Monday, December 12, 2005

Race Riots - What Do You Win?

When I came out to Australia as a student way back in the lare 80s, I was warned by an older cousin and others to expect a little racism - little things, like not being served when you reached the front of the queue at Mackers in favour of the person behind you, being pointedly ignored by some shop assistants, the odd unfriendly comment or two. Little things like that.

Even so, I was assured, Australia was a generally friendly place. And they were right. Sure, I got spat at once on Barrack St, and was verbally abused on the train to Freo once, and there was the on-going hate poster campaign by the ANM...

But those "bad" old days are long gone. For the likes of me anyway.

We slant-eyed gooks aren't perceived as real threats anymore, except by the rare nutter who didn't get the memo about 9/11. That's right, overnight, the world found a new villain race that was certifiably evil.

So, bizarrely, some of us "minorities" have finally achieved what we've always wanted: integration into mainstream Australian culture. We now share the same concerns about holidaying in Bali and airport security and anti-terrorism measures. We have all been made victims of the same global threat.

For the first time in my life, I'm not the "other". I don't feel even remotely threatened as a non-European in a European-based society. My racial identity is simply not an issue in the current climate. As an Asiatic, I might as well be white.

It also means, however, that I am now complicit in the racial attacks against the Muslim and Arab communities. And this despite growing up in a multicultural country, and having Muslim colleagues, neighbours, and relatives.

I am aghast at the racially motivated mob scenes over east, but I am also relieved not to be identified with the target group of "people of Middle-Eastern" appearance.

See, it wasn't that long ago I was one of those targeted by the inbred association. Now somebody else has drawn their fire and I find myself uncomfortable by the realisation that I'm glad it isn't me anymore.

Racialism occurs in cycles, based on each subsequent wave of immigration. The Mediterranean peoples experienced it, the Vietnamese and Chinese experienced it, the Africans experienced it. But I have a nasty feeling the present undercurrent of fear and hostility towards those communities from predominantly Muslim countries are going to see the worst of it for a long time yet to come.

No comments: