Australian national debate about racism gets more interesting

Australian national debate about racism gets more interesting, by Caroline Overington.

I was lucky enough to be there when Noel Pearson delivered his quite unexpected, searing assessment of the ABC.

Noel Pearson, 2010

He was in the process of launching Troy Bramston’s a new biography of Paul Keating when he described the national broadcaster as a miserable, racist organisation, obsessed with the poverty and dysfunction of his people. Committed to low expectations. Content to wallow in the sorrow of black Australia because it suits them to have somebody to feel sorry for.

It was incendiary stuff, all delivered in that gathering timbre.

Hard to ignore, is Pearson, and so his valuation landed, as intended, like an explosive device and if you’re a journalist at the ABC, or anywhere else for that matter, who has done some poor-black-fella reporting on Aboriginal affairs, a tough examination of one’s motives is now the order of the day.

Bill Leak’s cartoon was of course as “racist” as, according to the PC crew, but not their ABC, oh no. Only Murdoch papers get called “racist”, never the ABC or Fairfax papers, by the PC crew.

But for Aboriginal people, could the broader characterisation of their people as a pretty hopeless lot be soul-destroying?

To be clear, Pearson didn’t criticise only the ABC. He went for the “hard Right” of Quadrant, too, and in my view you’d have to be mad — or rather sure of yourself — not to look at what he’s saying and see whether it might apply to your workplace. …

The Australian received some amazing letters on the topic, including one from Sally Paris, in North Adelaide, which summed it up for me.

She said: “Good on Noel Pearson for using shock tactics to highlight a serious issue. Of course he didn’t mean that people are the ABC are deliber­ately racist. He was pointing out that the constant portrayal of Aborigines, seemingly in their entirety, as helpless victims living in a poverty trap actually perpetuates racist attitudes. It also justifies a multi-million-dollar welfare industry that employs a huge number of non-Aboriginal people.”

Oh, how uncomfortable this is.

When are our political elite going to learn to treat people as individuals, and not as members of statistical groups? Groups of people are for statistical truths, not to determine how you treat people.