Tag Archives: discussing racism

Join the Racial Equality Book Club !

In order to encourage people to share their own experience, their own thoughts about racism, All Together Now proposes book clubs across Australia. If you are interested in fighting racism, and all kind of discrimination, and also in reading, this Club is made for you.

Every month, we will propose you a new Australian book with new questions to deal with the problem of racism in depth.

Our first book club will be held in Sydney on March 1st at 6pm. For those who are not in Sydney, do not worry, book clubs are planned in Brisbane, Perth and Melbourne. Join the Racial Equality Book Club on MeetUp for updates on meeting dates, times, locations and of course books!

Our first book for the year is the award-winning Populate and Perish, written by George Haddad. The author is Sydney-based and so has volunteered to come to the Sydney book club. The book is under 100 pages, so you still have time to read it and join us!

9781925143225

Nick is treading water. No boyfriend. No career. Living in a granny flat in Fitzroy North. On a whim he decides to travel with his twin sister, Amira, to Lebanon in search of their estranged father. Their mother, who passed away a couple of years earlier, only ever referred to him as the kalb – the dog. In Beirut Nick and Amira find family, a sense of belonging and surprising answers to questions they hadn’t known to ask.

1 Racism: the taboo topic oft misunderstood

The Sydney Morning Herald recently published an article about 7-Eleven workers of Indian descent continuing to being exploited, despite the outcry back when the exploitation was originally exposed in September 2015.

These immigrant workers were being paid as little as $16 to $0.43 per hour, and well below the minimum rate.

You have to congratulate the Australian Press for and not discussing the broader issue at hand i.e. racism.

Why is racism such a taboo topic to us? Australia is still marred by its own history, the period of colonisation and assimilation, which upended the First Australians and many migrants.

Much has been said and talked about the past, including former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd saying “Sorry” to the Stolen Generations of Aboriginal people.  However, there is a sense of hubris here in the analogy here that once an apology to Aboriginal people, forever no more racism in Australia altogether.

The reality is very different.

Today the country now has over 40 different ethnic racial groups living inside our borders and roughly 1 in 5 Australians have experienced racism in their lives.

Enter Malcolm Turnbull, the Prime Minister who claims to be right-progressive.  For the incumbent PM I have one of my own policies: vouch for a multicultural (and intercultural) Australia.

Alongside the $1bn Innovation boom and the $1bn Clean Energy Innovation Fund, put aside some money to a government initiative: Cultural Diversity Future Fund.

The aforementioned Cultural Diversity Future Fund will be two-pronged: Firstly research into contemporary ethnic and racial issues for 22nd century Australia.  And secondly, commercialising these ideas through the creation of a multicultural, intercultural Australia, which defines people based on talent, or contribution to the economy, instead of ethnicity.

A culturally diverse 22nd century Australia.

The Secret River and the Power of the Arts

I’ve seen the power of the arts to move, to educate, drive change and foster social cohesion many times. I experienced it intensely first hand, when I produced Crossings: Songs from the East in 2013.

The concert showcased a cross-cultural collaboration of traditional and improvised music spanning the Greek, Kurdish, Arabic and Persian traditions. It was an exciting coming-together for the first time of local Sydney-based musicians; four out of the five were first generation Australians from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds. They drew from both their musical heritage and their contemporary experience of multicultural Australia.

The audience, which we surveyed, said things like:

“Beautiful to see a coming together of cultures through the arts”…

“Brought back memories of home”…

“Wonderful! Especially watching the musicians improvising – working together… so much richness (and they say multiculturalism doesn’t work)! It is alive and brings so much richness to our lives and to Australia”…

The experience of that production impacted all involved, from the artists to the audience and everyone in between, in ways that only arts and cultural experiences can sometimes – on the level where words cease and only the senses and the human spirit exist. One comes away from an experience like that with a sense that something in them is a little different… a little changed.

As an audience member watching the Sydney Theatre Company’s latest production of The Secret River, I came away with exactly that feeling. I was shattered at the brutality of the story – the brutal truth in the story – but I was compelled to watch and listen.

I felt like I was bearing witness to a history not told often enough. In the author, Kate Grenville’s, words: “This book isn’t history, but it’s solidly based on history. Most of the events in the book “really happened” and much of the dialogue is what people really said or wrote.” Knowing this, I felt the weight of responsibility, like I was almost charged with the duty of carrying this history on, of re-telling it. So I made it my mission for days afterwards to tell everyone I met to go see the show.

