Thursday, November 11, 2010

On Racism.

Apparently there’s a proposal for a constitutional amendment specifically to recognise Aboriginal people. Didn’t we already adequately do this in 1967 when we removed the (deplorable) clauses that excluded them from voting and being counted in censuses? What more recognition do they need than to be treated as equals? And don’t start on the whole “they were here first” issue. Their ancestors were here before my ancestors: it’s not the same thing. Whether my great-to-the-nth-power grandfather lived in Bendigo or Birmingham has no bearing on my nature today, and to grant me special recognition or status based on it is absurd. I have no obligation to be ashamed of, or resentful of, something that was done 200 years before I was even born.

What is this amendment supposed to achieve? As long as we set aside specific clauses to recognise a subset of the population, we imply that they otherwise don’t count. As long as we attempt to counter racist discrimination with affirmative action, we fail to recognise the relevant equality we’re supposed to share.

The statistics show that people of Aboriginal descent have a shorter life expectancy than others, that their education level is likely to be lower, and so on. There are serious social problems in outback communities. But none of these problems will be solved with words. And they will not be solved by setting aside special facilities and services for people based on their race. This is not what is meant by civil rights. It is a perversion; it is pandering to special-interest lobbyists who have no more in common with rural communities or disadvantaged socio-economic groups than I do; and it demonstrably doesn’t work. To offer special concessions to a racial group is to imply they need special concessions because of their ethnicity, which we know is not the case.

To be sure, plenty of Aboriginals do need government help (don’t we all at some point); but they don’t need help because being Aboriginal is itself a disadvantage. They need help because they’re poor, or because they live in a community which lacks certain services, or because they live in a dysfunctional family situation — and these problems are neither caused by being Aboriginal nor exclusive to those who are. If the existing welfare arrangements and so on aren’t enough (and let me be among the first to say they aren’t), then they should be expanded so as to be available to all who need them, black or white or anywhere in between. If two people go to the same school, get the same results, and apply for the same scholarship, the decision as to who should get it should not come down to the colour of their skin. If I interview for a position, I want to get it on my own merits, not because the employer is afraid I’ll sue him for “discrimination” if I don’t.


  1. I find AbStudy alarming.

    Sure, it's means tested. But even if you fit the means criteria for financial disadvantage, you won't get the support if you're anything other than Aboriginal. You must belong to that "race" in order to be eligible to apply.

    How do people not see that this is racism? If the deciding factor is your race, then that is what it is.

  2. Dammit, I left a comment and my frickin' wireless dropped out again and ate it.

    What I was trying to say was, there's no actual respect going to Aboriginal people via all these benefits. The poor end up stereotyped as grotty welfare leeches, and the successful will never be sure if they are being rewarded for their own abilities or their racial backgrounds. How great would that make you feel?

  3. The thing that I always think of is "but what if N% don't want to go to university anyway..."

    It's like how some huge percentage of Ni-Vanuatu don't go to university. Sure, for those who DO want to go, it's sad. But for those who don't actually want to go? That's their prerogative and we shouldn't force our university culture onto them...

  4. Very true, Rougie. For that matter, how well do you think our civilisation would survive if everyone was university-educated? We need tradies, we need artists, we need entrepreneurs, we need unskilled grunts for that matter. I'm very glad to be able to work as one of the latter alongside my work at university, as (I think) it gives one a marvellous sense of perspective.

    You've also raised another crucial point — what matters is not statistical equality, but equality of opportunity. Statistically a greater proportion of people living in rural areas aren't university-educated — and provided they have the same opportunity for such education as the rest of us, that's probably just as well. You don't need a university education to run a farm, or drive a truck, and if that's what you wanted to do then uni would be wasted on you.