Reconciliation - Or The New Racism?
Harry Richardson is a long-time student of Islam and author of best seller, "the Story Of Mohammed - Islam Unveiled', http://thestoryofmohammed.blogspot.com.au
This is not a headline from our “White Australia” past. Neither was it a headline from last week’s Australian press, but it could have been; and should have been.
Three students in one of Queensland’s top Universities (why does this racist stuff always happen in Queensland?) wandered into an unmarked (or at least under marked) facility looking to use a computer. They were stopped and questioned about their ethnic ancestry.
When it turned out that they belonged to the “wrong” ethnic group they were refused access to the computers and asked to leave the facility.
The students involved grumbled about this publicly on facebook. The person who refused them entry is now suing them for complaining about it. She is demanding a quarter of a million dollars under section 18C of the very appropriately named Federal "Racial Discrimination Act.”
Federal Government departments have swung into action against the students. Two of the students have reportedly been intimidated into settling for five grand each already.
I guess they will have learned their lesson. If you are the victim of racial discrimination in Australia, you’d better cop it sweet or else. Don’t think you will be the next Rosa Parkes. That isn’t an option over here for “your lot.”
Of course I’m being very misleading here. The students involved weren’t black, they were white. The computer room involved is segregated for the use of Aboriginal students only.
The woman involved was simply policing the universities, “positive discrimination” policies which seek to discriminate in favour of Aboriginal people who are all disadvantaged. So this is all OK we have nothing to worry about. Or do we?
When the Poms first landed in Australia, it was inhabited solely by the Aboriginals. At that time they were living a simple hunter/gatherer existence.
They had not yet invented the plough, let alone the wheel.
The Poms by comparison had considerable technical ability, particularly in the field of military hardware and tactics. Not surprisingly, the Aboriginals came off second best.
Let’s be honest, getting invaded is never a nice thing to happen. It should definitely be avoided at all costs.
I’d like to say that I feel sorry for all the people whose forefathers were invaded but I can’t.
That’s not because I’m heartless. It’s just that I can’t think of anyone whose forefathers weren’t invaded. Invasion naturally leads to disadvantage.
It is almost 1000 years since those bastard Normans invaded England. A surprising recent study found that even today, people in England with Norman surnames earned on average 10% more than the average Pom.
The question is, what can we do about aboriginal disadvantage? Obviously, time travel will never be invented (otherwise Wall St would be full of time travellers) so we can’t go back and right past wrongs. Even if we could, would we be able to improve things by our meddling?
If we could have stopped the Poms, Australia probably would have been invaded by the French, or the Dutch.
If we could have stopped the Europeans, it would probably have been invaded by the Indonesians. If the Maoris had got here first there might have been no Aboriginals left at all.
Unfashionable as it may be to say this, it is likely that Aboriginals themselves regularly invaded each other’s territory. That is unless the Australian Aboriginals have a far more peaceful temperament than any other humans on the planet. Having spent quite a bit of time in Aboriginal areas, I find that hard to believe.
Aboriginals are clearly disadvantaged generally however compared to the rest of Australia. Not by some 10% margin either. We can’t change the past however, so we have two choices if we wish to close this gap.
Either, we can go the populist, quick fix route and try to “tip the scales” in the favour of Aborigines with hand outs and preferential treatment.
Alternatively, we could stand by our principles and insist that everyone receives equal treatment, regardless of colour or ethnicity.
In 1967, Australians voted in a referendum on this issue. By a wide majority, they opted to give the Federal Government the power to legislate to discriminate in favour of Aboriginals (what is euphemistically referred to as “positive discrimination”).
Whilst this showed the world that most Australians were not the evil racists many like to assume, I believe it was a serious mistake.
I also believe that it was a mistake which has harmed Aboriginals far more than it has harmed the rest of us.
What Australians failed to realise, was that there is no such thing as “positive discrimination. There is just plain old discrimination. It is impossible to discriminate in favour of one group without discriminating against another. To do this on the basis of race has a name- racial discrimination.
“Well that’s OK because we are discriminating against white people who have all the advantages. Anyhow, white people deserve it after what they did to the Aboriginals. This was their land and the white folks stole it.”
So say the progressives, who genuinely wish to help the Aboriginal people to overcome their disadvantages. It’s hard to argue against statements like these without sounding utterly heartless, but let’s have a go anyway.
Firstly, white people may have taken control of this land from the aboriginal people, but is that my fault. Why should I get the blame for it just because the perpetrators were the same colour as me?
Had anyone asked me, I would have probably been dead set against it. I doubt very much that anyone would have asked me even if I had been born however. I’m quite sure they never asked my great grandparents.
Blaming people for the actions of others simply because they have the same colour is racist. Racism rarely makes much sense because it begs questions with no logical answer.
For instance, if white people are the oppressors and black people are the victims then what is someone who is half black and half white? Are they a victim or an oppressor?
How about someone who is one eighth black or one sixteenth part white? Where do we draw a line?
What about Aboriginals like Cathy Freeman? She was highly successful and must have earned more money than many white folk. Should she still receive financial handouts from the Government to make up for her alleged disadvantage?
Should her children be eligible for free education? After all, some of Cathy’s ancestors owned this land. However, the aboriginal people never contributed significantly to the education system we have now so shouldn’t white people have first dibs on education?