It was hard to watch at times. The woman sitting to my left had her eyes closed for much of the massacre scene. It wasn’t explicit or visually disturbing – but it sat in that space – the space where words cease and only the senses exist. Clearly for the woman beside me, her senses were in overwhelm. I was grateful that the night I attended happened to be followed by the Q and A session with the actors and co-director afterwards – it was an opportunity for the audience to re-compose and debrief almost. More than that, it was a way to bring the savage racism of our history into the present.

The discussion that ensued was open and honest. The actors told of their own experiences of facing and witnessing racism today. Actor Ningali Lawford-Wolf told of how she was refused a ride by four taxi drivers on the street just outside the theatre. Richard Piper, who played the most savage of the white characters, talked of how the experience of being a part of this production changed him – made him reflect on times where he had been a bystander to racist incidences and had not acted. He spoke of the need for us all to speak up and take a stand in similar situations, and of his resolve to do differently next time. An audience member asked the questions: “What can we do? How can we do better when we leave this theatre?”. One of the younger cast members, Madeleine Madden, spoke about the power of the arts to move and affect change. Everyone on stage seemed to acknowledge a sort of shared social responsibility to tell the story with authenticity and sensitivity.

I came away with the feeling that the sentiment in that Q and A session was shared company-wide, and with 2 mins of online research I discovered the Sydney Theatre Company’s ‘Human Rights and Social Performance Statement’ As part of STC’s commitment to “operating as a responsible organisation” they state: “STC’s statement on Human Rights and Social Performance reflect our ability to uphold human rights within our organisation and our sphere of influence. We adhere to both international and local human rights legislation and reflect these in our human resources policies, practices and Code of Conduct.” Further down, in relation to audiences and the arts industry, it states: “We share our learning and promote human rights issues through giving voice to social issues by our choices in productions and our industry networks by contributing to conversations.”

This initiative – of writing the importance of social responsibility into the policies and strategic objectives of an organisation – is exactly what we need more of – especially in the arts and cultural industries, whose core ‘business’ is in the creation of meaning.

Go and see The Secret River if you can. Or read the book. Or watch the TV series. And share the story. Continue the conversation. It is our shared responsibility.

Review by Kiriaki Koubaroulis

 

Personal Responsibility and Racism

Taking Personal Responsibility for your own Racism

Everyone has the capacity to be racist, and unfortunately, sometimes we don’t realise that our behaviour is racist. Given the choice between reinforcing or disrupting racism, most of us would choose the latter. Read on to learn how to recognise and potentially change some common, covert, acts of bigotry.

Aversive Racism

Remember the news reports of those four Somalian high school boys who went to an Apple store, were stalked by the manager, searched and accused of ill intent and, finally, were escorted from the store?

If not click here.

What do think was going through the manager’s mind when he “reacted” to their presence in the store?

It was probably; I’m not racist but…

Have you ever crossed the street, intentionally ignored or avoided eye contact with someone because of his or her skin colour or clothing? Do you realise that you’re doing it for those reasons?

While you read this, think of those screens that threaten to fly up at the bank if you lean in too far. This is what aversion activates – the screen flies up! When we allow the screens to activate, we create an “Us” and a “Them”, a “Me” and an “Other”. We place a wall between one another.

This is an unconscious form of racism. It is not intentional but that doesn’t make it any less hurtful to the person on the receiving end.

How do we change this?

We use our ability to signal positive or neutral conscious awareness of each other. But how often do we think about this during such interactions?

Our acknowledgment of another person deepens when we engage in eye contact and display positive facial expressions. Aversive Racism, or putting up “screens”, means that this most basic interaction between humans is prevented and with it the possibility of recognition of our shared humanity is gone. Most of the time we don’t think about this, we just react to situations presented to us.

Have you ever driven through certain “ethnic” suburbs and checked if your doors are locked and wound your windows up?

When we encounter certain bodies in everyday circumstances, we always react to them, even at the level of no reaction; ignoring someone.

Certain groups and physical types experience these aversive reactions routinely. These experiences create a range of negative outcomes in the people who absorb our reactions because these experiences shape their existence. They change the way that people see both themselves and others. Then their emotions take over, which has implications for future interactions. These experiences mediate their validity as a human being and their self worth pays the price.

