AFTER EACH TERROR ATTACK I go through a period of uneasy, irrational racism. Repeated news stories flashing up faces of the accused. Front pages dedicated to remembering the dead. Talk back filled with calls of hatred, directed at entire religions and cultural backgrounds. Racial profiling of the worst kind. It could happen to you, is the message screamed at all of us. Be alert.
It is at these times I find myself behaving in a way which is against everything I believe and stand for. Train rides become unbearable. I cross the street when faced with someone I deem “a threat”. My instincts are forced into overdrive and in their normal, rational, caring, culturally aware and all accepting place is racism. It shames me and I work hard to understand and dissemble it.
Today, for a moment, it was reawakened. Vision of ASIO and Federal Police swooping on houses in Sydney in counter terrorism raids filled our TV screens. Reports of plans to commit random acts of violence against Australians including beheadings and shootings. Suddenly, I am on edge again.
In the days to come discussions will once again centre on extremists, yet with each word spoken entire communities will be impacted. My initial reaction to fear everyone who “looks” different will be replaced with my real feelings – embrace difference. I am ashamed to admit that my go to place in times of terror is to buy into the fear mongering. It is something I’ve recognised and have been working hard to change. Fear does strange things to a person. Fear is an evil, easily triggered tool used by people with divisive agendas. I will not let them change me.
Fear legitimises racism. You can hear them all now – the race haters. It’s like they long for these events. They know even rational, open, inquisitive people can be pulled into depths of stupidity. They take the fear and use it to twist their words of hate into statements of fact. They rally their troops and fuel the hatred. This terrifies me more then the threat of terror. They can do damage which is insidious, long lasting and cross generational. They can divide our nation.
I fear Australia is being run by people who are going to use these threats to pursue war. Approval ratings have been down, the budget lambasted and the political landscape is withering – war and terror are good for boosting approval ratings and distracting the public from ineptitude.
It is right to fear terror. The world is an scary place. Bali, the London Bombings, 911 – these are real. It’s OK to feel strongly about the threat of indiscriminate violence, but it is not right to fall into the trap of irrational racism-based on fear.
Racial profiling is damaging. It happens all the time. You can not look at someone and make an assumption based on what they look like. You can not have someone tell you their nationality and immediately assume you know them. It’s the same racial stereotypes over and over. Your Asian so you must be a bad driver. You’re Italian so you must love pasta. You’re a Kiwi, fuck any sheep lately? And this one, which I heard today of a newspaper requesting people to “wear a kilt or drink Whisky” when being photographed for a newspaper article on the Scottish independence vote. Is it not enough to say they’re Scottish?
Kids on a recent school trip to a cultural centre to learn more about the Kaurna people were having a discussion about how all Aboriginal people don’t have dark skin. The woman, with fair skin, addressing the group of 8-year-olds asked them if they thought she was Aboriginal. Half the class replied yes. Half the class replied no. When she explained her heritage, she then asked: “Why did you not think think I was Aboriginal?” Because of the colour of your skin was an often repeated reply. One child said: “Because you are wearing normal clothes and you are not dead”.
We live in a world where people are still defined by racial stereotypes, when in fact our backgrounds are so entwined now, that simply by looking at someone or hearing their accent means little.
Me sitting on a bus and seeing someone who the media has deemed a “terrorist looking suspect” and moving my seat, shifting my gaze or getting off because of fear is not being alert, it’s being racist. I refuse to let my life be characterised by ignorance or fuelled by damaging, hurtful stereotypes. Be ready for the onslaught of terror-based racism. Be alert. Be a good person and do not let yourself buy into the fear mongering. Think about all the people who will now be scared to walk down their own street, carry out their jobs and do the school run because of their race. The people who make Australia such a wonderfully diverse, rich, vibrant place who now have people approach them with caution. This is what I fear most, our society becoming even more divided. Please don’t let that happen.
yes, yes, yes and yes! and following up every episode of racial slander with long conversations with my children: Do you think this is correct, Do you think this is fair, How would you feel it is was you? maybe by next generation we will all be over cheap point-scoring and political opportunism. xt
Political opportunism makes me so jaded x
Great post. The media storm over this recent arrest will no doubt rage on for weeks. Its easy to get dragged along with it. We should be opposed to senseless violence against innocents but at the same time we have to be mindful about racism.
The world can be such a cruel and senseless place x
Beautifully said, B. Hate is a strong word, but I hate this fear, unease, dread, worry. So I’ve got to just listen to the news so I know what’s going on, but continue to live my life the way I’ve always done.
Personally, I would rather have not known all the details, just that they were aware and acting on it x
I live in a heavily Islamic neighbourhood and for the most part I love the diversity. I have experienced mostly warmth and kindness, as with every neighbourhood in which I’ve lived. The few shitty people I’ve encountered I don’t put down to race or religion- just the fact that some people are dicks.
Fear mongers are the worst kind of bigots.
Too true – fear mongers are the worst kind of bigots x
I read the news today (oh boy)… and just wanted to build a fort and bunker in – sandbag at the front gate and not let anyone in or out. So awful and terrifying.
Then the more cynical media lecturer in me kicked in and noticed the way the story’s been handled, and the very handy way all the major news outlets were on the scene (instead of AFP and ASIO swooping in and out without notice as I’m sure they’ve done many times before) and hey, presto… we’re no longer talking about the budget, or any of the long list of things the country was increasingly muttery about. It’s also just swept the powerful discussion on violence against women that was rising over the last few weeks right back under the rug again.
So now I’m back to feeling all muttery again. We’re very lucky that his childcare centre is strongly multicultural and he has incredibly caring examples of all kinds of different faiths and races and cultures and dress. I’m hoping that will help him (and me) from getting caught up in stereotyping because of the fear we feel.
Yes, the timing has been spectacular for certain political figures x
And we never learn.
“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.”
(USA President Dwight D. Eisenhower said this in 1953!)
awesome quote. Thank you x
So well said! I’ve purposely not watched the news this week because I knew I wasn’t going to like what I heard. I had enough shit going on to have to deal with that too. Normally I’m a huge news junkie, but I have to admit, it’s been refreshing being switched off from it all. No doubt had I been tuned in to it I’d be feeling the same kinds of things others are.
It kills me how rampant racism is in our society today, even without the threat of terror attacks and senseless violence. People struggle to understand that the people who commit these atrocities are but a small, tiny sub-section of people, in no way representative of their race or religion as a whole. Yet those are the people that get air-time. We’re not given perspective with a story on all of the good people from said race or religion, we’re just fed more fear and hatred. This is not the kind of world I want my girls to grow up in, and I guess the only thing I can do is continue to expose them to as many different people, races and religions as I can and hopefully they will grow up colour-blind and not afraid of anyone that looks even slightly different.
What a wonderful view of the world. Your kids are lucky to have you x