Whenever the topic of white supremacy comes up I often find myself immediately dismissing the person making the statement as indoctrinated, misinformed, and/or a bad faith actor. I believe in critical thinking and always emphasize its importance in almost all facets of life. Therefore, the questions should be asked, am I being as irrational as I believe the people making these claims are? And, fundamentally, does Australia actually perpetuate white supremacy?
It would be prudent to start with a definition of white supremacy before attempting to answer that question. A traditional, and dare I say logical, definition would state that white supremacy is the belief that those who are white (i.e. of European origin) are genetically superior to those who are not. However, another definition exists, one I believe most who talk about white supremacy believe in. That definition starts with a belief in genetic superiority but also includes systems, behaviours, attitudes, societies, and institutions that either consciously or unconsciously keep those who are white successful, wealthy, and safe and all those who aren’t downtrodden, poor, and unsafe. It also emphasizes the power dynamics that exist within Western societies in favour of white people to the point where it is argued that those who are not part of the majority group cannot be racist.
Despite my despisal of the latter definition, it’s widely becoming accepted in various government and especially university circles. So, it’s important to work with the definition currently being used by those making the claims, even if I view it as wrong. What we would obviously expect to see if Australia were in fact a white supremacist country would be legitimately racist laws, and policies directed specifically at benefitting those who are white, and of course, these ideas manifested in reality. Fortunately, though, I could not find a single racist law or policy currently in place. But, after consulting the literature, I can see that white supremacy and its believers are far more pernicious and cunning. It is argued that white supremacy permeates into all aspects of society, especially culture, and won’t often manifest itself as directly as laws and policies. It’s far more indirect.
So, this then begs the question, what does indirect institutional and societal white supremacy look like? Well, it can look like some fairly bizarre things. For example, ‘Professionalism’ is coded language for white supremacy according to this Stanford article. As is the perfectly legitimate claim that some cultures are better than others, apparently. The Australian education system and its “Eurocentric” meritocratic measuring system. Removing children from abusive families contemporarily, as is done to all children seen to be exposed to endangering and abusive behaviour regardless of race. Basically, as this Guardian article states, “Australia is deplorably racist”. And the evidence put forward to justify this claim was an interview by Sky News with a white nationalist that was removed and mean and racist tweets and emails. I’m not kidding, read the article for yourself.
Of course, one could say the everyday ‘microaggressions’ in the behaviours of white people towards non-white people lead to racism, as many absolutely do. As the bizarre claims listed above are largely indefensible when thought about logically and rationally. Hence why other sources of racism must be identified, as if it can’t be found clearly in the kinds of quantities it’s argued to exist in, then it must be unconscious and micro. It must be manifesting itself in such a way that it can’t be obviously identified, conveniently. I believe this is why unimportant and insignificant events are used to substantiate claims of massive systemic racism, despite their triviality. A perfect example can be found in the 2017 ‘Unite The Right’ rally in the United States. The fact that less than 600 people attended the rally in a country of almost 330 million people should state the absolute obvious. And the fact that racist emails and tweets are used as evidence of a fundamentally racist society. If the bar for determining whether a society is racist is that low then so is the bar for dismissing such claims as absurd.
For those who have yet to pick up on it, what I’m trying to argue say is essentially that sources of racism are sought after whilst the criteria for identifying racist behaviour and attitudes get more liberal by the day. The very fact that this is the case should be evidence of a lack of what’s been argued to exist in large quantities.
The next time someone claims Australia is fundamentally white supremacist, ask them why migrants from non-white countries like China, India, and the Philippines are coming over here in ever-increasing and record numbers? Why skilled migrants in Australia, the majority of them being non-white, earn significantly more than the average Australian does? And, furthermore, why their income increases significantly the longer they stay here? Prior to the passing of the Racial Discrimination Act in 1975, and perhaps just after it also, a perfectly legitimate argument could be made. However, the fact that our democracy corrected a vile wrong should be a further testament to the opposite of a white supremacist country.
I understand that many people have experienced cases of personal racism and that’s very unfortunate and should they have missed out on an opportunity as a result, legal recourse should be pursued. However, just as I can’t use my anecdotal experiences with racial discrimination both domestically and internationally to substantiate such a huge claim, neither can those who claim Australia perpetuates white supremacy. The bar sits far far higher, and so it should.