Now just pause for a minute and think about how the boys in the Apple store might have felt…

And that’s just one instance, out of how many? Probably hundreds. Daily!

Eventually oppressed minorities get into a habit of seeing themselves through other people’s eyes.

Now imagine adopting a view about yourself, which is based on other people’s negative opinions.

Oppressed minorities “experience nervousness or avoidance from others, even from those whose discursive consciousness aims to treat them with respect as equals” (Young: 1990:142). In other words, people who have acknowledged that, somewhere along the line, they have developed a racist element within their personality have to work pretty hard to change the behaviour and underlying assumptions on which their prejudice is based.

Do you know why Dick Cheney supports same-sex marriage?

Because his daughter is a lesbian!

Often, all it takes is to know someone. Aversion stops us from getting to know the “Other”. Aversion creates the “Other”.

What are some ways that we can overcome this?

  • Better education.
  • Intentionally seeking better experiences.
  • Don’t let the negative experiences undermine or erase the positive experiences.
  • Stop adopting someone else’s negative views and sentiments. Think for yourself.
  • Ask our selves how often have we heard language like “Coons”, “Wogs”, “Darkies”, “Gooks”, “Dago’s”, “Musies” being used around the house and in everyday society. Challenge it!
  • Stereotyping (this one is huge and I will devote another article on this one in the near future). Basically, “Stereotyping” shrinks people into a neatly despised package.

Repetitive representations of ethnicities and oppressed minorities shape how we see them in reality. Think of what an asylum seeker looks like. What image first comes to mind? Is it a person in a boat, a person drowning, a person starving?

Most people like to think that they’re above this or smart enough to be able to differentiate between propaganda and reality, but this type of thinking only weakens our defences against propaganda.

It’s not the victim’s responsibility to reform the oppressor.

When we shift the focus back onto ourselves, we make it our personal responsibility to change and by doing so, we can proudly declare; I am racist but… I’m working on it.

 

Work Cited

 

Young, M., I., (1990) Justice and the Politics of Difference, Princeton: Princeton University Press

Interview with L-Fresh the Lion

All Together Now was lucky enough to catch up with one of our ambassadors, L-Fresh the Lion, who has been a trailblazer for social justice in the hip-hop music scene. Natalia spoke to L-Fresh not only about how he got into the hip-hop industry in the first place, but how he embraced his culture as a practicing Sikh into his music, and what his thoughts were on diversity in the entertainment industry in Australia.

 

TRANSCRIPT:

All Together Now: How do you express your cultural and ethnic identity through hip-hop? Do you think that music and hip-hop, particularly, is a universal platform that may be understood by everyone regardless of their cultural background or religion?

L-Fresh the Lion: Hip-hop music and hip-hop culture in general, I think, is one of those beautiful things which goes beyond the barriers of race, class, gender, politics and any type of inequality, and becomes a force that brings people together in a positive way. In terms of my cultural identity, I think that this is an inevitable part of me that comes across everything that I do without having me to think about it. This is so much a part of who I am from the formation of my values to more notably in my appearance as I am a practicing Sikh. So, you know, culture is there in everything that I do.

All Together Now: Are you keen to express your views on racism in your lyrics? What motivates you to speak up?

L-Fresh the Lion: I’ve been thinking about it since the first time I wrote my lyrics, when I was a 14-years-old teenager in high school. The first thing I ever wrote was called ‘World of Discrimination’, talking about my experience with racism. So, it started from the very beginning. I think it was one of the core things that brought me to a space where I felt like I needed to write music. Again, it’s one of those things that influenced me in that I was raised by my parents and by those around me to be a vocal and active member of society, to be someone who is interested in not only uplifting those around me in the community, but also to be a positive force in a world. I feel that it’s my duty to use this platform, to be able to develop life through the music, and positively contribute to the world around me. Moreover, one of those things that I am obviously talking about is my experience with racism. And I think it is still here, because this is a very prominent issue in our society today.

All Together Now: Why did you join All Together Now? What led you here?

L-Fresh the Lion: All Together Now is the only organization existing in a 24/7 basis in Australia, which calls to address racism in a positive way. One of the important things I’ve seen All Together Now do is work with young people, while taking innovative approach to tackling racism. All Together Now makes people feel like they are active participants in creating a better society. That was important for me not only personally, but also because regardless of what I was doing, or speaking about, I was always trying to find a way to address this problem. When I found All Together Now operating in that space and I heard about their projects, I wanted to be involved and be able to help them and to make contributions.

