Most of us might not think of ourselves as racists, but the hard cold facts tell a different story writes Tory Shepherd.
Most of us might not think of ourselves as racists, but the hard cold facts tell a different story writes Tory Shepherd.

Australia’s racism score is in and it paints a grim picture

ANALYSIS

Everyone would like to think that they would be a hero, should the need arise.

They'd be the first one diving into the lake to save the drowning child. They'd spearhead the charge into the burning house, emerging with one puppy in each hand. That they'd be good Samaritans, on the right side of history.

We like to think the best of ourselves. As Equal Opportunity Commissioner Niki Vincent once told me, everyone gets out of bed thinking they're the good guy.

This is why we like to think Australia is not a racist country.

I'm going to take a wild guess here that, when faced with the news that three in four of us have an "implicit bias" against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, stacks of Australians automatically thought: "Yeah, but I'm not racist".

The Australian National University study released this week tested 11,000 Australians' reactions to pictures of different races. It found people might not have a "F. k off, we're full" bumper sticker, but they're still unconsciously biased.

This is subtle territory. Researcher Siddharth Shirodkar went to pains to point out that having this implicit bias doesn't mean you're a card-carrying white supremacist.

(Actually, far more professionally, he said: "These results show there may be an implicit negative bias against indigenous Australians across the board, which is likely the cause of the racism that many First Australians experience.")

Last week, protests to stop Black deaths in custody were held across the country. Picture: Jason Edwards
Last week, protests to stop Black deaths in custody were held across the country. Picture: Jason Edwards

You may never knowingly act on your discriminatory beliefs. But you still have them. Well, most of you do. Even if you think you're one of the good eggs.

This is what actor Meyne Wyatt was getting at in his fierce and powerful monologue on Q&A on Monday.

"It used to be that 'in your face', 'you boong', 'you black dog coon' kinda shit …," he said.

"But nah, we've come forward, we're progressive, we're gonna give you that small subtle shit, the shit that's always been there but it's not that obvious in-your-face shit. It's like 'ooh, nah we can't be seen to be racist' kind of shit."

He talks about privilege, stereotypes, racial-profiling, pigeonholing, about everyday racism faced, every day, by people in Australia who do not have white skin.

This kind of nuance, the way Wyatt explained implicit bias, is exactly what scares the crap out of people who like to cloak their racism, their bigotry, in free speech rants.

Their defence mechanism used to be the war cry that political correctness has gone "maaaaaad". As though their freedoms were under attack, whereas it was just that their biases were being criticised.

But there is a new war cry from those who want to be able to say and do what they want with impunity.

Meyne Wyatt addressed the issue of implicit bias on Q&A earlier this week. Picture: ABC
Meyne Wyatt addressed the issue of implicit bias on Q&A earlier this week. Picture: ABC

Here's an abridged guide to some of the words now being appropriated by people who want to say what they want, while silencing any criticism.

WOKE

This week Brendan O'Neill from Spiked Online declared that Black Lives Matter protests were not just politically correct, dangerously backwards and strange, but "like the woke Taliban".

To call someone "woke" is just a newer way of calling them "politically correct". The word itself means that someone is concerned about social issues, such as racism and inequality. It has a long history of use by black Americans urging people to stay awake, stay aware. Sounds terrible, eh?

SAFETYISM

The authors of The Coddling Of The American Mind invented this term to refer to the overprotection of a generation of people who are hiding in "safe spaces", who need "trigger warnings". Who are, in short, fragile snowflakes. All these phrases have been picked up by the political-correctness-gone-maaaaaad mob to argue that such safetyists need to toughen up, that their right to feel safe should not trump the Maaaaaaders' right to say whatever they want. Of course, it's almost always people in positions of power that demand others toughen up and take whatever they're dished up.

White Australians may say they are racist, but the data shows otherwise. icture: Jason Edwards
White Australians may say they are racist, but the data shows otherwise. icture: Jason Edwards

MICROAGGRESSIONS

Microaggressions are phrases, jokes or actions that may not seem to be explicitly bigoted. It's women being ignored in meetings, or Asian students being told their (perfect) English is good. As Wyatt said, it's the "subtle shit" that makes it clear who holds the power in the room.

IDENTITY POLITICS

Dominant groups like to weaponise the use of "identity politics". That is, women fighting for women's rights, or Aboriginal people fighting for Aboriginal justice. Again, you'll note it's almost always a very specific type of "identity" who doesn't like "identity politics".

These words and phrases are just part of the expanded vocabulary of the Maaaaaaders. They're silencing techniques, designed to paint anyone who wants more inclusive language, fewer racist acts, and more equality in the world as weak, or power hungry.

These bullies, who want to silence those who don't have their privileges, like to think of themselves as heroes. As "free speech" warriors. But really, they just want to keep behaving like dicks.

Sorry, was that politically incorrect?

Tory Shepherd is a columnist for the Adelaide Advertiser.

Originally published as Australia's racism score is in, and it paints a grim picture


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