Not Racist?

First the PM, and now Peter Costello and Maurice Iemma, they all say that "Australia is not a racist country." It is as if repeating the refrain will somehow transform our current grim reality.

Costello’s other claim is that the media – including Alan Jones – didn’t "whip" anything up.

"I think racism can be easily whipped up in Australia," Mr
Costello said.

"I don’t think there’s racism on the street, no, I think we’re a
very accepting country," he told ABC Radio.

Sydney talkback radio personalities, including Macquarie Radio’s
Alan Jones, have been accused of fuelling racial tensions in the
wake of the recent Cronulla riot.

Asked if he thought Jones "went too far", Mr Costello said he
did not.

"That’s not what I mean by whipping up," Mr Costello said.

"I think it can be fanned if gangs of youths come into a
neighbourhood and try and take it over. That can fan racism.

"If people, say, get down and launch an attack, a counter-attack
on gangs of youths, they can whip it up. It can be whipped up from
both sides."

So racism can "easily" be whipped up. But we are not a racist country. Racism is "fanned" if gangs of youth come into a neighbourhood and try "to take it over". It is an example of the strange political double speak that is reported constantly in the media without comment.

Apart from his claims of gangs trying to "take over" neighbourhoods, Costello’s metaphor is telling. You fan a fire only if there are simmering coals. On a day to day basis much of Australia is indeed an accepting kind of place but there are always those simmering coals waiting to be fanned by someone who doesn’t belong stepping into the wrong neighbourhood.

It seems like the public is not being hoodwinked. A poll indicates that large number agree with the PM’s statement that the recent events in Cronulla don’t reflect a racist reality in this country.

The Herald Poll reveals deep concerns about the long-term
impact of the riots: 59 per cent of respondents believe the
violence at Cronulla and other Sydney beaches would damage
Australia’s international reputation. Only 38 per cent think
Australia’s image has not been tarnished.

The results are in stark contrast to John Howard’s statement
following the Cronulla riots: "I do not accept there is underlying
racism in this country."

According to the poll, 75 per cent of respondents disagree with
Mr Howard’s statement and 22 per cent agree.

The proportion of people who believe there is an undercurrent of
racism was highest among minor party and independent voters (84 per
cent) and Labor voters (76 per cent). However, more than two-thirds
of Coalition voters – 68 per cent – also disagreed with Mr
Howard.

The poll found people were more comfortable with immigration
levels than they were immediately after the Tampa crisis. Only 33
per cent polled over the weekend by ACNielsen considered the
current intake "too high" compared with 41 per cent in September
2001.

The number of people who thought immigration levels were too low
climbed by one point to 11 per cent.

The poll revealed 81 per cent backing for multiculturalism.

By the way this is what Alan Jones said when he wasn’t either whipping up or fanning. He urged a local show of force:

"A rally, a street march, call it what you will.
A community show of force," he told listeners, at one point even going
so far as to push for locals at Cronulla to get Pacific Islanders
involved because "they don’t take any nonsense".

Indeed it’s time for all of us to show that we wont be taking any nonsense.