THERE are no easy answers on racism. Around the world, majority populations dominate and discriminate against minority populations for all sorts of historical reasons, but often because – to put it simply – they can.
Minority groups often, understandably, hit back at their oppressors, and in the great Aussie tradition of sticking up for the underdog, we might even agree with them.
But when it comes to dealing with the racism in our own midst, we are often a bit slower to recognise the faults in our society, to accept the difficulties that many of us still face when it comes to welcoming each new wave of migrants to our “rich and rare” land: a bounty, it should be recognised, that is ours to share because we took it, with hostility, from its original inhabitants.
Now, some 230 years after Governor Arthur Phillip stuck the flag in the sand at Botany Bay, Australia has become one of the great multicultural nations of the world.
The Anglo, English-as-first-language majority still dominate our major institutions and inform our basic values, but people of colour from all continents, and their descendants, are more influential than ever before in shaping the future of this nation.
Despite the dog-whistles from some politicians, the bulk of the population knows there is no future in discriminating against people for discrimination’s sake. In reality, for every scare about African gangs in Melbourne, there are dozens of unsung migrant stories of success, both as populations or individuals.
John Sandy of Mayfield is one of those success stories. From migrant camp to university honours degree to social worker with Newcastle’s African community, Mr Sandy will have struggled harder than many of us will ever know, just to keep his head above water.
The victim of a senseless racist attack that has resulted in jail for his assailant, Mr Sandy has every right to be angry about what has happened to him. Instead, he regards his attacker as a single individual, an exception to the rule in an otherwise good community.
And for that we should give Mr Sandy our thanks. It might be a steelworks cliche, but Our Town was built on migration and migrants. Then and now, everyone arriving here does so in pursuit of a better life. We can help that happen by making them welcome, and by treating them as we would want, were the shoe on the other foot.