Racism: Pauline Hanson is the symptom, not the problem

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It's easy to vilify Pauline Hanson because she is a parochial wind bag but it should not be in ignorance of the fact that she is a symptom of whiteness and ethnocentric racism, writes Indigenous affairs editor, Natalie Cromb.

WE ALL KNOW who she is, what she has said and what she stands for.

She is Pauline Hanson – well known racist, bigot, xeonophobe, sophophobe, phronemophobe – I could go on.

Her reputation precedes her and in 2016, she should be something in the past that we uncomfortably laugh about like a bad perm or a near miss: imagine if we ever elected that crazy racist to parliament. Except you did get the perm and we as a nation did vote Pauline Hanson into parliament in 1996.

Her maiden speech on 10 September 1996, opened with:

My view on issues is based on commonsense, and my experience as a mother of four children, as a sole parent, and as a businesswoman running a fish and chip shop. I won the seat of Oxley largely on an issue that has resulted in me being called a racist. That issue related to my comment that Aboriginals received more benefits than non-Aboriginals.

We now have a situation where a type of reverse racism is applied to mainstream Australians by those who promote political correctness and those who control the various taxpayer funded "industries" that flourish in our society servicing Aboriginals, multiculturalists and a host of other minority groups.

Yes, she said that.

The thing is, we cannot look back with embarrassed bewilderment wondering how we were ever that stupid because she has just been elected, in 2016, to the Senate.

Pauline Hanson is a senator in Australia in 2016.

It doesn’t matter how many times I say it, despite being on the front lines of racist bigotry in Australia every day, I cannot comprehend that Australians – 361,419 of them and counting – have voted for Pauline Hanson to represent them and their interests in the Senate.

Pauline Hanson is an uneducated, closed minded, awful excuse for a human being but she is not the problem — she is an opportunistic symptom. Pauline stands for the values espoused in (at least) 4.1 per cent of the voting population — specifically, hate and exclusion of "otherness". The targeted "otherness" changes from time to time but never does it target "whiteness" because that, my friends, is never something to fear (unless you are black).

The point is, despite how outlandish some of the population may consider Pauline’s views, she has a massive following who mirror her views – many more than the polls suggest – because there would be many who put a number "one" for their major party to which they remain loyal but place a number two next to One Nation because they too support the exclusion of Islam, closing of borders and review of Halal industry.

This hegemonic view of "other" is not based on legitimate fear, it is racism. And it is not new for Australia.

Australia has a long history with racism and the racism that has pervaded this land since 1788, has been particularly targeted towards Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from the very first act of racism — the declaration of terra nullius. This was a lie predicated upon British ethnocentrism but it did not stop there, it included immigrants with the enactment of the White Australia Policy and continues against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, non-white asylum seekers and immigrants — particularly if any of the aforementioned are of the Muslim faith.

In Australia, the crux of the racist attitudes are rooted in the long relationship between government and (Christian) Church, notwithstanding the theoretical separation of powers. Australian societal attitudes and behaviour towards Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, non-Christian immigrants and, particularly, Muslim people is borne of the corrupt relationship between Government and Church and their inherent ethnocentrism.

But racism in Australia is not a dark (pun intended) history in which we can look back upon with the safe knowledge of having learned from the mistakes of the past — it is alive and well in Australia, especially so since the Coalition came to power in 2013.

One of the most glaring aspects of racism in Australia, is how we deal with questions surrounding what is racism and what is not. Invariably, we have some white commentator on right wing media franchises telling us that a racist comment or action isn’t racist, that it was humour or tongue-in-cheek and that we are all getting a little carried away with political correctness.

By continuing to denigrate race and culture into casually accepted racism, we are missing the point and widening the divide within Australia. To spell it out: it is not for a white privileged person to say what is or is not racism. It is not for a white person to tell a black person how to feel.

There are many contributing factors for the endemic racism in Australia, but the government, legal system and media are the most culpable and capable of changing the landscape. They are controlled by privileged white men and consider that it is not in their interests to make change. 

So we cannot afford to wait for the parochial patriarchy to take action — we must do it ourselves.

It is up to each and every person that detests prejudice in all forms. Each and every person has a responsibility to call racism out when you see it. To recognise stereotypes and educate yourselves on the truth and think about what is not being reported on mainstream media, because often, what is not reported on these pathetic programs is the real news.

Ultimately, we all have a responsibility to not be arseholes. It is quite easy:

  • Form a view of a person based only on the content of their individual character and actions.
  • Realise you are one person with a set of experiences, learnings and values that shape who you are and you will never approach an issue the same as another and that is okay. Our differences are an opportunity to learn, not to perpetuate ethnocentric ideals.
  • If someone makes a racist or otherwise prejudiced comment, call them out on it. People make these comments because we live in a society where they feel safe to do so because they are the majority. It is time to educate and eradicate these notions of hatred and fear.

Australia’s racism is allowed to flourish because we as a society have, once again, elected a government that is fundamentally racist. We as a society have not stamped out racism — we have ignored or denied it to such an extent that it is now eating away at the fabric of decency that remained in our society.

Australia has a problem with racism. A significant portion of the Australian citizens hold – and act on – prejudiced views (voting for the likes of Pauline Hanson). A larger portion of Australian citizens are silent when racism is perpetrated against a person or group of people (voting for major parties who enact policies targeting racial and religious minorities).

There are very few taking a strong stand against racism and this is evidenced by another term of Coalition policies which target all minorities to varying degrees and the election of Pauline Hanson to the Senate.

We are about to see some horrifying events that will become abhorrent blights on our country’s (already repugnant) history in a time where we should know better.

I hang my head for Australia.

Natalie Cromb is a Gamileraay woman. You can follow Natalie on Twitter @NatalieCromb.

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