‘White’ identity in a multicultural world

Bizarre claims of 'white genocide' in Australia are the result of our increasingly globalised society.
Zac Alstin | Nov 4 2014 | comment  



from the Logan Memes Facebook page   

Racist incidents have crept into the news in Australia recently, with a Queensland teen filmed – by his friend – racially abusing and assaulting a security guard on a Brisbane train. Meanwhile, the national supermarket chain Woolworths apologised for ‘inadvertently’ stocking a singlet bearing the Australian flag motif with the words “if you don’t love it, leave”. Most bizarrely, a banner unfurled from a South East Queensland overpass shocked passers-by with the claim that “‘Multiculturalism’ is White Genocide”.

The words ‘white’ and ‘genocide’ are rarely seen together, and the reader may be forgiven for momentarily thinking that the banner was accusing multiculturalism of being a genocidal plot by white Australians.

But the intended meaning is far less frightening, though scary in its own way: evidently some white Australians think that multiculturalism is effectively a form of genocide against the overwhelming majority of the population with British or Irish ancestry.

Five minutes with Google reveal two distinct themes relating to the term ‘white genocide’: the first is the use of ‘white genocide’ to describe cultural assimilation in the context of the actual Armenian genocide. The ‘white’ refers not to skin colour but is used, apparently, to distinguish ‘cultural’ genocide from its ‘red’ violent counterpart.

The second context for ‘white genocide’ describes the strange phenomenon of apparently conspiracy-theorist white supremacists convinced that ‘whites’ are being globally displaced, and that migration to ‘white’ nations is part of an ‘anti-white’ plot aimed, according to their Facebook page, at “flooding White countries with millions of non-White immigrants and then forcing their culture and customs on us.”

Claims of genocide against white Australians are outrageous, insulting, and historically inept. Yet we may have to forgive people for holding such views. They’ve heard about genocide, maybe seen a documentary on it in some far off land; but what about the history of ‘white genocide’, the cultural memory of this phenomenon, the moral seriousness that accompanies the lived experience of such suffering?

White Australians are generally in the privileged position of being able only to imagine the kind of persecution, suffering, and violence that a select few religious and ethnic groups have endured for real. It’s as though they’ve looked around at the steady stream of migrants and wondered ‘maybe this is that genocide thing we’ve heard so much about?’

What these ‘pro-White’ activists lack in moral seriousness, they make up for with a bizarre, depressingly sincere global persecution complex, an anthropologically untenable racial category of ‘White’, and a seemingly limitless sympathy for their own imagined plight.   

But even their imagined persecution reeks of the enduring privileged status enjoyed by the most feckless heirs of British colonial supremacy. For people of British ancestry this sense of supremacy is so deeply ingrained that it can be hard to take seriously the racism of others. People from other cultures can be routinely, deeply racist, yet we pay them no heed. The same Queensland overpass previously hosted another sign stating: “Anti-racist is a code word for anti-white”, as though racism is a unique expression of white Australian culture, like beer and cricket. The idea that people from other ethnicities can be just as racist as us fails to register because, well, we’re a bit racist.

The irony is that the symptoms of this supposed ‘white genocide’ are a direct result of the historical global domination of the British Empire and its descendant nations. People don’t migrate to Australia because it is a ‘white’ nation, they migrate because it is a wealthy nation with a high standard of living, excellent security and social stability, and economic and democratic opportunities.

Likewise, the customs and cultures of ‘white Australia’ haven’t disappeared amidst a wave of ‘diversity’, rather our success as a nation within the nexus of British and then American power has meant the globalisation of many of our customs and aspects of our culture. Our language is the global one. Our ‘native dress’ has morphed into a panoply of ubiquitous outfits: ‘Western’ business suits, shoes, thongs, shorts and t-shirts; we don’t think of them as uniquely ours anymore because they are now worn by everyone.

Our food is increasingly standardised, sourced from supermarkets, and routinely overshadowed by the latest fashion in ethnic cuisine. Our entertainment is predominantly shaped by American imports. Even the ‘white genocide’ theme is a globalised phenomenon, its adherents finding common cause from South Africa and the US, to Australia, England, and the EU.

Perhaps behind the fear and insecurity of these ‘white Australians’ lies a recognition that having a globalised culture is akin to having no culture at all? Could there be an undercurrent of envy at these ‘diverse’ migrants who enjoy the comfort of a unique culture and customs, and the strength of identity these bring? After years of hearing how each new wave of migrants struggles with being ‘different’, maybe parts of ‘white Australia’ are getting tired of being ‘the same’?

We are, after all, an increasingly consumerist culture. Our clothing, food, and entertainment are mass produced for popular consumption. Our most iconic scenes of beach and bush are ultimately about passive enjoyment of another commodity we don’t truly own: the land itself. We long ago gave up most of the religious and cultural traditions that are so noteworthy in our migrant neighbours. We cling to the final arbiter of Aussie identity – our sport – even as that domain becomes increasingly about consumption rather than participation, and the growing professionalization and scandals suggest that money is the real motivator.

All in all, the cry of the ‘white Australian’ is a dismal one. Claims of ‘white genocide’ are a bad joke, but are suggestive of an increasing loss of identity. Finding one’s identity in a self-pitying reinterpretation of contemptible supremacist themes is beyond pathetic, but it doesn’t mean we can’t forge a new, constructive identity based on something more meaningful and more noble than our splotchy pink and freckled skin.  

Zac Alstin is a freelance writer living in Adelaide, South Australia. He blogs at zacalstin.com



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