Tag Archives: Racism in Australia

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.

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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 cross the road to avoid people of a certain race

Episode #6: You cross the road to avoid people of a certain race.

Refer to episode #5 for further explanation, however this episode appears pretty self-explanatory. This is a high level of casual racism, and is very explicit in how someone will hold discriminatory views against someone else purely based on race, culture, or religion.

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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.
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“You speak so well for an Asian.”

Here is part 3 of the new visual series based from our popular blog last year about “10 signs you might be a casual racist” . We have designed some easy to use and share infographics on each of the 10 signs of casual racism.

You can catch up on Episode #1  and Episode #2 here.

Episode #3: “You speak so well for an Asian.”

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Racism in Australia in 2014

All Together Now has created an infographic with the key findings from the 2014 Mapping Social Cohesion report.

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Each year the Scanlon Foundation commissions research to measure Australian attitudes on social cohesion, immigration and population issues.

The research shows the levels of racism in Australia compared to previous years. During the past year, 18% of people experienced discrimination based on skin colour, ethnic origin or religion. This is a small decrease from 19% last year, but a huge increase from 9% in 2007.

Alarmingly, 5% of people living in Australia – over 1.1 million people – experience racism at least once a month. People are most likely to experience racism in their neighbourhood, at the shopping centre, or at work.

The research also found that around 25-30% of Australians are intolerant of cultural diversity. All Together Now optimistically believes that people in this group won’t necessarily hold these intolerant beliefs for life. They tend to make racist comments because they over-estimate the number of people around them who agree with their point of view. When bystanders speak up  during a racist incident, the perpetrator learns that their view is not shared by others and is less likely to say something racist in the future.

Australia is one of the most multicultural nations in the world. More than 1 in 4 Australians were born overseas. Let’s increase social cohesion in our country by making all Australians feel welcome. You can start improving social cohesion by speaking up when you witness racism.

Racial Discrimination Act – Legalising Hate Speech

The government has indicated it intends to make racist hate speech, racist publications and racial slurs legal in Australia. This goes against the very grain of Australian society, as a place where people from all cultures can feel safe and respected.

Some proposed changes were mooted last week in The Australian stating that section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act is at risk of being repealed. Currently, this Act protects people against speech likely to “offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate” on the basis of race. It is “unlawful” for someone to yell a racial slur at you on the bus, and unlawful for newspapers to publish blatantly racist materials.

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Two weeks ago on Q&A the Attorney General confirmed his intention to repeal 18C. Last week he defended people’s “right to be bigots”, advocating freedom of speech. Yet this argument does not make sense given there are already protections for freedom of speech in place under section 18D of the Act.

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The Attorney General appears to have turned a blind eye to the immense damage and harm caused by racial vilification. Effects on individuals include high blood pressure, depression and lower employment opportunities. Effects on society at large include economic loss to businesses due to complaints made about racial discrimination in the workplace, reduced tourism, and reduced interest in studying in Australia by international students.

If these changes go ahead they will weaken Australia’s laws on racial vilification and would make it legal to “offend, insult or humiliate” someone on the basis of their race.

Yet new research shows that nearly 80% of Australians support the current laws against racial vilification. Most people agree that it should be unlawful to make public racist remarks. And that this should never be a legal activity. No changes to the law are necessary.

Further, the Scanlon Foundation’s Recent Arrivals Report released this week found that racism is one of the top three concerns of new migrants. Clearly, legal protections are required to ensure the most vulnerable people in Australia are able to live in a safe environment free from racial abuse and discrimination.

Now is the time to act. We, as citizens who care about human rights, need to make as much noise as possible to tell the government we need strong, effective, racial vilification laws in Australia.

 

What You Can Do

1.     Write to your newspaper. Let the public know you are against the proposed changes to the Racial Discrimination Act, and express your support for strong laws against racial vilification in Australia.

2.     Contact your friends / family / acquaintances. In the absence of public consultation, there is now a need for community members affected by racism to speak up against the changes, and tell the public how they are affected by verbal racial abuse.

3.     Send a letter to your federal MP. Your Minister should have your objections to these proposals at the forefront of their mind when they vote on this bill.

We need to keep strong laws against racial vilification in this country. Racial slurs, racist publications and public racist remarks should never become “lawful”.

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