladder because they have benefited from the displacement of Aboriginal people. That's the way this country works. The fact that it's 2016 and we're still calling for "treaty" and acknowledgement of sovereignty shows just how reluctant the Australian "powers that be" have been to rectify the situation. Hell, it's still controversial to point out that the Australian flag; a piece of cloth which celebrates invasion while erasing Indigenous existence through its very structure; might be a wee bit racist.
An additional point on this: for a while, when it comes to the discussion on the topic of Constitutional Recognition, I have been staunch in highlighting that while the Expert Panel noted in its recommendations an Indigenous community want to remove the racist elements within the Constitution, this is not actually an "Aboriginal issue". It's an anti-racism issue and Aboriginal people would be but one beneficiary group. So why is it that these racist provisions are tied solely to the topic of Indigenous CR and have never been floated separately as a broader anti-racism campaign for a country which wants to move forward on race relations? Why wasn't this a campaign held during the "multiculturalism era" spanned approximately from the time of Malcolm Fraser to Paul Keating? Why was it okay to welcome refugees from Asian countries finally after the last parts of the White Australia Policy had been stripped away without actually dealing with the very racist fabric of our number one legal document?
Perhaps, at the very heart of it, this country is keen to continue the denial. The throwaway comments of "I don't mind as long as they speak English/assimilate/accept our laws" I hear so often here speak to that denial. So do things such as "everyone is entitled to an opinion" because it paints these hate groups essentially as neutral elements every bit as valid and welcome as those who preach peace and acceptance. In Slackbastard's blog, I was introduced to the Bon Scotts who felt the need to write a song celebrating their apathy. I find it utterly disgraceful that anyone can be so comfortable with the existence of racism in this country that they would attempt to neutralise its messengers through a ditty. Yet they're not alone. As long as racism is not a part of their lived experience, most Australians are incredibly comfortable with it continuing on around them knowing that they will not suffer.
Except they do suffer. The racism which permeates this society is poison. It disconnects people from the oldest living cultures in the world purposefully. It promotes monoculturalism, monolingualism and insularity. It reinforces white supremacy despite sovereignty never being ceded and therefore also reinforces disparity. It kills people. Being tolerant of fear and hate groups validates their mission. Through your apathy, you allow them to exist and their poisonous message to gather ground. You become complicit in the fear and hatred.
So if taking an anti-racism stand is a radical act nowadays, then yes, I am a proud radical. I stand for peace, collaboration and understanding. Why the hell don't you?