Flat White

So you think you’re not racist? We’ll just redefine racism

18 March 2021

1:25 PM

18 March 2021

1:25 PM

The ‘scourge’ of racism is allegedly ‘resurgent’ in Australia. Again. At least, it is according to Chin Tan, Race Discrimination Commissioner at the Australian Human Rights Commission.

Mr Tan has declare that racism poses ‘significant threats’ and is urging the federal government to create an anti-racism framework — with funding, of course — to replace the last one, which must be outdated, having been created eons ago in 2018.

But if the ‘scourge of racism’ doesn’t seem to describe the Australia you and I know, there’s the clue to what’s going on here. Mr Tan is using a familiar word – ‘racism’ – but he means something new.

‘Racism’ was originally used to mean that people thought members of different racial groups had differentiating characteristics that rendered them inferior or superior to other groups.

But when Mr Tan uses the word ‘racism’, he is not referring to prejudice. That’s the old, discredited meaning. Instead, he uses it to mean that all our social interactions and institutions are ‘racialised’.

If you don’t see it, or you’re not aware of it, then it can only be because you’ve not woken up to the existence of this institutionalised injustice. In other words, it’s because you’re not woke.

So he wants to sweep up every problem of social injustice — as well as some confected ones — and deposit them in the box marked ‘racism’. And alleged ‘anti-Asian’ racism due to Covid is just the start.


He thinks the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement has highlighted the problem of racism. However, he also says racism is not only directed against Indigenous Australians, but also against Muslims and asylum seekers.

Oddly, Mr Tan appears to overlook completely the resurgence of antisemitism in Australia which has become a particular problem — although largely denied — on the political Left.

One reason for this omission is that most Jewish people are white. According to the orthodoxies of wokeness, white people are perpetrators of racism but can never be its victims.

Of course, Mr Tan’s assessment of racist threats may not be wholly objective. A race discrimination commissioner who said racism was not a problem in Australia would be – well, out of a job.

But that’s not to say we can be complacent about having forged one of the most successful and cohesive multi-cultural societies in the world. After all, social cohesion doesn’t just happen.

It arises from a deep commitment to preserving the fundamental cultural and liberal principles on which our society is built, such as the rule of law and protection of human rights.

And certainly, a year of Covid-19 restrictions — including lockdowns, forced separation from families and friends, and job losses — has imposed serious strains on our physical and mental wellbeing.

Taking an old word and attaching a new meaning is a key tactic used by the progressive warriors focused on identity politics and reinterpreting visual and textual meaning. For those of us who are not woke, this sleight of hand is bound to be confusing.

And it is upsetting because language is used in woke ways to describe — and decry — an Australia that is simply not familiar to us. As such, it demeans the civic effort we all make to our country.

This is not to say there are no people in Australia who are racist in the old, pernicious sense of the word; who hold and express vile opinions.

But it is to say that when Mr Tan warns of a ‘scourge of racism’ in Australia, he is, sadly, doing more to provoke division and distress than to encourage Australians in the civility for which we are known.

Peter Kurti is Director of the Culture, Prosperity & Civil Society program at the Centre for Independent Studies, and author of Toxic Mutation of an Ancient Hatred: Left-Wing Antisemitism.

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