There’s this one prevalent issue in this society that never fails to set me off emotionally. I always start to choke up inside and most times I need to bury my head in my hands with helplessness.
But it gets to my heart and the essence of my soul because it’s been an obstacle that’s hurt me, and my family too many times during our journey of adjustment in making Australia our home. It’s something that I earnestly pray that my boys will never experience. That they will always feel that they belong here.
And this morning, Mr Surfer innocently brought it up: Racism.
My husband just happened to be talking about this week’s SBS Insight program, “I’m Not Racist, But…”
Of course he didn’t mean to upset me. He simply mentioned some of the covered topics that spoke to him – mainly of the past racist views people have had here in Australia. And you see, anything do with the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s combined with racist Australia always cuts me. Always.
This is the way to start a process of digression for me. It brings up memories of isolation, bullying, prejudice and hardship.
Anyway, yesterday afternoon, with it being Harmony Day – a day to celebrate and take pride in our diverse Australia – I decided to watch the re-run. I held my breath, worried for the anticipated tears and emotion.
But, I’m so glad I watched it.
The main discussion was about whether racism is genetic. Whether we’re all hardwired with some sense of prejudice as a form of perhaps, protection. What is the unknown to us, we stay cautious, we steer clear away from. We make no effort to actually make that unknown – whether it be the cultural or religious aspect of another group – to change it into the known and educated realm of our own safe environment.
Here are some facts that were raised:
* Australians today make up of 250 ancesteries and speak 400 languages
* In 2011 a survey conducted over 2,000 people found that 25% have a negative attitude to Muslims
* 3 million Australians speak another language in their home besides English
* Statistics show that in 2007, 9% of Australians experienced racism. In 2011 the number increased to 14%.
* The Australian government is spending 1.7 million dollars on an Anti-Racism Strategy
Suffice to say, I don’t think we are born racist. Not even partially. I simply don’t buy it. To accept that argument leaves the door dangerously open for complacency. As we can easily say we’re a society that doesn’t tolerate racism, then surely it starts with eliminating any excuses for it. Completely.
I sit here, worried sick that my boys will be facing it. So, I’m going to do all that I can in my own power as a mother and member of society to ensure that they learn how to respect others from different backgrounds as much as I will teach them to be proud of their mixed heritage.
They’re going to understand and spread the story of how their Indonesian grandparents worked so hard to earn a spot for themselves, their own children and their children’s children…as true blue Australian citizens.
I admit, this isn’t the most articulate of my posts. But it was important for me to hammer something out during Cultural Diversity Week (March 17 – 25).
Sometimes it’s not so much about writing for the sake of it. But to speak out what’s burning in my heart. To reach out and have people and friends understand where I’m coming from.
P.S If you’re interested, SBS Two is running another rerun of Insight on Friday 7:30pm.