That’s what struck me most about the proposed legislation. It’s just so . . . well, white. In fact it’s probably the whitest piece of proposed legislation I’ve encountered during my lifetime. It trades on all the assumptions about race that you’re likely to hold if, in your experience, racism is just something that other people complain about.
Subsection (3) – mostly ignored to this point – is perhaps the most subtly revealing. Earlier subsections make it unlawful to do something that is “reasonably likely” to vilify or intimidate someone on the basis of race. But reasonably likely according to whom? Who gets to decide whether something is intimidating or vilifying? Subsection (3) provides the answer.
Whether something is “reasonably likely” to vilify is “to be determined by the standards of an ordinary reasonable member of the Australian community”, it begins. Fair enough. But then it adds in the most pointed way: “not by the standards of any particular group within the Australian community”. That’s code. It means, not by the standard of whatever racial minority is being vilified. Not the ordinary reasonable wog, gook or sand nigger; the ordinary reasonable Australian. And what race is this hypothetical “ordinary reasonable member of the Australian community” meant to be, exactly? If you answered that they have no particular race, then you’ve just given the whitest answer possible. It’s the answer that assumes there is such a thing as racial neutrality. Of course, only white people have the chance to be neutral because in our society only white is deemed normal; only whiteness is invisible.
Every other race is marked by its difference, by its conspicuousness – by its non-whiteness. White people are not non-Asians or non-blacks. They aren’t “ethnic” as the term is popularly used. If the “ordinary reasonable Australian” has no race, then whether or not we admit it, that person is white by default and brings white standards and experiences to assessing the effects of racist behaviour. Anything else would be too particular.
This matters because – if I may speak freely – plenty of white people (even ordinary reasonable ones) are good at telling coloured people what they should and shouldn’t find racist, without even the slightest awareness that they might not be in prime position to make that call.
Don’t you just love it? The phrase, “if I may speak freely” thrown in like that. Well actually Waleed; No. You can’t speak freely. That’s the whole point of the campaign against 18C. So that you can speak freely. So that you can make as many comments likely to offend, insult, or humiliate “white” people as you like.