Soutphommasane, Tim: Why being an Australian citizen doesn’t mean others will believe you truly belong

Tim Soutphommasane

Why being an Australian citizen doesn’t mean others will believe you truly belong‘, Sydney Morning Herald, 10 February 2019

The ideal of White Australia was seminal and for all the success of Australian multiculturalism, we remain conditioned by its cultural power … Whiteness in Australia involves a hierarchy of belonging. It’s what explains why too often, white Anglo-Celtic and European Australians feel entitled to determine who truly counts as Australian. Whiteness, thus understood, is systemic and institutional. It’s not necessarily exercised with conscious knowledge. It’s something that operates in the background, part of the unspoken norms and unwritten rules that guide how society operates. Racial minorities quickly assimilate an idea of whiteness, again unconsciously or without a great deal of thought.

The article is an extract from the author’s book On Hate, to be published shortly by Melbourne University Publishing. Similar points were made by Gwenda Tavan of La Trobe University in her chapter in The Honest History Book (NewSouth 2017):

There is, still, a broader historical, symbolic and cultural context for our current anxieties [about immigration], including a long record of elite-induced neglect of our immigration history. This neglect by historians, politicians, opinion leaders – our “migration amnesia” – has undermined popular understanding of the importance of immigration in our national story, reinforced the dominance of a narrow, Anglo-nativist view of Australia in which the so-called “Anzac legend” is central, and perpetuated a tension between Australian nationalist ideals and our multicultural, settler-state reality.



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