Flat White

Is Australia racist?

10 July 2021

12:41 PM

10 July 2021

12:41 PM

Yes, I am writing another article making the claim that Australia is not a racist country. While some might think I have an obsession with the topic, I don’t—I simply write articles in response to other articles I see out there in the social media. If there is any obsession, it is on the part of those who write articles I oppose. 

For example, just a few days ago news.com.au posed the leading question “Do you think Australia is racist?” on their webpage. Of course, anyone who does not make it their mission in life to be offended or be a virtue signaller, knows that Australia is not a racist country.

The question posed by news.com.au is what I refer to as, a ‘mental illusion’. The illusion works for the social justice warriors and race hounds who need to see racism everywhere. Very simply, by mental illusion, I mean that while a person reads the words “Do you think Australia is racist” their brains translate it into “Do you think there is any racism in Australia?”  

The first question is difficult to answer. For example, before answering it, one needs to know what proportion of Australians would need to be racist in order to call Australia a racist country. Is the answer 10%, 25%, 50%, or greater than 50%? Further, once deciding on the cut off criteria, we then need to know how to measure it—an almost impossible task. The second question is much easier; of course there is racism in Australia. However, while there is some racism, it is very minimal. Daniel Kahneman in his great book, Thinking, fast and slow, writes that if we can’t find a satisfactory answer to a hard question, we will find a related question that is easer and we will answer it. And that’s what happens here.  

The two questions just mentioned are very different from each other. For those who are keen to see racism everywhere, their brains defer to the second question, and so any observed instances of racism in Australia equate with “Australia is a racist country”, or even inequalities between different racial groups are seen as examples of racism and hence, proof positive that Australia is a racist country.  

And let me be perfectly clear here in my position on racism in Australia before my words are misconstrued: I do believe there is racism in Australia, but I do not believe Australia is a racist country. I will gladly reconsider my position when I see some good evidence that Australia is racist. Currently, the best evidence I see are claims, masquerading as ‘research’, that rely on self-reported data. While I do not immediately dismiss people’s reported experiences of claimed racism when completing a survey, I do treat them with scepticism.  

Consider the report of a survey of experiences of racism by Aboriginal Australians conducted by the Victorian Heath Department, which reported that 97% of those surveyed had experienced racism in the previous 12 months. This choice of wording could be interpreted as actual verified experiences of racism that took place, however, later in the report the authors state “participants’ self-reported experiences of racism”. Of course, the survey respondents could be telling the truth, but I have my suspicions. 

I can think of several reasons why a person may claim to be a target of racism when in fact they are not. In an article in the Law & Social Inquiry journal in 2006, its authors, Kaier and Major, stated that blaming negative outcomes, such as termination or a poor job review on discrimination, can buffer one’s feelings of self-worth. In other words, it can be much easier after receiving negative feedback, to convince oneself of “I’m a victim of discrimination or racism” than to face the bitter truth of “Maybe my performance was not up to scratch”.  

Social scientists have spoken about our tendency to embellish events of the past when recalling them, in ways that make us feel special—and most of us like to feel special. Could this be happening when people tell of being a victim of racism when completing a survey? In their excellent book Mistakes were made (but not by me) Tavris and Aronson state “memories are often pruned and shaped by an ego-enhancing bias that blurs the edges of past events, softens culpability, and distorts what really happened”. But of course, for the person reporting on what they claimed happened to them in a survey on racism, they are 100% certain that they have been the target of racism, and are likely to claim: “My lived experience tells me so”.  

But once the seed is planted that Australia is a racist country, then an event of real racism or even a claim of racism is confirmation for one’s pre-existing belief that we are a racist nation. Even for events that are not racist but require tough calls to be made on borders, immigration, or similar, the race hounds take this as irrefutable proof that Australia is a racist country.  

So why do the race hounds insist that Australia is a racist country when they lack the evidence to show that it is? I believe it is virtue signalling—they just want to play the part of hero or saint. They can make their unfounded claims of racism and then say to themselves: “Ah, I’m such a good person. I’ve taken a stand against racism.” 

I will close with a quote attributed to American Economist Thomas Sowell, who has said “Racism is not dead, but it is on life support, kept alive by politicians, race hustlers and people who get a sense of superiority by denouncing others as ‘racist’.” I think it is very relevant to the Australian context. 

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