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Ebony and Ivory

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(Title thanks to Paul McCartney)

God knows where I acquired my abhorrence of racism.
Maybe even He is scratching His omnipotent head in order to comprehend from whence it came.

Racism, reverse racism, discrimination based on ethnicity;  it is all equally repugnant to me.
It certainly did not come from my nominally Christian upbringing.
A father who vociferously implored me to understand that "pure breeding" was good, and just as applicable to humans as it was to his dairy cows. 
A creed which depicted Jesus as the morally superior white guy, and scriptures which made no reference, that I can remember, to Africans, Asians or any other native peoples. 
It also preached that all other sects and religions were inferior.
An education system which accorded hero status to Great Britain, conqueror, invader and dominator of all the "red bits" on the world map, and inferred insignificance upon the "rest of the world".

Nor did it come by osmosis from being raised in an Australian country town in the 1950's at a time when generations of Anglo-Saxon Governments had marginalised and relegated aboriginal Australians into second class citizens.  Indeed until 1967 they had no voting rights at all, and previous census statistics had included them in the category of "fauna".
Many country towns in Victoria had aboriginal camps and settlements located under bridges, or on their outskirts. 
European Australians drove over or past them at 60 mph without a sideways glance, or caring why it was so. 
I swallowed it all, hook, line and sinker.  Fourteen years old and totally persuaded that white was dominant.  White meant being superior, and that was the way my world said it should be.

Then, in 1962 I came face to face with my first black person.

A Fijiian missionary came to speak at our Methodist boys club.
I was entranced, not only by his appearance, but by his gentleness, warmth and intelligence, as he delivered his impassioned message.  A message which opened my eyes and my mind, and made me feel compassion for the inequities of his world. 
The world as seen from the other side of the discrimination fence. 

Like springtime rain on an apparently barren desert, it triggered the germination of whatever seed of "rightness" existed within me. 
Some core tenet that every human on earth deserved to be treated with equality and dignity.

Those developing principles took me to live and work with rural village people in Papua New Guinea for 12 years, where my new understandings were reinforced and fine tuned over hundreds of days and nights spent listening to the wisdom of village elders, most of whom could neither read nor write. 
These custodians of oral history generously imparted to me their philosophies which were constantly being drawn upon as they lived their lives with simplicity.  Wisdom which would apply equally to princes, millionaires, and every other human on the planet should they care to listen.
Principles common to all humanity involving self, the family, the community and our relationship with the universe.

Australia has made huge advances in cultural diversity and racial tolerance since the 1960's, and, after various waves of immigration has pride in declaring itself a multicultural society.
A society which, for the most part, is homogenous and functions well.

Let us, however, not be totally fooled by our own publicity.

Discriminatory racial and ethnic barriers remain within our policies towards accepting refugees.
Unnecessary bureaucratic obstacles also effectively deter or prevent genuine tourists coming from poorer countries. 
Perhaps not in official policy, but certainly in practical reality.

Aboriginal Australians deserve to be given back more of the land we stole from them, as encouragement to once again live with traditional dignity.  (then leave administrative responsibility in the very capable hands of people like Noel Pearson, a man of exceptional intellect and practicality, who is also adept at detente.)

Until these inequities are rectified we are all unable to hold our heads as high as we otherwise might.

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About GOF

"Life is like a sewer. What you get out of it, depends upon what you put into it." (Tom Lehrer)

5 responses »

  1. Not just the aboriginals were discriminated against too.I remember migrants getting heaps of agro especially Italians and their "wog food".Now pizza would go close to being the take away of choice.Yet even with the vote and general enlightenment, "Nationalists" can still draw a crowd. I just don't get it.

  2. Thanks Peter….I guess I was thinking more about the "white Australia policy" and the residue which remains. My view is that when judging any fellow human it should be on the basis of individual character and not race or ethnicity. Ethnic "teasing" is of course part of human nature…..if I was to live in France or Ethiopia or wherever, I would naturally expect to be the source of some mirth as I battled to blend in with a different culture. To be automatically judged as undesireable on the basis of where I came from or some difference in my physical appearance is a different matter.It is pleasing to note, at least in this part of the world, decendents of the Italian labourers of the 1950's now dominate agricultural and commercial sectors in many towns.

  3. Personally I am delighted with my Irish heritage. Along with a quirky sense of humour it gives me open slather on all those excellent Irish jokes.Same goes in Geelong for migrants climbing the social ladder but not sure about these parts at Horsham. My anti Bush Tee shirts seem to be testing some of the locals and the anti Howard ones are downright inflammatory. Could be living in the 50s.I persist with the Tee shirts in the name of education.

  4. I think I know what you mean about country Victoria. I live in the heart of Pauline Hanson territory!

  5. It's quite tragic really. They are lovely folk but just switch off the brain when someone comes along and leads them by the nose.With a bit more attitude they could have had a National Party working for their interests instead of the mining industry.


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