All Together Now: How much is the spirit of multiculturalism felt in the underground hip-hop community? Is this community open to everyone who is willing to join it?

L-Fresh the Lion: Hip-hop since its inception is in America, but also in Australia has been very multicultural. Some of the first people who operated in the space of hip-hop in Australia came from all worlds of life. From the perspective of the present, contemporary hip-hop is on the level where you have people from diverse backgrounds, operating in this space. This is because, like I mentioned earlier, hip-hop erases all those barriers that tend to differentiate us as human beings. So, it’s a very multicultural space that often doesn’t get reflected in mainstream media. That’s because we have issues in the entertainment industry as a whole, which haven’t been spoken about quite extensively. Most recently it was discussed, I think on Sunrise, there was debate about the lack of diversity in the entertainment industry and, more specifically, on TV. Lack of diversity is something that is prevalent in all entertainment industries in Australia. But the roots of this problem are on a community level. That is what people don’t see unless they are active participants in hip-hop. Hip-hop is very, very diverse.

LFresh_tweet

All Together Now: Do you have a big dream? What is that?

L-Fresh the Lion: Wow (laughing), I have lots of dreams. I suppose, it depends on context, you know, because I have dreams in a variety of different aspects in my life. If we are talk about dreams on my personal level, I have dreams in terms of what family I would like to build, or dreams about music. But I also have dreams about what I would like to see in politics, or what I would like to see in the world. I think, those things are important, and I want to share these dreams with people. I would like to see a country that could be an example of a space of values. I’d love to see the dominant culture in Australia becomes one of welcome, one of love and compassion, and one of valuing all human lives equally, and not some more than others.

I would like to see these dreams not just be reflected on a theoretical level, but enforced on a practical level. To ensure that inequality is addressed, we firstly have to begin with the inequality gap between Indigenous Australians and the rest of the community, as well as looking at the gender inequality between Australian men and women. The discussion of inequality is also raised when we are talking about the way we treat asylum seekers and refugees, and migrants in general in the context of race. I think these are all things that come down to the culture we live in, especially when we don’t have a dominant culture that consists of positive values. I would like to see Australia leading in that space of positive values. It is a dream that I have to speak out about, because Australia could be a leading example of positive racial culture and show this to the rest of the world, so that they can follow.

All Together Now: What do you consider makes a person a ‘Real Australian’?

L-Fresh the Lion: I think the answer to this question is something that I have been looking for my whole life. Been born in Australia, in South-West Sydney, and growing up here for a long period of time, and even to this day at some point, I’ve been made to question myself. People have questioned how Australian I am, because I don’t look like what people would consider an average Australian to look like. I look culturally different. So, I’ve been looking for that answer for a long, long time, because at what point can we collectively determine who is and who isn’t an Australian?

You know, I think, that the answer is obvious when you ask does the person have an Australian passport, or is that person an Australian citizen. But when you enter the term ‘Real Australian’ that makes things much, much more complicated. ‘Real’ becomes a question mark. How can we determine it? I think some important questions come with this word and we need to think about it. I don’t think that I have as an individual the sole power to determine who is or who isn’t a ‘Real Australian’. And I think that it’s a collective conversation that needs to be held one day so that Australia can have a discussion on race from a power and structural frame of mind.

Courtesy of Michelle Grace Hunder

Courtesy of Michelle Grace Hunder

 

Find out more about L-Fresh the Lion here.

L-Fresh the Lion was also featured on Pro Bono here.

You get nervous around Muslims/Hindus on airplanes

Episode #5: You get nervous around Muslims/Hindus on airplanes.

The fifth episode in our individualized “10 signs you might be casually racist” really targets an ‘elephant in the room’ point about the rising attitudes towards the Muslims within Australian society. There has been a large rise in anti-Islamic sentiments within Australia, with 25% (Scanlon Report 2014) of people feeling negatively towards the Muslim population. Hindus and Sikhs often suffer the same discrimination, as the perpetrator of the racism assumes, based on visual appearance alone, that the person they have targeted is Muslim; they, then, receive the same taunts and abuse.

If you see anyone being racially attacked you can speak up, take evidence and assist the victim by going with them to report it, and providing your evidence as proof of the incident. Any incidents have are also being reported to the Islamophobia Register Australia.
Casual Racism_5_Muslims

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