Gomeroi. This is MY truth.

On Anti Racism & the Campaigns that Don’t do Enough

Justine Sacco was still 30000ft in the air on her way to South Africa, blissfully unaware that her bosses at IAC had already signed her severance cheque and removed her from their website. The insensitiveness of her “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” tweet was jaw dropping, and a lot of people didn’t hesitate in letting her, and her employer know. I applaud IAC in their decision to cut ties with Sacco. It sends a very powerful message to all their employees along the lines of, we will not employ people who publically espouse these types of insensitive viewpoints, excuses will not be entertained.

Also in America, Buncombe County Republican precinct chairman Don Yelton went on The Daily Show and said a lot of heinously racist things about African Americans in an interview about voter ID laws. The North Carolina Republican party distanced itself from Yelton and pretty much forced him to resign. “This mentality will not be supported or propagated within our party.” GOP Chairman Henry Mitchell emphatically iterated in a statement released to the media. In doing so, the North Carolina Grand Old Party has effectively put all its party members on clear notice, by implying if you publicly tarnish our reputation in any way shape or form, we will cut all ties with you. This, to me, seems incredible. Like a lot of Australians I follow American politics peripherally, and I admit I was taken by surprise when I read about this. My assumptions about parts of North Carolina and certain arms of the GOP have been soundly scuttled, and it is definitely one of those times where I am very happy to be found wrong. If only companies and the conservative party here in Australia would prove me wrong instead of reinforcing my assumptions about just how willing they are to turn a blind eye to overtly racist comments that their employees and party members make publicly.

There have been numerous anti racism campaigns here in Australia, the newest of which is the ‘Racism, it stops with me’ a campaign that “Invites all Australians to reflect on what they can do to counter racism wherever it happens”. This campaign is supported by a multitude of companies, including Cricket Australia, AFL, Elders and the NRL. All of these organisations at one point or another have been at the centre of racism rows. It has become the new normal it seems, that whenever a company has to answer for letting racism go unchecked (and in the case of the NRL & AFL, the problems are legion) it just pulls out its cheque book. Elders on the other hand, is a whole different kettle of colonialist fish. Call me jaded or call me a cab, call me whatever you like, but anti racism campaigns will never make one iota of difference until there are measures in place at a legal and policy level that unequivocally signal that racialised abuse/racialised speak will not be entertained under any circumstance.

Section 18c of the Racial Discrimination Act comes close to the type of top level reform I am driving at. And yet this clause of the Racial Discrimination Act has been flagged for removal. One particular high profile instance this Act was used in was against a particularly nasty conservative columnist who racially vilified a number of Aboriginals, accusing them of using their Aboriginality to gain political points. The fact he was found to be in breach would have sent shockwaves through comfortably racist circles in Australia. It finally put them on notice and demonstrated that there were certain things that damaged other peoples reputations that you cannot say. To assume that this law is no different from, or, better served by the Defamation Act is wrongheaded and essentially puts Aboriginals, and indeed, all other ethnicities that are regular racial targets in Australia right back to pre anti racism campaigns. The quashing of Section 18c under the guise of free speech is freeing racists from the consequences of their speech, the hate it perpetuates and the hurt, humiliation and damage it causes.

So if Australia really wants to get real about stamping out racism it needs to ramp up its laws surrounding anti racism, not water them down. I would prefer to see anti racism campaigns centered around strengthening existing laws and creating new policies to be included in all companies policies and procedural manuals that specifically state a one strike rule and you will be asked to resign. No ifs ands or buts when it comes to racist speak. This is real anti racism. Not contemplating better ways to deal with racists. Because the best way to deal with racists, is to hit them in the hip pocket. Racists have to eat too.


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7 thoughts on “On Anti Racism & the Campaigns that Don’t do Enough

  1. Sadly strenghtening anti racism laws will not work which is why existing laws have failed, it may ensure that publically it is hidden from view but privately at home behind closed doors racism breeds and grows, it always has and will continue to do so, no law can counter these social traditions or the social conditioning passed down in families, in a sense it is tribal even when we are the same colour we find grounds to discriminate against one and other because we are all from different mobs and it is not until we have a common foe that we put aside our differences.
    Drug laws are in the same boat, 90yrs of criminalistion has proved that making something illegal does not change people or there thinking infact the opposite has occured in this case.

    • It’s ridiculous to try to police what people do/say in the privacy of their own homes. Strengthening laws around workplaces does send a powerful message though, and punishing racist behaviour there would have an effect. If people want to be racist at home, so be it, but there must be a safeguard in place in public spaces (esp working environments) that this type of speech/writing is not welcome and indeed, punishable by law.

      • Yes. This.
        Not the same I know, but I have a child with a disability. She had shit rained down in her everyday at school. School determined it was to hard to stop it so it would be her responsibility to ignore and not react ‘badly’ to the behaviour.
        My response was, if the negative consequences of the behaviour are greater than the perceived positive consequences, the behaviour will stop.
        In the end, isn’t that the goal?

  2. I agree with your summation….
    Recently I was stunned when at my workplace several young indigenous employees made comments in conversation which included “you white fella’s” as a way of discriminating between myself and them because of my fairer complexion and I was offended by the remark for 2 reasons, one being the obvious racial connotations “White” and secondly the fact I wasn’t and they could not see that, they had assumed a racial profile based on the conditioning they had recieved in their social and home environments, I didn’t correct them, they are racist and I don’t believe they will ever recognise that they are. Would I have had them charged under workplace anti racism laws if they had existed, probably not, but my respect for them as people and workmates has diminished.
    Racism is a two way street and in our normal expression of certain cliche’s it is easy to forget that defining colour is defining a racial difference based on colour which is the bases of racial discrimination.
    The term “white fellas” that I have used many times in conversations is actually a racist term we all use, until it was applied to myself it didn’t seem racist, I have dropped that term from my conversations and now use “you people”.

    • This is the shit I deal with everyday. Jackarses pretending reverse racism is real.

      • LOL…not reverse racism at all, nor is it a pretence, nor is it new, reality is what it is pretending or being in denial of the fact many indigenous are just as racist as any other race is an insult to your own intelligence, life is a two way street, ugly people walk both sides. Any attempt you make to bridge the gap and address these issues will fail. Thats why you deal with jackarses like me everyday, its like hearing a child yell “Its not me its you” and we all want to help you see clearly, your bias is not helping the cause.
        The problem is on both sides of the racial divide and those like myself who are caught in between can see it quite clearly as we hear it from both sides, what a pity you’re so blinded by your loyalty to one side when the real enemy is racism and not just non-indigenous.

  3. Sadly I think that part of the reason the Republican Party might be more aware of these issues is because African Americans, or Americans of African heritage, form a larger proportion (or apparent proportion) of the voting population there than people of Indigenous heritage apparently do here. That’s why liberal democracy as such is not enough and we also need laws to affirm basic rights of the person eg the right not to be vilified.

    So I really support the campaign to retain the legislative rights, but I also think there is another issue here, that many more people in Australia have Indigenous heritage than necessarily claim it, and many like me who grew up in the country didn’t necessarily have Indigenous heritage but we had friends who did. So I think we should all stand up for the right of people not to be vilified. All this petty stuff about how the right not to be offended should not over- ride the right to free speech is just BS – what people like Bolt really want is the right to vilify and insult people and not to be held responsible for it.

    Hope this isn’t too inflammatory or legally problematic to publish, but anyway, even if you can’t publish it, I’m with you in spirit and the thought is there. Cheers

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