Casual racism

Waleed Aly at The Age:

The racism that really matters in Australia isn’t the high-level, weapons-grade derangement that winds its way via YouTube into the news. The truth is we can’t compete with Europe for hardcore white nationalism or the US for white supremacist movements. We can’t compete with Asia or the Middle East for the maintenance of an explicit, institutionalised and sometimes codified racial hierarchy.

No, our real problem is the subterranean racism that goes largely unremarked upon and that we seem unable even to detect. Like the racism revealed by an Australian National University study, which found you’re significantly less likely to get a job interview if you have a non-European name. The researchers sent fake CVs in response to job advertisements, changing only the name of the applicant. It turns out that if you’re surname is Chinese, you have to apply for 68 per cent more jobs to get the same number of interviews as a Anglo-Australian. If you’re Middle Eastern, it’s 64 per cent. If you’re indigenous, 35 per cent.

This is the polite racism of the educated middle class. It’s not as shocking as the viral racist tirades we’ve seen lately. No doubt the HR managers behind these statistics would be genuinely appalled by such acts of brazen, overt racism. Indeed, they probably enforce racial discrimination rules in their workplace and are proud to do so. Nonetheless, theirs is surely a more devastating, enduring racism. There’s no event to film, just the daily, invisible operation of a silent, pervasive prejudice. It doesn’t get called out.

It’s the stuff no-one notices that’s the problem. It’s a good article, and later he delivers the real kicker:

It’s easy to point at the barking racists on the bus precisely because they aren’t us. They allow us to exonerate ourselves; to declare that if we have a problem with racism, at least people like us aren’t responsible for it. It allows us to escape self-examination of the racism we all probably harbour to some extent or other.

That self-examination is crucial. Without it we have nothing to fix, and only other people to blame.

Just so.