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Chapter 12 from: J.J. Ray (Ed.) "Conservatism as Heresy". Sydney: A.N.Z. Book Co., 1974

The article originally appeared under the pseudonym 'Libertas' in "Nation Review", 19 April 1973, p. 816.


RACISM IN AUSTRALIA?



John Ray

When you dislike a man who is black, that does not make you a racist. You are a racist only if you dislike him because he is black. This is a simple truth and yet I will venture to assert that much of what small 'l' liberals today call 'racism' falls into the first rather than into the latter category.

Take this affair recently headlined as Racism in Redfern. Several hundred white residents petitioned the local council to bar the takeover of several terrace houses in their area for the purpose of setting up an 'Aboriginal community'. Does this mean American style colour prejudice has come to Australia? Sydney television showed that there were indeed violent emotions involved --- with an actual confrontation between a white protester and a black organiser being shown.

The grounds for protest were informative, however. Aborigines were in fact already squatting in many of these terrace houses and the local residents had come to find them singularly unpleasant neighbours -- drunken shouting, fighting and bottle smashing at all hours of almost every night -- aboriginals urinating in the street and shouting obscenities at passing white housewives. Who would not want to see the last of neighbours such as that -- whether they were black, white or had purple polka dots?

It is in fact a most violent denial of civil rights if we stigmatise people who protest against such things as 'racists' just because the offensive group is identifiable in terms of colour. Black is not beautiful -- any more than white is.

The greatest obstacle to a reasoned discussion of white 'backlash' is an unstated assumption by many of Australia's suburbanites that Aborigines are just the same as they are except that they have a brown skin. It is this assumption that makes what anti-aboriginal protesters say seem so unintelligible and unreasonable. 'I wouldn't like someone to object to me just because I had a brown skin,' the suburbanite says.

Of course the anti-Aborigine protester is not just objecting to skin colour. He could scarcely be so puerile. He objects to what does factually go with skin colour -- habits, behaviour and practices that white society has long preached against and condemns. If it were just the colour of their skin that set Aborigines apart, there would be no backlash.

It is then this fact that Aborigines are characterised by behaviour that in a white we would find despicable that suburban small 'l' liberals find so hard to absorb. I know of several instances where such liberals, when actually meeting Aborigines for the first time, have suddenly become much more conservative in their views. It is well-known that it is in country towns and depressed urban areas that anti-Aborigine feeling runs high. What people from both types of areas have in common is that they have actually met and lived near Aborigines. They know what they're talking about.

Obviously, there is no necessary assumption that these differences between Aborigines and whites are inborn. All of them could be attributed to differences in upbringing. We come from a culture that values privacy, hygiene and industriousness. Aborigines do not. We see the virtue of competition and emotional reserve. Aborigines do not.

White backlash is then reasonable. Unless we expect whites to forget overnight the cultural values that they have learned and practised all their lives, they will find the proximity of Aborigines unpleasant.

There are three possible solutions to this problem: change the whites; change the Aborigines; or have the two groups live apart. The first two solutions seem totally presumptuous and paternalistic -- if not fascist. The last is the solution that has usually emerged. Blacks and whites, if left to themselves, normally do live in separate communities. It is only when governments and ideology-blinded white do-gooders interfere with the natural selection processes that problems arise.




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