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Saturday, June 8, 2013

Multiculturalism and Racism

I felt compelled to write a post after the ABC QandA episode "Racism, Hypocrisy and Hot Air"

Racism is an important subject which is often not discussed as it is an uncomfortable topic.  However, it can have a drastic impact if not removed from the beginning.

I however have spent a lot of time thinking about it as I am from Fiji where there is a continual cycle of coups in part due to racist notion of one race taking over the country at the expense of the other.

In the country of my birth Fiji, multiculturalism was and is an asset for the whole country.  We all loved each other's foods, culture and learnt each other's languages.  This was the case for many decades, if not since Indians were brought over from India by the British.

However, biased opinions against each other's races persisted.  This was the case for all races, no one race was worse than the other.  Worst still, "racist" jokes persisted.  Most people believed that everyone was getting along just fine, with inter-religious, inter-cultural marriages increasing, kids learning all the 3 major languages at school and no fights happening amongst the races.  Fiji was "the way the world should be".

People did not see that there was "systemic racism" prevalent throughout Fiji, where any government form you had to fill out, asked which ethnicity you were.  Neither did people question degrading racist jokes (although a lot of these jokes were self-deprecating).

All this changed in 1987, when the first of the few military coups happened.  

One of the main observations I made during this time and afterwards was how readily people accepted "news" without checking it.  This further incensed the racist bias and fuelled further divisions, which many thought were not a cause of concern before.   

One of the main reasons it is thought that the first coup happened, is that ethnic Fijians were beginning to feel marginalised in their own country.  That their opinion and good did not matter.  Post coup, the new government created a constitution where the number of Fijian parliamentarians always exceed others.

So why have coups continued to happen in Fiji on a routine basis?  Fiji has had many years of reconciliation.  Why is there still no satisfaction with the government?

To give the people of Fiji credit, almost everyone is friendly and welcoming and love the multicultural nature of Fiji.  For most part, all ethnicities have continued to get along well.  Most people agree that any trouble is a result of power hungry people in Suva, the capital of Fiji and they want to stay out of it.

To come back to last Monday's QandA program, I felt that the lady who asked why was Islam being taught in Australian schools curriculum, but Christianity wasn't, is that she was feeling "marginalised" and that her opinion and her faith did not matter.  My opinion is that as Christianity is the dominant religion in Australia, kids learn about it inherently.  Islam has been in the news a lot in the last twelve years and this is why kids are taught about it as it is typically foreign to them.

Some people are weary that other cultures and religious views will come to dominate Australia.  They forget that people can practice their culture and religion in Australia as long as it is within the laws of Australia.

Australia has a long history of being secular, and there is nothing to prove that it is moving in the other direction.

They have also forgotten that recently Her Excellency Ms Quentin Bryce AC CVO, Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia took a historic step in ending child marriage, a tradition that is still practised in some cultures.  

The law is there to protect everyone and treat everyone as equals.

Racism is dangerous.  It is especially dangerous if people don't feel there is any need to work on it.  It is a very powerful way of creating an us and them attitude and this attitude needs to be crushed from the beginning.

Any country that is multicultural, needs to be anti racist and against discrimination.  This is why #racismItStopsWithMe is an important slogan to follow.

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