The Banner At The Big Bash Was Right, It's More Than OK To Be White
Thursday, at a Big Bash game in Perth, punters were exposed to a rather racist banner, claiming ‘It’s OK to be white.’
The banner was hung by some cricket goers who quickly decided attempted to flee, before being apprehended by security and told to move on.
It echoes a statement by Pauline Hanson in the Senate late last year, where she moved a motion (which was backed by the liberal party and other politicians) asking the Australian Senate to acknowledge that ‘it’s okay to be white.’
As a person with white skin, I was rather confounded by the motion, and also by Thursday night’s banner.
Not what it said, but the fact that people (one a publicly elected politician) felt the need to tell us all that in Australia, it is okay to be white.
As if we needed a reminder.
Australia has always been known as the "lucky country". We are reasonably prosperous, so this seems like a fair assessment. But if you aren’t of Caucasian background with a broad Aussie accent, this country can quickly become a much less lucky one for you.
Look at our treatment of Indigenous Australians, for example. White people stole their land and have spent the last 248 years incarcerating them in much higher rates than the general population. In the Northern Territory, 84 percent of adult prisoners are Aboriginal. And on Q&A in 2017, a declaration from Noel Pearson that Indigenous Australians are the “most incarcerated people on planet earth” was found to be true by fact checkers.
Indigenous people and people of colour are also more likely to be victims of police brutality and have started to be trained in how to film police in order to bring attention to the problem. In one video, captured by a young man in Perth, you can see a police car swerve to run down a black teenager. This would never have happened to myself, or any of my similarly pale friends, during our teenage years.
Indigenous Australians and people of colour are also more likely to be victims or survivors of sexual harassment. A report released in 2016 found that while 51 percent of Australian university students had experienced sexual harassment on campus, the percentage of Indigenous students who reported sexual harassment was 62 percent.
In the workplace, the recent Australian Human Rights Commission’s report into sexual harassment in the workplace found that in the last five years alone, 53 percent of Indigenous Australians had experienced sexual harassment, compared with 32 percent of the general working population.
Moving on to pay gaps. While Australia has a terrible gender pay gap, the pay gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians is pretty wide too. There isn’t a lot of data on this, but the statistics we do have from 2011 tell us that on average, the disposable income of an Indigenous Australian is about 70 percent that of a white Australian. That’s a 30 percent gap.
Aboriginal women and children are more likely to be victims of domestic violence. In fact, they are the most at risk group in our society to face violence in their own home.
Look at the broader multicultural population in Australia and we see more problems emerging for people who don’t have white skin or share an Aussie accent and colloquialisms. A report conducted by Western Sydney University found that 54 percent of people of colour report experiencing racism in the workplace. Fifty five percent of people from different cultural backgrounds experienced racism in educational settings.
Things didn’t improve when they were out and about. Nearly 60 percent of respondents said they had been treated unfairly or experienced harassment because of their language or the colour of their skin in shopping centers in Australia. More than 58 percent had experienced racism on public transport and 49.1 percent had been subject to racial vilification online.
So, Pauline, sports fans and anyone else who is feeling a bit fragile about their alabaster complexion, for once (and probably only this once) I completely agree.
As a person with white skin, I enjoy a lot of privileges that are not extended to people of colour or to the rightful owners of this lucky country.
I am less likely to experience sexual harassment.
I have higher earning potential.
I can walk down the street without fear of being run over by a police car, or having racial slurs hurled at me.
It remains a mystery to me why people feel the need to remind us that it is okay to be white. Of course it is!
We are much luckier than our culturally and linguistically diverse and Indigenous Australians because of our pale skin. Unless you’re talking about the rates of skin cancer -- we pale petals definitely get shortchanged there.
A version of this article was first published on September 20, 2018.