Posted on June 6, 2013 by Peter Toby

“We Grew Here, They Flew Here” – Just because it rhymes, doesn’t mean it’s true

Illustration: Anthony Sawrey (First appeared: http://www.altmedia.net.au/australia-accused-of-racism-in-the-united-nations/23174)

Illustration: Anthony Sawrey (First appeared: http://www.altmedia.net.au/australia-accused-of-racism-in-the-united-nations/23174)

Saying something racist is not okay. It doesn’t matter what your intention was, and whether or not you meant it.

It’s not okay even if you’re Eddie McGuire, or some other fool who’s spent so many years listening to and nodding along with their own opinion, that they’ve forgotten that other people don’t just exist to buy Collingwood memberships.

Anyway, let’s move on from that. Everyone else has, even though McGuire has been allowed to continue on with every one of his media and work commitments. Go Australia. Doing nothing about racism one outrage at a time.

So it’s not okay to say anything racist, but what about racist thoughts? Are they okay? Or should they be shouted down with the same justified outrage as racist words?

I’ll admit that I’ve had the odd racist thought, even as recently as last week, and every time it happens I’m a bit shocked with myself.

When I was last in Sydney, one particular experience settled this little dispute for me, and helped me define the difference between racist thoughts and racist actions.

I was staying with a friend whose washing machine was broken, so I went looking for a launderette. Not a commercial laundry where you pay someone to wash your clothes, but a launderette where you use the machines yourself.

At the first one, there was an Asian woman who couldn’t speak English.

This was a small surprise, because it was a proper business and not just her house. I certainly wasn’t roaming the suburbs like the Napisan guy just knocking on random doors asking to use a washing machine. That was never going to work, I didn’t have a camera crew, or a suit, or any Napisan.

In retrospect, I don’t think it was a launderette, but a commercial laundry where they charge you per bag of washing. I wasn’t willing to pay per bag, because I’m poor. Also, my clothes are surprisingly delicate. For instance, all my check shirts are very easy to shrink. Most of them actually started as tablecloths.

So I kept looking, but Google Maps was no help. It kept directing me to places that sold washing machines, as well as brothels and bakeries. Which I think was actually something to do with my internet browser history.

Inside the second place was another Asian who didn’t or wouldn’t speak English.

After I asked if I could do some washing, the way she stared at me, I felt like her face was saying, ‘How dare you come in here with your dirty washing, stupid round-eye.’

I left feeling stupid and angry. I didn’t even know if I was in the right place, because I couldn’t even communicate with her.

And I thought to myself, ‘You people come to my country, and you can’t even be bothered learning my language.’

How quick was that! Zero to racist in a split second, and that statement isn’t even remotely true. It’s not my country, or my language. I certainly didn’t discover Australia, or invent English.

I don’t even own a little part of Australia. Travelling around doing comedy all the time, I don’t even pay rent. Every implication of that statement is false. When the Europeans arrived, there were already people here, and they had a very different language to English.

Anyway into a third launderette. Working behind the counter was another Asian lady, and I thought, ‘Here we go again’. However I plastered on a smile, and asked nicely.

This woman was really helpful, and an hour later I had clean and dry clothes. I was so excited I put on my jeans straight out of the dryer, and the metal button burnt me in a very delicate place. On the elbow. Well, it wasn’t the elbow, but it was the same type of skin. The same type of slightly wrinkly, slightly hairy, and very delicate skin.

For a few weeks afterwards, I thought about my trials at the three launderettes. I can’t deny that I had some racist thoughts, but I think the important point is that I didn’t say or do anything racist.

You can’t stop thoughts, but you can control what you do with them.

If we couldn’t control our thoughts, I’m pretty sure not one baby would make it past one month old. Because of all the crying and shitting, and because all babies taste like Kentucky Fried Chicken. If you don’t believe me, try one.

With my racist thoughts, the pivotal thing is that I didn’t act on them. I didn’t yell at anyone or hurt anyone, get a shit tattoo with a map of Australia that says ‘full’, put a dumb sticker on my ute, or join a hate group. Not even a virtual one.

I certainly didn’t write a Facebook post like, ‘We Grew Here, You Flew Here.’

That’s a statement that first became popular during the Cronulla riots in December, 2005. It now seems to come up now whenever there’s any sort of racial tension, and I’ve got two major problems with it.

Firstly, if there are any criminals arriving in Australia today, by plane or boat, seriously what’s more Aussie than that? Real life reenactments of the First Fleet. That’s reality television gold.

Sometimes after I’ve said, people reply with, ‘Are you serious? I supposed you’d just let ‘em all in?’

And you know what, I would. This country population wise is 97% immigrants and 3% aboriginal. It does feel rude to draw a line now.

My second problem with ‘We Grew Here, They Flew Here’? Just because something rhymes, it doesn’t mean it’s true.

Like if was to say, ‘The finest tasting tea is made from human pee.’ That’s just gross.

Or, ‘The best Xmas roast is made from burnt toast.’ Well that’s just weird.

However if I said, ‘Anyone who believes that there’s any truth in the statement ‘We Grew Here, They Flew Here’ is a massive racist moron.’

Well that doesn’t rhyme, but is true.

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