There has been a performance at the Victorian College of Arts by a 20 year old student, Isabelle Mason, called Where We Stand that asks people to ‘process their positionality in a colonial state and in a world where whiteness is privileged’. In the show, white Australians are deliberately and systematically discriminated against. This is something that no minority group in modern Australia suffers.
Such identity politics is of course a nonsense – we can observe privilege in all manner of people unrelated to race. It is also unhelpful by encouraging some people to see themselves as victims and others as oppressors.
In fact western society has been the most successful in human history of integrating people from all backgrounds and providing opportunities to everyone not found in other cultures and civilisations. Multiculturalism is a western concept.
Mason has been criticised for ‘reverse racism’ although so called ‘reverse racism’ is really racism by another name.
She claims to be ‘insulted’
The literal definition of racism refers to the discrimination against minorities. White people are not a minority here meaning reverse racism is not a thing.
Well the literal definition of racism says nothing at all about discrimination about minorities. Whichever dictionary one chooses the definition is pretty much the same as that of the Macquarie:
Racism noun: (1) the belief that human races have distinctive characteristics which determine their respective cultures, usually involving the idea that one’s own race is superior and has the right to rule or dominate others,
(2) a policy or system of government and society based upon such a belief
(3) behaviour or language based on this kind of belief in relation to a person or persons of a particular race, colour, descent or ethnic origin, either demonstrating an inherent prejudice without specific hostile intent or, alternatively, intended to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate
(4) such behaviour or language used against people of a different nationality.
While there will be always individuals in a country that are racist, western countries are among the few where people are judged by the quality of their character not the colour of their skin.
This performance is somewhat racist. I don’t think it should be banned, but Mason should be called out for engaging in behaviour that divides rather than unites. She seeks to divide rather than unite. And she should carefully study the meaning of racism. She should read the words of Martin Luther King and other great western philosophers of the Enlightenment rather than generalising about Australian citizens of European descent. Anyone who lives in Australia is privileged compared to those living in many other countries. We don’t need to check our privilege, we just need to act as exemplars for our countries to follow our good traits while ignoring those less good. We are by no means perfect, but still more people seek to move to Australia than leave. We will continue to provide opportunities for people of all backgrounds provided we maintain a strong commitment to western enlightenment values and laws. But once we start moving down the path of identity politics, division and pandering to group sensibilities we will gradually become more like those numerous countries where poverty, low living standards, division, and yes racism become the norm.
Western countries have been at the forefront of abolishing slavery, providing opportunities and eradicating racism. It would be a shame if we started moving in the opposite direction.