Waleed Aly, lawyer, commentator, columnist and radio host, who has never hidden that he is a Muslim by birth and religion, and celebrated as the reasoned voice of Islam, and as such it would not be difficult to see him not dissimilarly as that German woman saw the American Jew, "But you are one of us" (as it were).
It was interesting therefore to read a recent column of Waleed Aly where he undertakes to unpick the polite racism of Australia's educated middle class claiming it is much worse than ugly tirades that go viral on YouTube. (www.smh.com.au)
Waleed Aly describes this polite educated middle class racism as:
"Like the racism revealed by an Australian National University study, which found you're significantly less likely to get a job interview if you have a non-European name. The researchers sent fake CVs in response to job advertisements, changing only the name of the applicant. It turns out that if you're surname is Chinese, you have to apply for 68 per cent more jobs to get the same number of interviews as a Anglo-Australian. If you're Middle Eastern, it's 64 per cent. If you're indigenous, 35 per cent.
"This is the polite racism of the educated middle class. It's not as shocking as the viral racist tirades we've seen lately. No doubt the HR managers behind these statistics would be genuinely appalled by such acts of brazen, overt racism. Indeed, they probably enforce racial discrimination rules in their workplace and are proud to do so. Nonetheless, theirs is surely a more devastating, enduring racism. There's no event to film, just the daily, invisible operation of a silent, pervasive prejudice. It doesn't get called out.
"It's just the way things are; a structure of society."
In essence, this 'structure of society' is at issue. So what is this structure of society and is it racist or is there some other explanation or explanations.
Alternatives to the racist card
Japan for example, has the world's most restrictive nationalistic laws anywhere in the world, but somehow you never hear about the Japanese being racist. What's that all about?
Attend any Christian Church in Australia and you'll more than likely find people groups from around the world. The congregation in which my wife and I worship have people groups from the Philippines, Scotland, Europe, New Zealand, South Africa, Canada and regularly students from Japan on exchange.
There is no racist card here, illustrated by the church's elections to various positions of responsibility. Like all people groups, there are those individuals who have talents in finance, service, administration, hospitality, pastoral care, transport and the like. Their surnames are like a Who's Who of internationalism.
Missionaries coming from out-of-Australia are now representatives of people groups from around the world. I'm involved in mentoring young Christian writers who are published in Christian Today Australia. Some of these young writers are from Asia, Africa, Europe, England, North America, New Zealand along with an indigenous woman. The editor is from Taiwan and his wife is Korean.
Modern Australia was founded by the English, its institutions and governance was a direct correlation to Westminister and when mass migration occurred after WWII from a devastated Europe, these people desperately wanted a fresh start, a new life and a peaceful world for their children.
It was neither assimilation or multi-culturalism, rather becoming part of the fabric of the nation and "doing one's bit" for their new communities where a fair Law existed for all. Just look at the newsreels of the time from the Snowy Mountains Scheme where innumerable people were interviewed. On their minds where the big three: Economic. Family. Justice.
If anything, as study after study has shown, that it's the second and third generation of those who have made Australia their home, that have themselves become part of the 'fabric of the nation'. They too are now the 'fabric of the nation'. The ANU study reasserts this in that, by the second generation immigrants have established their own networks. Our young writers from across the world have also illustrated this, in their high profile employment.
The question therefore, is what is it, to cause Waleed Aly to claim that polite racism of Australia's educated middle class (I'm one of them) is much worse than the ugly tirades that go viral on YouTube.
Surprised by the claim
I was surprised by this claim as one issue was recently clarified by the Judiciary regarding the Law of Australia. The second was heralded by ABC's Q&A on 1 April titled 'Faith & Love', with one Panellist the Iman, Dr Mohamad Abdalla who exclaimed annoyance and astonishment that Australia's media does not report official Islamic statements wholly are against specific acts of terrorism (including such behaviour as the recent Sydney Riot and rhetoric). (www.abc.net.au)
My wife Delma of 36 years enjoys watching medical programs on television, usually from 7.00pm through to 8.30pm. I retire to my office and my custom is to switch on ABC Radio National where Waleed Aly holds the floor. Perhaps Waleed might court Dr Abdalla to get copies of these statements in order that my ilk (Australia's educated middle classes, the most dangerous racists of them all, and who are his listeners), might actually hear such Islamic announcements. Waleed Aly, after all, is one of us.
Some years ago now, having grown up in Canberra Baptist Church, I was interested to learn that a group of the church's young people travelled to Melbourne and one of their meetings was with Waleed Aly. Indeed, they came back very positive, reassuring us all, that Waleed Aly is one of us (as it were)!
All around us
It would seem to me that racism has little if anything to do with this at all. Look around you, there are non-anglo-saxon names in every commerce and industry, private and Government, courting office at every level, including our various Parliaments at all levels – Federal, States and Local.
Does any of us really think that an Australian with a degree in something or other, migrates to a nation where English is not their first language, and without any previous correspondence, rolls up for degreed Class A employment, competing with those home spun well qualified applicants, get first preference? This takes time and it's not racism.
Recently, through an intermediary (networking), I secured an employment interview (in accountancy) for a new immigrant accountant. The great fear is that we get racism and other 'ims' in reverse. Two of my daughters secured professional employment last year and what if their qualifications and interviews were put aside because the employer felt pressured to employ:
- a new immigrant
- or a male
- or someone gay
- or indigenous
- or someone from a State whose employment figures are dire
- or someone from a particular religion
- the list goes on and on.
There appears to be a great deal of confusion (possibly concocted by those who have expertise in developing concoctions) between discrimination, racism and the politics of religion.
Check out this first sentence sub-headline (the same day Waleed Aly had his article published in the same paper, (SMH): "The race to replace former attorney-general Robert McClelland in the southern Sydney seat of Barton will hinge on which candidate locks in the support of Australia's largest Shiite mosque at Arncliffe." (www.smh.com.au)
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html