Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Andrew Bolt: The "new racism" is so last season!

Andrew Bolt, who was found to have contravened the Racial Discrimination Act in a court of law, has been going to profound levels to prove just how racist he is not. Funnily, his tactic seems to be to point out just how racist the left are rather than apply any level of introspection and perhaps examining why his actions may have been found as such. Not only that, he's brilliantly coined himself a buzz phrase to flog at every opportunity, particularly when he is promoting the virtues of his favourite conservative and moderate Aboriginal people. Yes, thanks to Andrew Bolt we now have “The New Racism” (TNR).

And gee, does he love to promote this idea. One simple Google search shows just how much he is promoting TNR as a concept (which incidentally, he seems to have pinched from the writings of Indigenous conservatives Dallas Scott and Bess Price but put a catchy phrase on). How he defines it seems to be that the Left, in all their folly, are promoting the division of us all by virtue of race leading to lower aspirations and neglect of Indigenous communities. This is because the left wish for the preservation of some sort of Indigenous "authentic" and therefore resort to stereotyping because they see races, and not individual people, and argue that there are common issues suffered by people of the same race. To pinch a quote from him: "I’ve long thought there’s a lot of projection in the Left’s obsession with racism. The rise of the New Racism - this offensive harping on differences of “race” which are all but invisible to the naked eye - is but one manifestation of it".

Apart from his extraordinarily lazy focus on the left in his analysis, I have but one thing to say: Congratulations Bolta, you've discovered "structural racism"! Have a biscuit, lad. Some of us have been talking about this for a while, and the thing is, it's not exactly "new". Nope, the discussions have been going on for a long time now, but we're glad you've joined us! The left and the right may talk about structural racism and its manifestations in different ways as you have "amply" shown us, but it doesn't mean that we are not talking about the same thing. Yes, the idea that a person may end up being oppressed and have their agency diminished by structural and social forces, even if there is some argument over what those forces might be, is nothing new at all.

When paring down Bolts arguments, I come up with the following:

1. To consider people different by virtue of their racial and/or cultural background is racism
2. Tailoring support programmes differently to address different racial and/or cultural groups rather than an individual's circumstances is racism
3. The left, due to its fascination with "equity" for different groups, rather than its focus on the situation of individuals, is responsible for perpetuating racism

In other words: the ones calling out "racism" are the biggest "racists" of all because they draw attention to race when this divider doesn't even occur to good right-wing folk who are most interested in a person's individual merit. Which is, of course, rubbish. The fact that there are different life experiences due to issues of race when there is a situation of a "dominant culture" is well-established. The right has also been no stranger to using race rather than individual merit as a divider (for more information, see Nazism, Apartheid, Segregation and, oh, Stolen Generation). What's more, structural racism faced by Indigenous peoples is so recognised as a global issue that the UN have set up a special committee and a set of rights to address the common issues. 

Racism is not a left-right issue; it occurs on both sides of the political spectrum because structural racism is a well-embedded cultural phenomenon. Regardless of whether people are left-wing or right-wing they will perpetuate it in their own ways if they are not self-aware. Indeed, 11-odd years ago when I wrote my honours play I included an incident of racism experienced within left-wing circles and many could relate to coming up against stereotypical ideas of what Indigenous people "should be". Bolt's rather strange idea that we can all go colour-blind, join hands and skip around the globe is not going to become a reality until we're honest about the historical, cultural and other factors that cause racism to be a feature of this country. The key is collaboration and education, and arguing anything else is just misdirection.

One final point: I question Bolt's motives for harping on about "the new racism". I cannot help but think he does so to try and wriggle off the hook of racism he created for himself when he wrote his fateful columns and got called out legally. What's more, his positioning of himself as the champion for right-wing Indigenous opinion is particularly distasteful. He may see his role as promoting this opinion as an alternative to the Indigenous left-wing voices, but if he truly believed in the merits of the arguments of these people then I have to wonder why he doesn't step aside and let them speak for themselves. If they have something that should be said then let them have the floor rather than taking up that space with rubbish theories about "new racism". Regardless of what I think of the opinions of the Indigenous right-wing he promotes, I believe that most have shown themselves perfectly capable of stating their arguments and certainly not in need of a "champion" with his own agenda. Let's face it: they're politicians, academics, accomplished bloggers, bureaucrats. I'd prefer to read these opinions unfiltered by the likes of Bolt, personally, because they're part of the Indigenous political landscape.

Just as a little aside, I wish to highlight the following: back in the day, I used to write many letters to the Herald Sun refuting the arguments of Andrew Bolt. Some were even published although very heavily edited. It is so much fun having my own space to refute his arguments AND being my own editor :D 

2 comments:

  1. >1. To consider people different by virtue of their racial and/or cultural background is racism
    2. Tailoring support programmes differently to address different racial and/or cultural groups rather than an individual's circumstances is racism
    3. The left, due to its fascination with "equity" for different groups, rather than its focus on the situation of individuals, is responsible for perpetuating racism<

    All he's doing is echoing the looney tunes American right-wing media echosphere. They started this malarky on Nov 10 2008.

    So he isn't even original.

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  2. Just thought to add ... In UK we absolutely don't have this phenomenon of the right throwing around 'racist'. Even somewhere like Telegraph blogs. Only time I think I've seen it is from people who sound American BTL. Seems to be taboo-like to even try it here.

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