By Jessica Maher:
Do you get asked where you’re from ?
I do. This is a question that I am asked nearly every day. I shouldn’t be hurt by it. But I am. And maybe I am too sensitive to this. When this question is asked by well-meaning strangers it makes me question where I belong, because it is abundantly obvious that I don’t belong here.
My response is I am Australian. I am 5th generation Australian on my father’s side. I was born here as were my parents. But my brown eyes, black hair and olive skin ensure that I don’t fit the traditional model of what an ‘Aussie’ is.
I have been called a terrorist at the shops. More than once I have been called a wog and told to go back to where I came from. And these are some of the nicer memories I have of growing up looking “different”.
My story is not unique. Most of my friends have encountered some type of discrimination, based on how they look, who they are, where they live.
But what if I told you that race is not a biological reality but a myth?
In the 1950’s the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation issued a statement asserting that all humans belong to the same species and that “race” is not a biological reality but a myth. This was a summary of the findings of an international panel of anthropologists, geneticists, sociologists, and psychologists.
In Robert Sussman’s book, The Myth of Race: The Troubling Persistence of an Ideological Idea he states that we have been “taught very specific things that relate to race, such as intelligence, sexual behaviour, birth rates, infant care, work ethics and abilities, personal restraint, lifespan, law-abidingness, aggression, altruism, economic and business practices, family cohesion, and even brain size”.
We have this mythology ingrained in us, our differences ordered into a hierarchal structure. We are born into a world that sees in black and white, a world that is racist, unforgiving and cruel.
Although “Race is a real cultural, political and economic concept in society but it is not a biological concept,” racism is essentially a social construct. “Race is an idea, not a fact,” an idea which has persisted in society and has shaped our interactions with one another for over 500 years, an idea which has been constantly validated in our inexplicable and irrational fear of each other.
“Race is not inherent in our genetics, but rather a social construct developed over time, which continues to be a strong and ever present force in our country and in our lives”
Racism is a huge problem in Australia. Australia, like most developed countries has a race problem. Despite our lack of genetic differences we still fear, we still hate, we still kill.
We have learnt nothing from history.
After 500 years of this myth being perpetuated to create division amongst us, used a tool to further colonialism and nationalism, isn’t it about time that we start trying to address these issues instead of ignoring them ?