I know racism isn’t a hot topic. Not compared to important issues like Lindsay Lohan’s ongoing battles with being a moron, your child’s outrageous risk of dying, due to breathing, and footballers getting injured and sometimes being in pubs. Oh and most importantly of all, every house having a price, in real dollar terms, that goes up and down.
Islamic extremism, that keeps coming up as well, along with oil prices and the economic crisis and sport. Every night on the news there’s more time devoted to sport than the weather, finance and world news. So sport is obviously the hottest topic of all.
So why do we need to talk about racism?
In first world countries like Australia it’s against the law to openly discriminate against anyone, unless you use religion as an excuse. For example the Catholic Church refuses to hire homosexuals, on the grounds that they might marry someone’s pets, or whatever bullshit they’re currently spinning.
Positive discrimination was also introduced in Australia years ago, in order to provide proportionally underrepresented groups increased opportunities at work and study. I do hope that I’m never faced with the situation where my kid misses out on university due to positive discrimination, with that place going to a minority that has lower marks.
On second thought, I wouldn’t mind at all. It’s important to foster equality in society, and hopefully I’ll have enough money to buy my kid a place at uni, because there’s still nobody with more options than dumb rich kids. Apart from smart rich kids.
I’m a fulltime writer/comedian though, so my future child will have to work very hard from an early age. Or become extremely proficient at gluing shattered dreams into something achievable by a budget that sometimes stretches to strawberries, when they’re in season.
In theory, racism in Australia has been obliterated. It’s not permitted in any company policy or government document, or on talkback radio. Although if racism was actually eliminated from talkback radio it’d be just static, apart from the ads and the odd Guy Sebastian song.
So racism might be technically illegal, but in everyday practice, it’s still everywhere.
The new racism has a subtle, everyday nature that’s not as blatantly damaging and upfront as the old version. Instead it creeps in sideways and leaves with stealth, as anyone accused of it will often claim, ‘You’re twisting my words. That’s not what I meant.’
Unless drunk or surrounded by friends, few people will openly declare their hatred for Asians, Arabs or anyone else who doesn’t look white. However they will openly support sending home every asylum seeker, won’t trust a certain type with their credit cards or to park their car, and will refuse to eat at a range of restaurants. And if their daughter brought one home? Even though mixed race babies can be some of the cutest, they’ll still be staunchly against the wedding.
Where I used to live in my warm little cocoon of good intentions and political correctness and mostly white people, otherwise known as Fitzroy, Melbourne, it was very rare for me to encounter blatant racism. However I noticed that it often slipped in, especially when I was eating out.
For example, my disappointment when the waitress at the French restaurant wasn’t French. Or the way I’d hesitate when buying sushi from a place where the chef wasn’t Asian. It works the other way too. When overseas, most people were shocked if they identified me as Australian and I didn’t order a beer. Even at breakfast. Honestly though, very rarely did I shock anyone.
Although seldom mentioned, every night on the news racism softly pads its grubby feet through almost every story, especially when it comes to other countries. Unless being decimated by a natural disaster or doing something zany, some countries always seem to be at war, protesting or starving. These people must also do normal things as well, but we never see them down the shops, walking a dog, or frolicking at the beach. And I’ve never met one person who doesn’t love a good frolic.
No racial group, based on their genes, is more likely to be violent, or better at making sushi rolls, or frolicking. Their culture, upbringing and surroundings may bestow them certain skills, but it’s a scientific fact that no race is genetically superior to any other. So any stereotype we attach to race, as perpetrated through the news and my dining options, they’re all completely baseless.
We need to single out and speak about against generalisations to stop them repeatedly popping up, as letting these prejudices go unchecked allows racism to spread.
Racism works in the exact opposite way as the Kardashians. If we didn’t talk about them, then they would disappear, and in their absence would be smiles, sunshine and a generally superior world.
Left unchecked, racism seeps into us all, like a putrid, maggot infested, well past it’s used by date Vegemite. It spreads like the awful fashions endorsed by celebrities such as leggings, denim shorts and tight t-shirts featuring semi-naked women. It jumps between us faster than backpackers can spread bedbugs. And chlamydia.
So every day we don’t talk about racism, is another day closer to us all catching bed bugs, chlamydia, and turning into the Kardashians. As well as being racists.
Xavier Toby (www.xaviertoby.com) is a writer and comedian currently touring the comedy walking tour ‘2013 – When We Were Idiots’ at the:
Melbourne International Comedy Festival (Mar 27-Apr 21)
Sydney Comedy Festival (May 7-11)
Brisbane Anywhere Theatre Festival (May 12-19)