On December 2-3, I am organising a workshop for graduate students at the University of Western Sydney on the topic, Are We Really Post-Race?. There is a fantastic line-up of international and local speakers: Suvendrini Perera, Joseph Pugliese, Sherene Razack, Sohail Daulatzai and Christopher Kyriakides.
I’m a bit late updating the site with this article from last week in which I argued, against Antony Loewenstein, that Section 18C of the Australian Race Discrimination Act should not be repealed as proposed by the Attorney General, George Brandis. I preempted Antony’s argument, that the 18C which protects against racial vilification could be used against those who campaign in favour of Boycott Divestment and Sanctions against Israel, as Zionist organisation Shurat Hadin is trying to do against Sydney University Professor Jake Lynch.My argument is that, it is undoubted, as I have argued in many places, that the state is duplicitous in its implementation of antiracist legislation while enacting racist policy and practice at the same time. However, protection from racial discrimination and vilification is generally called for by those who face racism, and it is not up to those not directly affected to argue against it. Antony’s argument and those of his supporters is that vilification laws are an ultimate danger for freedom of speech. But, the fact is that, in practice, any threat to the freedom of speech of the middle class, non-racialised population is outweighed by the daily racism (systemic and casual) experienced by people of colour, migrants and asylum seekers. Right-wing media pundits like Andrew Bolt, against whom Section 18C was successfully used, do not suffer in any real way from the existence of these laws. He did not lose his position or his ability to sully debate in this country in any sense. However, giving him license to spout racism in the interests of ‘freedom of speech’ would be a significant symbolic loss for those of us committed to racial justice. Freedom of speech is a strawman of liberals across the West; we all know that the freedom they expect for themselves is deemed higher than that of their opponents. You can be ‘free like me’, but not free ‘against me’. That is why those who cried freedom of speech following the publication of the ‘Muhammad cartoons’, opposed the freedom of speech of outraged Muslims to protest their publication. I am not under any illusion that Section 18C will end racism, but in the limited armory available to us, it is an important – symbolic – tool.
I had the pleasure of participating in a live debate on Wednesday August 28, Organised by Intelligence Squared Versus Debates, on the question ‘Has Martin Luther King’s Dream Been Realised?’ It was a tough gig at 4 am for me in Sydney, but it proved well worth it, especially due to the participation of Sohail Daulatzai who reminded us that ‘you have to be asleep to dream,’ that essentially using MLK’s speech as a clarion call for a postracial society is to literally be dreaming. I also made the point that no women of colour were asked to participate and that the use of the trope of ‘personal responsibility’ not only vilifies black womanhood, but is a complete misunderstanding of how structural racism works. I also noted that it was paradoxical that the Australian Broadcasting Corporation had several programmes commemorating the anniversary of the speech, but failed to make a link to the disproportionate incarceration of Indigenous people in Australia, or to the fact that they still have a life expectancy 16-17% lower than the average Australia. It was also interesting to hear British MP, David Lammy, speak out as an anti-capitalist and a Socialist. I asked him to confirm this on Twitter, but he declined to answer The discussion was expertly chaired by Kenan Malik with whom I always enjoy a lively debate. Off the cuff poetry from Benjamin Zephaniah was also a treat!
For those who have followed the appalling censorship of queer or colour scholars by the human rights activist, Peter Tatchell on this blog over recent years, you may be interested in the latest revelations by Scott Long who reveals how Peter Tatchell egged a Zionist campaigner, Hillel Neuer on to sue him. Peter Tatcehll claims publicly to be pro-Palestine yet backs pro-Zionists over Palestinian activists and their supporters. Having hard him speak about Islam and Muslims (for example in the video above), it is clear why.
I shall be participating in this global debate on 28 August to commemorate 50 years of Dr King’s assassination and ask has his dream been realised. In a purportedly ‘postracial’ world, many would claim it has but, as Gavan Titley and I argued in The Crises of Multiculturalism: Racism in a neoliberal age, the claim that we are post-race is one of the ways in which racism is laundered today. The ability of race to find new form, moulding itself to current contexts is its power. We don’t have to look much further than the manufactured refugee ‘crisis’ in Australia or the disproportionate criminalisation and incarceration of Aboriginal people to see how race continues to structure society in pernicious ways.
This article was originally published in Overland on August 5, 2013.
Underlying Bernard Keane’s article – ‘“Let them all come” is “stop the boats” for progressives’ – is a deep sense of indignation about the idea that Australians are racist. The oft-repeated argument is that elitist, disconnected, latte-sippers tut-tut over ‘Bogan’ racism, serving to displace the problem. So far so uninteresting. What this leads to is largely meaningless tit for tats between white people, stultifying crucial debates to be had about refugee policy. The focus is narrowed to disagreements over the purpose of the Left that fail to focus on the issue at hand. Paradoxically, the key thing that Keane admonishes left-liberal handwringers for is deflecting a focus on policy by prioritising unworkable ideals, such as ‘let them all come’. However, articles that themselves do not suggest concrete responses to the (manufactured) ‘refugee crisis’ and merely tell others off for failing to do the same are part of the problem, not part of the solution.
A 2-day research training scheme graduate workshop
2-3 December 2013, University of Western Sydney, Parramatta South (PS-EB.G.17)
Organised by Dr Alana Lentin, Senior Lecturer in Cultural & Social Analysis,
NB: This event is for UWS doctoral students only
Since the election of Barack Obama to the US Presidency in 2008, and his re-election in 2012, the idea that US society has moved beyond the stratification caused by race has become the orthodoxy. ‘Postracialism’ as it has become known has parallels in European, Australian and Canadian discourses of anti-multiculturalism and ‘anti-white racism’. The concept has thus become highly relevant for scholars of race, ethnicity and multiculturalism. However, the analysis of its impact on the study of these themes, often marginalised within disciplines, remains nascent. Read the rest of this entry »
Update: A modified version of this post, appeared in The Guardian Australia on July 23 2013.
Both Australia and the UK have sunk to new lows by releasing ads targeted at ‘illegal immigrants’ (UK) and ‘boat people’ (Australia) telling them to go back to where they came from. I speculate that it is David Cameron’s election advisor, Lynton Crosby, an Australia, described by The Guardian as The Lizard of Oz, who is behind this copycat action in the UK but it might be just that great (!) minds think alike.
As Kevin Rudd unveiled his decision to send asylum seekers arriving to Australian shores by boat to be processed and resettled (if found to be ‘genuine refugees) in Australia’s (former) colony, Papua Guinea, ads appeared in newspapers telling asylum seekers in no uncertain terms that ‘If you come here by boat without a visa, you won’t be settled in Australia.’ The ad campaign is costing the Australian tax payer $2.5 million in its first week.
It was accompanied by what @damonayoung on Twitter called ‘immigration porn for xenophobes’: The Department for Immigration and Citizenship posting photographs and video of the first group of Iranian asylum seekers being told that they would be transferred to PNG (see photo left). Read the rest of this entry »