Genuine racism always gets tangled up in these kind of arguments which make it impossible to legislate effectively in an honest and consistent legal framework.
Is aboriginal disadvantage entirely the fault of the non-aboriginal (particularly white) people anyway? It is hard to argue that racism is the cause of all their woes when Vietnamese people are often outperforming the white, European Aussies.
When we look more closely at Aboriginal disadvantage, there are usually other mitigating circumstances which have nothing to do with racism.
It is true that Aboriginals statistically have less access to hospital care than whites. Given that many of them live in remote areas this is hardly surprising. Cattle farmers are generally not as close to first rate medical facilities as office workers yet they don’t scream discrimination.
What about the appalling health outcomes of aboriginal people? They have similar health outcomes as people in the Third World. But what are the major contributing factors to this poor health?
Excessive alcohol consumption (particularly during pregnancy), petrol sniffing, smoking, illegal drug abuse, poor diet, black on black violence, sexually transmitted diseases and parental neglect are some of the main ones noted.
Yet all of these are voluntarily self-inflicted. How are these the fault of non-aboriginals?
Perhaps we can blame the whites for the destruction of aboriginal culture. If we could magically restore the original culture of the aboriginals however, how would that serve them in a modern, first world country?
How many would really want to go back to a life without electricity, medical care or a modern welfare state.
How about the injustices of police racism. Clearly there is strong anti-aboriginal feeling amongst some (possibly many) white police which has definitely led to miscarriages of justice.
How do we correct this?
The current wisdom tells us that police should take a “hands off” approach to aboriginal policing. This should reverse or eliminate the chances of racially motivated police injustice.
How would you like the police to implement a “hands off” policy in your suburb? Would you feel that you had gained an advantage? I know I sure wouldn’t. I doubt that the victims of aboriginal domestic violence do either.
Since coming to Australia, I have witnessed the growth of a phenomena which didn’t exist when I first arrived.
Every time there is an “event,” even a relatively small one, the MC will acknowledge the, “traditional owners, past and present.”
Every week at my daughter’s school this phrase is trotted out during assembly, even though there are no traditional owners left in this area.
Many people are celebrating this as a step towards greater aboriginal recognition. There is also a huge push to enshrine the recognition of aboriginal people in the constitution.
This concerns me deeply. It concerns me because it sounds like something a lawyer would advocate as part of a plan for a future lawsuit. This would be a class action demanding restitution of stolen lands or at the very least some substantial compensation for the aforementioned stolen lands.
If this were to happen, what would be the results?
Let us take the example of my daughter’s school. The current owner I assume, is the State Government.
They hold and manage this property on behalf of all Australians, both aboriginal and non-aboriginal.
All local people and all kids have an equal right to the facilities and the education system.
If, at some point in the future, the school and/or its grounds were handed to a third party on the basis that they were the “traditional owners” (“well your honour, the school authorities have acknowledged my clients as the traditional owners, every week for the last 20 years”) then where would that leave us?
Presumably the State Government would then have to make payments in either rent, or purchase agreements.
This money would have to come from somewhere and let’s be honest, it would surely have to come from the education budget.
That would mean that everyone, aboriginal or otherwise, would be disadvantaged. We would be left with substandard education facilities while some lucky aboriginal (or more likely, part aboriginal) people would gain financially.
Of course, if you have ever been in a court case over money you will know that the people who will gain the most will be the legal profession.
They will argue day and night (for $500+/hour) about which aboriginal group is entitled to the land and which ones aren’t.
Maybe the aboriginals will blow their share of the money on five hundred dollar a bottle champagne. Maybe the lawyers will blow theirs on goon. Who knows? One thing only is for certain. It is the next generation of Australians that will be the poorer and will likely have nothing to show for it.
I see the push to acknowledge aboriginals in the constitution as a national version of this debacle. I have met many aboriginals, both good and bad, but I haven’t met too many who had an interest in the constitution.
The people who know about constitutions are lawyers.
They know that the aboriginals will only be interested in the constitution if there is a quid in it for them.
There is no doubt that many aboriginal people have suffered since the arrival of the Europeans. Today however, the aboriginal people are lucky enough to live in a country that has space age technology, democracy and the rule of law.
It has opportunity for those who wish to take advantage and world class free education for all children. The fortunes of the Aboriginal people are tied up with the fortunes of the Australian nation.
The truth is that if we want aboriginal people to have the same benefits as many other Australians, they will have to adopt the same culture as the rest of us.
That involves taking tough decisions. It involves working hard to create goods and services. It involves respecting property rights and forgoing instant gratification for a greater reward in the future.
It involves staying sober most of the time and getting up for work, day after day after day.
Surely, not all of them will want to adopt our culture. However, unless they do, they will never enjoy the same benefits as the rest of us. If we constantly shower them with money to try to make up for a perceived disadvantage, they will never have an incentive to take the tough decisions which will make them truly equal, in every sense of the word.
I say, restore the principle of equality of all races under Australian Law and give the aboriginal people the dignity to choose their own destiny.
If you want to change the Constitution to help Aboriginals, repeal the 1967 referendum and take away the Commonwealth’s right to discriminate on the basis of race.
(Harry Richardson is a long time student of Islam and the author of best selling book 'The story of Mohammed - Islam Unveiled' available at amazon.com)